Today is May the 4th. Which is either Star Wars Day or the first business day after May 1, depending on your priorities. While many schools have pushed the traditional enrollment deadline, most institutions are still monitoring their classes against this date. This makes every school one of three Luke Skywalkers. The Luke from A New Hope, who is feeling good but unsure about the new voices in his head. The Luke from The Empire Strikes Back, who is down a hand and processing some pretty troubling news. Or the Luke from Return of the Jedi, who is triumphant and partying on a distant forest moon.
Very few schools fall into that final category and the few that do have no time to be complacent or unclear in their communications. Students and parents have turned their attention to the fall semester and are looking for answers. Last week, leading into the May 1 deadline, many institutions offered up promises and, in my opinion, created more questions. In a time when people are seeking transparency, communications that don't truly answer questions will become a failed strategy in short order. Our study shows a strong correlation between COVID communications from a school and the opinion of that school in the minds of its students. It is safe to say this correlation holds true for prospective students and parents. Meanwhile, 40% of prospective students say they aren't getting enough info about how their fall enrollment will be affected. (PS prospective students NEVER say they don't hear enough about fall enrollment.)
A few schools have made concrete decisions about their academic calendar/programming (Beloit) or tuition (Central Michigan). It will be interesting to see how those who acted early and concretely fare against those who waited. I realize these are incredibly complex decisions, but the more data we gather, the more I'm convinced it's time for Fall plans to be determined. And, the more I'm convinced that Marketing and Communications need to play a strategic role in making those decisions. The best fall planning scenario in the world will only be as good as its communications.
During the flu pandemic of 1918, students from Georgetown would light an oil lamp every day to pray for their community. In response to the COVID crisis, students have brought the tradition back to campus by lighting a solar lamp to help unite the community. It's a small but powerful reminder that we've been here before and that together, we'll get through it again.
We replicated our national survey of high school seniors and current college students. You can find the report here. A few noteworthy findings — minority students are being hit particularly hard, the number of current students uncertain if they are coming back to their school grew significantly, and gap years are gaining in popularity. We're encouraging everyone we speak with to replicate our study for your institution by surveying your incoming and returning students. Response rates have been at all-time highs, so use our national study as a benchmark and learn what exactly you need to do to maximize your fall enrollment. We'll share our survey with you, or help you administer it if you'd like.
*whispers - so is everyone else's*
Our digital team has been digging through the Google Analytics accounts of multiple clients, and the findings are both telling and consistent. Traffic to admissions-related pages is down significantly year over year. Our VP of Digital, Bob Rafferty, breaks down the numbers and offers up some good advice for your school's web and content teams in his latest post.