How Colleges Can Help Students Understand the College Application Process

college application process

A Changing Educational Landscape Requires New Approaches for Admissions and Enrollment  

With more than 4,000 degree-granting academic institutions in the country, colleges and universities face an abundance of competition in both capturing and retaining the attention of potential students.

Success in this area requires a change in traditional approaches, especially in supporting students through the application, admission, and enrollment processes. Engagement during the college application process and following stages is critical. It calls for a student-centric approach that meets them where they live, rather than waiting for them to come to you.

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown this issue into stark relief. Colleges that rely heavily on traditional methods of reaching students, such as college fairs or campus visits, suddenly found these avenues no longer available.

It’s a situation that could adversely impact the financial viability of as many as 10% of all colleges, according to Inside Higher Education, which called for a “great enrollment and admissions reset” for academic institutions that want to compete in the coming decades.

College leaders who have adapted to the modern marketplace are in a better position to weather the current crisis and sustain success in the coming years. They understand that the role of an admissions office has changed.

Sextant Marketing specializes in improving student engagement. The full-service digital marketing agency and consultancy helps colleges and universities do a better job engaging, supporting and enlightening students.

“There’s a great deal of complexity in the services we offer that help academic institutions improve admissions and enrollment,” said Adrian Marrullier, founder and CEO of Sextant Marketing. “But all that work is built on the foundation of one important idea: engage students and provide them a positive experience.”

The Evolving Role of College Admissions Offices

One of the main drivers behind the need for change is the simple fact that students now have more options than ever for a college education. To compete in this environment, admissions offices need to become more proactive in offering college application assistance and making the application experience a positive one.

College admissions offices not only need to become more focused on the student experience, but also understand that the services they provide are extensions of the school’s brand identity. In other words, the actions of the admission’s office and student engagement in general must back up the promises made in marketing materials.

Accomplishing this goal requires an omni-channel approach to engagement with prospective students. As with all successful marketing campaigns, the goal is to reach students on their terms. This means developing outreach efforts on various channels, including texts, emails, phone calls and social media posts.

A successful admissions office must also act quickly when it comes to engagement. Today’s potential students live in a world with instantaneous communication. Fast responses are expected.

“Any successful admissions campaign begins with a well-defined omni-channel engagement strategy,” said Jimmy Lynch, Vice President of Engagement Services for Sextant Marketing. “A strategy that provides reinforcement in their choice of your school, their chosen field of study, and allows you to meet the applicants using the modalities of their choosing, all while effectively moving them through the enrollment funnel and admissions process.”

How Sextant’s Approach to the College Application Process Works for Colleges and Universities

Sextant is built to provide colleges and universities the strategic ideas, tools, and techniques they need to engage prospective students in the modern educational environment. Kentucky State University is an excellent example of this work in action.

The historically black college or university (HBCU) accredited school came to Sextant with a challenge: they wanted to increase ground-based undergraduate enrollment while maintaining the school’s core values of high academic standards and social responsibility.

In one year of working with Sextant, Kentucky State University increased year-over-year spring freshmen enrollment by 170% and year-over-year fall enrollment by 90.2%.

Sextant accomplished this goal by working with Kentucky State University to develop a high-touch communication model through which advisors served as an extension of the school’s admission’s office. This included developing one-on-one relationships with students that enhance student support, updating admissions material, and providing support to the university’s offices of financial aid, institutional research, and student success.

Replacing Costly and Inefficient Older Marketing Models

Traditional marketing models often prove too costly and inefficient in meeting a college’s goals. Sextant’s leaders help schools develop a defined engagement strategy that reinforces the school, the chosen degree, the college application process, the financial aid process, and other key components of the application process.

The company’s business model is built around a team of rapid-response experts and strategists who provide schools the resources they need to meet goals on demand. The Sextant full-service enrollment and advising call center can take students from their initial inquiry all the way through their first day of class.

This type of engagement and multi-channel approach is missing for some schools. In its article that looked at college and university admissions and enrollment, Inside Higher Education wrote that the issue would persist long after the coronavirus crisis ends.

“We need to address the Class of 2021 and beyond with equal urgency and figure out how to connect not only with today’s rising seniors but also with their younger siblings,” the educational website notes.

Today’s students grew up with technology and are often far more comfortable engaging via text, email, and social media channels. Sextant adopts that approach to work with students, partner with parents, and collaborate with university faculty and staff. This includes services such as an application portal that allows students to quickly find out where they are in the process, including the ability to track what they have submitted, find out what is still outstanding, and quickly assess what decisions remain to be made.

It’s this type of innovation and an omni-channel approach that allows Sextant to support its university partners in creating more positive and successful application, admission, and enrollment processes.