Blame-casting is a fact of life in industries of all types, but what seems especially unfortunate to me about the way some VPs end up getting treated in our industry is that they’re ultimately held accountable—and subsequently fired—for things they didn’t know they were responsible for or for failing to meet goals they were never truly empowered to reach. In fact, it seems to me, that there is broad misunderstanding in our industry about what a vice president of enrollment actually does and should do.
Even if you don’t follow college basketball, there’s a very good chance that you heard about the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s upset of the University of Virginia in last year’s men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. It was the first time in the history of the men’s tournament that a team seeded #16 beat a team seeded #1. Absolutely nobody expected it, and it’s now counted among the greatest underdog moments in sports history.
Different students care about different things. Shocker, right? I know I’m stating the extremely obvious here, but sometimes self-evident truths resonate more meaningfully when you see them laid out with supporting evidence (and good visualizations).
On Monday morning, Reddit user Popopopper123 posted an analysis of the college marketing emails they’ve received over the last couple years, 2,374 of them be exact. Not too long after the post went live, it started zinging around higher ed admissions, enrollment, and marketing social media circles. It’s about as close to viral as we get in this industry, hungry as we all are to understand the preferences, desires, and whims of the students its our job to recruit.
Here are three things to keep in mind when you’re linking to videos in your enrollment marketing messaging. Special thanks to our partners at Bellarmine University in Louisville who gave us permission to use their awesome work as a case in point.
The most popular article on our website—by a wide margin—is the first one we ever published. It’s the story of how one institution dealt with a pretty significant summer melt problem—from triage all the way to implementing a solution. You can read the whole thing here.
Earlier this year, we were fortunate enough to track down a couple of the folks who played major roles in the saga, and they were kind enough to participate in a webinar in which they shared their insights and lesson learned.
This summer marks a decade since Waybetter’s founding. In that time a lot has changed in the industry of higher ed undergraduate enrollment. Notably, we’ve faced (and continue to face) increasingly tumultuous economic, demographic, and cultural upheavals that have made the work of recruiting individual students significantly more difficult. That’s the headline.
Warren Wilson College has been a Waybetter client for going on three years. Tucked into the impossibly beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, its unique approach to undergraduate education combines work, service, and academics to create a student experience like no other. But matching its unique offering with the prospective students who will most benefit from it has never been easy: they're a small school that draws nationally but without historically reliable feeder schools, even in their home state.
This year, however, things are really looking up. Here's Janelle Holmboe, Warren Wilspon's VP of enrollment & marketing, talking about how they're turning the tide.
Husson University has been a Waybetter client for about two years, and the truth is, they're crushing it. We're very proud of the role we play in their efforts, but they're also really good at a lot of things that have nothing to do with us—they're priced well, they grow the programs that students want, they hire the right people, and, most importantly, they work really, really hard.
Here's a longish interview with the folks in charge there. It's wide ranging, and it's a pretty rare, up-close look at how a school that's in a tough demographic region has been able to thrive.
Now that we have a couple weeks' distance on it, we thought it might be useful (and fun) to reach out to Waybetter's partners and get their reflections on their May 1 progress this year. We also asked them to provide a little advice to their counterparts at other institutions.
Back in February, Inside Higher Ed hosted the first iteration of its 2018 Leadership Series—a planned slate of single-day conferences, each devoted to a specific issue sitting heavy on this industry’s collective shoulders.
The topic of the inaugural conference, “Higher Ed in an Era of Heightened Skepticism,” couldn’t have been timelier.
If you’ve read Dale Carnegie’s classic self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People, you know it contains a million takeaways for today’s modern marketer. After all, the whole thing is essentially about getting other people to do what you want them to do—the marketer’s basic function.
That last sentence isn’t exactly a fair representation. Because what makes Carnegie’s book so great is that his whole strategy for influencing people is never even remotely self-centered. Instead, the point he makes over and over again is that in order to win people over (to win their loyalty or their business) you must pay careful attention to their needs and then figure out ways to meet them.
When you do this—when you follow empathy with relevance—you gain friends, allies, and yes, even prospective students.
In a historically difficult time to be recruiting traditional undergraduate students—and in an especially difficult region of the country to be doing so—they’ve had tremendous success. How much success? They brought in the largest freshmen class in school history each of the last two years.
Like many folks in this line of work, I inquire at colleges and universities all over the country. This means I get viewbooks, postcards, brochures, emails, and all manner of other marketing collateral delivered to my home and office just about every single day.
Rarely do I see anything that’s objectively bad. Until, that is, application and visit season start up in the fall. Then things get dicey, not from a design or copywriting point of view necessarily, but from an actual marketing point of view.
And a few other uncomfortable observations about the relationship between marketing and enrollment, the budget, and who gets to spend it.