Leveraging Year-round Data Collection to Build a Robust Enrollment Pipeline

Enrollment management, the beehive of recruitment, admissions and retention, is a cyclical process that spans from fall through spring. At the center of this process is real-time data collection. Frequent data collection and review, while your school is in the admissions cycle, gives you vital information to assess how outreach efforts are going.

Right now is the right time to analyze admissions and enrollment data from the 2023-24 admissions “season.” The information you glean and trends you discover inform your marketing and outreach plans for this fall.

It’s also the time to put in place a data collection plan throughout next year’s admissions activities. Why gather and evaluate data while you are in the thick of seeing prospects and re-enrolling families? If challenges arise, you can pivot and try another strategy. Living data empowers admissions offices—and provides the roadmap for strategic planning.

Types of data enrollment management offices should collect

All independent schools collect basic enrollment data: the number of deposits. But there is so much more data to gather and analyze to create the most strategic short- and long-term enrollment management strategy.

In addition to tracking the number of visits, inquiries, attendance at admissions events, applications and acceptances, schools should track data on prospective and current students, such as:

  • Racial demographics to show strengths and gaps in creating a diverse student body 
  • Socio-economic demographics to maximize net tuition percentages and continue the sustainability of the school  
  • Gender demographics for coed schools  
  • Geographic information to see opportunities for growth
  • Current schools where prospects are enrolled for a comprehensive picture of feeder markets
  • Religious demographics for faith-based schools to support the alignment of the student body with the school’s faith-based identity
  • Academic performance at their current school to help determine the quality of candidates who could make it through your school’s funnel and graduate.

It’s important to have a mission-aligned definition of what students are  “best” suited for your school. One school might prioritize religious affiliation, while another will prioritize racial and/or socio-economic diversity, sports or National Merit students. Every school needs to clearly articulate its priorities and collect/analyze data to measure progress and be able to retool its strategies if they are coming up short. 

Tracking data on current students is equally as critical. “While student retention is important for an admissions office, a student simply staying the course at the school isn’t good enough,” says Eric Watts, Ph.D., Executive Director of Student Achievement Associates HSPT Prep and former chief academic officer at the Archdiocese of Baltimore. “An admissions and enrollment office should know more than if a student is still enrolled…they need to know the level of success that students are achieving at the school.”

Enrollment data to analyze now

Schools need to capture short- and long-term enrollment data to get the full picture of their enrollment efforts’ success.

Short-term data is the current snapshot of what is happening during your recruitment season for a real-time view of your efforts. This is collected monthly or more frequently from fall through spring. Tracking short-term data gives you the ability to see what isn’t working and quickly pivot to a different strategy.  

Long-term data typically is collected throughout the acceptance and enrollment season in mid- to late spring. This enables you to see how your efforts this year compare to past years.

For short-term data, you want to track year-to-date comparisons on the number of inquiries, visits, applications, acceptances and enrollments. Also, track:

  • Geographic reach: Analyze from where your prospects are coming to see your school. Is there an increase or a decrease from prior years? What new(er) areas/zip codes are there?
  • Five-year comparison of inquiries, visits, applications, acceptances and enrollment. Where are the dips? Spikes? Gaps?

You should also pull data from a variety of platforms.

  • Pull reports from your CRM to see how many families open an e-newsletter or any type of trackable email communications. What are they opening?
  • Use GA4 data (Google) to see how long visitors are staying on your admissions web pages and the journey they take across your website. This is valuable data on what information is most important (financial aid, most likely) and what isn’t.
  • Review what YouTube videos are most viewed and how long they are watched. This data is great for determining which programs prospects and current families are most interested in and how long future videos should be for optimal viewing and engagement.
  • Work with your communications team for monthly reports on social media data. What posts get the most engagement, and how do these posts and social media engagements line up with your admissions events, marketing and advertising efforts?
  • QR codes capture critical recruitment data from social media posts to traditional outlets like direct mail, which is still important.

Long-term data should compare year-to-year data on inquiries, applications, total deposits on deadline day and after-deadline applications (those rolling applications after deadline day). You will also want to track how many people came to each of your events and compare it to years past.

Drilling deeper into this data enables you to examine trends and areas for marketing focus in the coming year.

  • Was there an increase in students with learning resources?
  • Did the academic profile of applicants change?
  • Were there shifts in your geographic pull for applicants and enrolled students?
  • What trends are you seeing in key feeders? Can you identify the expanding reach of prospective/new feeder schools?
  • Have requests for aid (need and merit) gone up?
  • What was the average financial aid package awarded for the past five years?

Tracking retention data

Enrollment is more than admissions. It is also retention, and collecting and maintaining data on your current families is the other side of data collection.

School leadership needs attrition data for budget and strategic planning. Beginning at the start of each new school year, create a dashboard to share information on retention and attrition.

Retention data also means collaborating with colleagues in the academic and counseling departments to assess the academic and social progress of enrolled students. Talk to colleagues about any information they hear about a family leaving. Ongoing discussions and a clear plan to address the next steps with a student and family to stem attrition are critical.

Retention data also provides information on why students/families choose to leave, re-enrollment trends, and enrollment counts by class to assess rolling admissions once the main admissions cycle is complete.

Use your Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) program (more on that below) and your dashboard and create tabs for each class year.

If you have a smaller school without a CRM/enrollment database, it is imperative you create a tracking system through Google Docs or another program.  

Important retention data includes:

  • Tracking of re-enrollment deposits and contracts year-to-year
  • Benchmarks of trends for deposits
  • Students of color enrollment
  • Students with learning needs enrollment
  • Students by gender (if your school is coed)
  • Students’ religion (if your school is faith-based)
  • Students by geographic reach

Using a Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) program

Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) programs are software programs that allow schools to track and manage all aspects of recruiting. With CRMs, you can digitally build and personalize relationships with prospects effectively and quickly, which streamlines your recruiting process.

CRMs also collect needed data in one location and create deep-dive reports. They offer easy access to dashboard statistics and track inquiries, applications, and enrollment activity.

Your CRM can only track the data it houses, however. That means you need to track every call, mailing, visit, etc. Without regular data input into your CRM, you cannot get the reports you need to determine where your program can improve to get more prospects in and through the funnel. Every enrollment management office needs a dedicated database manager to oversee the CRM.

Surprisingly, some admissions offices do not have CRMs, and according to Niche, 16% of schools do not track data. Read the 2022 Private School Admissions and Marketing Technology Survey – Niche. Without a CRM, schools can’t house all their data in one central location, are less efficient and strategic and—the Holy Grail of admissions work—unable to effectively personalize outreach to each prospect.

There are ways to capture the data without a CRM, however. Use Google Docs to create a Shared Folder for your admissions team where you can house inquiries, event attendance, applications, etc. Make sure your website forms for inquiries and event registration have information that can be easily exported to your Google Doc (or CRM).

Sharing enrollment data with board members and school leaders

School leaders and boards need to know strategies used for recruitment and retention and demographic trends to assess the landscape. They use this information to plan budgets, assess challenges and embrace opportunities.

For school leaders (head of school and leadership team), ideally, your school’s enrollment management leader should be sharing data at weekly leadership meetings. Create a dashboard that tracks inquiries, visits, applications, enrollments, etc. Track them by your school’s divisions, if you have them, to easily present relevant data segmented across your school’s programs.

Beginning early in the fall, include retention/attrition information, and at the leadership meetings, discuss specific plans to address attrition concerns by division or for specific students. Each discussion should include a specific plan, with input from school leaders, on how to reach out to families/students at risk of leaving your school. Doing this after re-enrollment contracts in winter or spring is too late.

For board meetings, here’s a schedule of key times to share information:

  • September: Set the landscape by sharing your plans (events, monthly calendar of events and outreach up to deadline day)
  • January: year to date data in advance of setting tuition and the budget for the following year

Year-end (May board meeting): data on the year just finished and for five to seven years. Seven years (pre-pandemic) paints a clearer comparison picture, as 2020 and 2021 with virtual admissions programs/events may have affected schools’ admissions statistics.

How can Kalix help you better meet your enrollment management goals? Contact us.

President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

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