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Sealing the Deal: New Ideas for Post-Application Comms Flows to Increase Enrollment

Annie Ryland

It’s the day after your application deadline, and your recruitment team is experiencing a strange combination of excitement and resignation.

There’s still plenty of work to do—helping last minute applicants finalize details, coordinating scholarships and financial aid packages, regrouping on the data from this round of applications, making admissions decisions, prepping for the next recruitment cycle—but you’ve done everything you can to reach your applicant numbers.

Now, your job is to wait. Will your yield projections hold this year? You really don’t know, but it’s out of your hands...

This approach to the post-application period is widespread in graduate and undergraduate recruitment, and we think it’s a big mistake.

The post-application lull is an incredible opportunity to make an impression on your applicants and secure their eventual enrollment, increasing your yield rate in a noticeable way.

Let’s take a closer look at this period in the recruitment cycle and talk about how you can improve your yield rate even after all the applications are in.

The Student’s Experience Post-Application Matters More than You Think

During this period of time, your applicants are also waiting. 

After months of being bombarded with information and emails, calls, and messages from your team and every other program, applicants are left in relative silence.

They are waiting to hear back from you, waiting to hear back from other programs, waiting to see which program will make them the best offer, and waiting to make a significant decision about where to invest their time and money in the coming year.

But applicants are also continuing to collect their emotional impressions of your brand and community during this time. In some ways, applicants re-enter the mindset they were in as a prospect, meaning that they are seriously evaluating their options, including your university. Things are getting real.

Typically, applicants are stuck between communication flows: no longer a prospect or inquiry, but not yet an admitted or enrolled student.

This period is the perfect time to solidify affinity between your school and your applicants. Simple, educational, branded communication flows during this time will serve to keep those warm, fuzzy feelings the applicant had when they first visited campus or had a great conversation with a student ambassador alive and well.

Here’s what post-application comm flows should look like

The most important thing to remember for post-application communication is to focus on content and keep the tone inspirational, not transactional.

The first and most important goal for post-app comm flows is to (1) reinforce the value you provide to students and alumni. This is the time to do a little (relevant) bragging about your school. Your applicants are telling their family and friends about their potential plans and doing some free publicity for you. Give them something to talk about when a neighbor or relative asks which schools they’re looking into! 

The second most important goal is to (2) increase engagement with your content. That means getting the prospective student to read through the email (and multiple times over), click through to various CTAs, spend time on your pages, click through to other pages, etc. The more they engage with your content, the more likely they are to yield.

Let’s walk through some types of emails you could send to a prospective student as part of a post-application series that hit these two primary goals:

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Email #1: Send a branded promotional video or virtual campus tour

Remember that promo video that the marketing team spent lots of time and money on? This is the perfect time to deploy it. Whether your applicants have seen it before or not, a great promo video or link to a virtual campus tour helps them reconnect with their reasons for being drawn to your program in the first place. It will jog memories of their visit, if they had the chance, and if they didn’t,  this is the time to wow them with a compelling video or immersive virtual tour.

Help paint the picture of what it looks like to join your school community.

Email #2: Deliver some heavy-hitting stats

Do you have excellent great job placement rates? An engaged alumni network? High rates of student satisfaction? A diverse student population? A great faculty to student ratio? Lots of students involved in campus organizations?

Now is the time to throw these stats into an email and remind your applicants why your program is so awesome. Give them some numbers that reflect your values and your priorities as an institution.

Email #3: Share an educational resource about their program of interest

Again, an applicant is like a prospect in terms of mindset, but much more serious about the information you’re giving them. Sharing educational content at this stage is about confirming their existing interest and reminding them why they’ve made the right choice in applying to your program.

Share or resend a content resource with them that talks about their field of interest and highlights the career opportunities and pathways that are likely to be opened up after they pursue their degree.

Email #4: Highlight a cool campus initiative

If your applicants are interested in you, they want to know all about the neat things taking place on campus and in your community.

  • Do you have a super environmentally friendly campus? Brag about it! 
  • Do you have a fight song or a unique campus tradition? Tell them about it.
  • Is there an outreach program that helps a local marginalized group? Show them how they could get involved. 
  • Did students recently organize a flash mob? Share the video with them. 
  • Did you just open a brand new student center? Send them some pictures.
  • Are faculty engaged in cutting-edge research? Showcase a news story about it.

Your school and your program have a unique spirit and unique personality. Invite applicants to get to know you better by sharing material from the heart of your community.

Email #5: Connect them with an inspirational student story? 

There are few things more powerful than prospective students hearing from existing students about their reasons for choosing your program. Applicants want to see people like them succeeding and thriving at your college or university. When they see a current student launching a new initiative in the community, participating in research, or receiving a prestigious award, it helps them dream big about what they will achieve when they have enrolled in your program.

Send them a video or write up with an inspirational student story and offer them a chance to check in with a student ambassador as they prepare to make an enrollment decision.

NOTE: We’re sharing examples of a post-app email series here, but these same principles apply whether or not a prospect has fully completed their application or not. You can absolutely use these same techniques with incomplete applicants.

Is perfecting your post-app comm flow worth the effort?

All of these tips and ideas have one thing in common...it will take real time for you to implement these improvements. At the DD Agency, we understand the value of time for enrollment managers today, especially when most of you are being tasked to do more things with less resources than ever before!

If you’re wondering if making these changes is worth the effort, here’s some data on what we’ve seen happen when the above tactics are implemented in post-app email communication flows:

  • 2x increase in completed applications
  • 40-50% open rates
  • 5-10% click-through rates
  • Prospects twice as likely to click resources vs. transactional links

Use educational, branded communications to take advantage of the post-application period, and give your applicants attention, inspiration, and compelling content during their critical decision-making period.

Topics: Email Marketing, Content Strategy

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