Freezing the summer melt in higher education

Geile/Leon Marketing Communications

Freezing the summer melt in higher education

We know you’re tired of hearing about it – that irritating and frustrating phenomenon when prospective college students lose their motivation to attend college and “melt” away during the summer after their senior year. Every year, an estimated 10-40% of high school students don’t make it to campus in the fall. 

They’ve applied, been accepted by, and have actually made a deposit to a college or university, but they fail to follow through. What a phenomenon!

What causes them not to act?

Throughout the summer, too many students overlook emails or letters in the mail from universities requiring action on the student’s part – whether it be to complete their application, fill out financial aid information, submit health forms, finish class registration or sign up for orientation. This enrollment drop-off is informally referred to as “summer melt,” and it results in the university removing a student from their records.

For the incoming class of 2021, summer melt interventions are needed immediately. New data shows that 2020 low-income high school enrollment numbers were down 13 times from last year and high-minority high schools saw enrollment numbers drop more than tenfold.

But don’t “sweat” it. There’s something that you can do about it. Here are five ways you can help prevent summer melt and provide support to the low-income students that are affected the most.

#1 – Stay in touch.

Just because a student is accepted and confirms the offer, it doesn’t mean the recruitment process should end. Use social media like Facebook Live, Snapchat or Instagram campaigns to congratulate students, help them through the enrollment process, and allow them to ask any questions. You could also email them about things going on around campus, clubs they might be interested in, or resources available on campus. Also, videos are a great tool to personally welcome students to campus. Effective videos provide students with tips on what to bring when they arrive, show them around campus and much more. Weekly reminders to check their email or send in appropriate health records or financial aid documents can give those students that push to get things done and out of the way. There are available texting programs that make it easy and less time-consuming for counselors to implement this type of communications.

#2 – Simplify the process.

Have you ever looked at the process from the student’s eyes? Assess your enrollment and onboarding process and get a good perspective of what a student has to go through to finalize their enrollment. If you feel overwhelmed or confused, I guarantee your students are too.

#3 – Create a community of support.

This generation of incoming students value peer opinion over most other influencers. Creating an organic support system for incoming students will help remove barriers by allowing incoming students the opportunity to talk to each other and ask questions to others going through the same process. This will help decrease the stress of the entire process—especially for first-generation students.

At home, parents have been advised to meet with the graduating student for 20 minutes each week to discuss plans for college. The education department believes these meetings should continue in the summertime, and should focus on reviewing mail or forms the college has sent to the student.

#4 – Partner with government-funded programs.

Several programs across the country, like Gear Up Iowa, are working to increase the number of minority and low-income students that enter and succeed in their higher education journey. These programs are like “supporting families” that help plan, prepare and pay for postsecondary education.

#5 – Early college awareness groups.

These awareness programs can be really helpful in helping high school graduates with their enrollment. Many high school seniors rely on counselors to help them prepare. But one in five high schools in the country have no counselors. And the ones that do say they spend just 22 minutes with a student over their 4 years of high school. Some lower-income or first-generation students can have major issues navigating the enrollment process, and not having a counselor will cause the process to become overwhelming. 

At Geile/Leon, we understand Summer Melt and what it means to both the admissions and enrollment departments. A university client recently came to us wanting to help solve their summer melt problems. They needed support to help reach those accepted prospects and encourage them to complete the enrollment process. G/L developed a direct digital/social campaign to support the “final push” and create a sense of urgency in all materials. 

Through Geile/Leon’s five-step marketing approach, 25% of those targeted students completed their enrollment process. Assuming each of those students attend the university for four years, this will equate to over $5 million dollars in tuition. If you’re experiencing summer melt frustrations, give us a call. We can help.

References: National College Attainment Network Blog – “Stopping Summer Melt Starts in the Spring”, April 5, 2021
Comevo Blog – “How to Prevent Summer Melt”
Encoura Student Survey – “Enrolling Gen Z: What the Prospective Student Survey™ Tells Us About Pivoting to Serve the Next Generation”

How to evolve your target personas in higher education post COVID

Randy Micheletti
VP, Director of Brand Strategy

How to evolve your target personas in higher education post COVID

As most of you know, your target personas should be a living document. Because society experiences shifts in attitudes and external factors, these personas should change as frequently as necessary to ensure accuracy. Markets can change quickly, and effective marketing must evolve with it. Many industries have experienced a dramatic shift in response to the past year, but perhaps none as much as higher education. 

As higher ed marketers continue to battle for students, especially after the COVID pandemic, now is the time to take a look at your personas and realize what COVID has changed in the mind of your students. It seems all but certain that the way they look at the world and their criteria for choosing their college education has changed. What are their motivators now? What are their pain points? Here’s a few ideas to help when taking a fresh look at your student personas.

Where Is the Line Between Online and Traditional Learning? 

If you haven’t done it already, we’d recommend developing personas for both online and offline/traditional students. Many students who adopted online learning because of COVID will continue down that path, but there will always be the need for offline/traditional student personas. Each of these two students’ personas have different motivators in their higher education experience. Online students are looking for a convenient way to earn their degree without disrupting their current lifestyle or career, while offline/traditional students evaluate campus life, college experiences, etc. as part of their selection process. As you can see, your message and approach to each will be completely different.

It’s Time to Rethink the Enrollment Journey

With the immediate future a bit unknown, students are still deciding on their best approach to higher ed. Still, many students are progressing towards applying for college selection, but the typical enrollment journey is most likely different. Our recommendation would be to review your persona’s enrollment journey and draft additional personas that account for changes in your audience, e.g. short-term vs long-term leads. 

The “Typical” Student Is Anything But 

More than ever, there is no such thing as a “typical” student persona because COVID has changed what that student looks like. With the loss of jobs and livelihoods during COVID, it’s possible that your students might become older since many people will be starting over or trying out new careers. Additionally, younger students might be looking for more online classes than they had previously. Either way, you need to develop new student personas.

Financial Concerns Will Become More Common

With so many temporary or permanent layoffs that will hinder the ability for many students to attend college, financial concerns will become a much more important consideration for a large number of students. This barrier to entry should be taken into consideration immediately across all personas.

New Safety Concerns Must Be Addressed

Last, but certainly not least, is the safety of all students. Will your students expect smaller classes? Redesigned classrooms that include social distancing? Sanitary processes to help with the spread of COVID? You better believe these are top of mind with possible students. It is very important to convey to students all the measures that you’re taking to protect them so they can continue their learning in a safe environment.

At Geile/Leon, we understand how to write the most effective personas across many different categories. If you’re in need of assistance updating your student personas, we’d love to assist. If you’d like to talk or see samples of our personas, please reach out. We can help.

Reference: Higher Education Marketing – “What will your student personas look like after COVID-19?”, May 2020

Digital Strategies for Any Higher Education Institution During a Pandemic

Melissa Ross
Digital Content Producer

Digital Strategies for Any Higher Education Institution During a Pandemic

While there are countless industries that have struggled since the beginning of the pandemic, one industry that’s facing major challenges and seismic changes is higher education. These institutions have been forced to completely rethink how they’re marketing to potential and current students. Whether it’s navigating new COVID restrictions, rolling out virtual learning, dealing with students opting out of college all together and decreased marketing budgets, they are struggling to connect with their end users. 

Here at G/L, we work with higher education clients who are faced with all of these challenges.  Based on our experience, we’ve gathered some strategies that we believe should be incorporated into any higher education marketing strategy. And guess what? They’re all techniques within the digital space…and they don’t cost a fortune.

First and foremost, any marketing strategy, especially that within a higher education space, needs to be reaching the right audiences (Gen Z and millennials mostly) where they’re already at — on their phones and online. And the best part is that digital marketing, especially social media marketing, is one of the most budget-friendly options out there. But before you start worrying about your advertising budget, this first recommendation will only cost your higher education institution time and effort. 

Audit your digital experience 

Take time out to evaluate every aspect of your digital presence. Start with auditing your online programs, your class registration process and your payment tools. Make sure that these processes and experiences are simple and easy to use for all involved. Next, make sure that your website is easy to navigate via mobile devices. According to Statcounter Global Stats,  54.25 percent of people worldwide are using their mobile devices to access the internet. Without a mobile optimization, your website is only accessible to less than half of the population. 

Lastly, incorporate customized experiences into your strategy. Not only is this a trend in the digital space, but it’s expected from higher education institutions by prospective students. Whether that’s creating custom landing pages for your different student personas (ie. international, first-years, etc.), utilizing a personalized student portal or employing personalized digital ad and/or email campaigns, these digital tools will build trust between your brand and your audience.

Don’t skimp on your social media

Since the onset of COVID-19, social media usage worldwide is up by 44 percent, and 40 percent of consumers are spending longer on social media sites due to a lack of in-person connection. Not only are your prospective students on social media, but it’s also one of the most budget-friendly marketing tools to use. However, with varying platforms and strategies, it’s hard to know what tactics a higher education institution should take. Here’s what we would suggest:

Utilize chat bots

This is another great way to bring that personalized touch to your brand without a lot of labor. The pandemic has restricted in-person appointments, however you can still have those personalized conversations answer questions and concerns by using chatbots. Using this streamlined method can also help your prospective students through the enrollment and application process. Try chatbots with LinkedIn Conversation ads and FB Messaging ads. Check out how we did this for our client, Lindenwood University here.

Utilize TikTok + Instagram Reels

Since its launch in 2016, TikTok has rapidly grown to be the seventh-largest social media platform. As of 2020, 62 percent of users are between the ages of 10-29 and nine out of ten of these users open the app multiple times a day. On Instagram, there’s a reported 1 billion monthly active users as of 2020, 70 percent of whom are under the age of 35. Overall, 29 percent of teens say TikTok is their preferred social platform, and for Instagram it’s 25 percent. All of these statistics say that it’s a no brainer for a higher education institution to have some sort of organic strategy for short-term video across both platforms. At the very least, it would help increase brand awareness, brand recall and new student acquisition. 

Utilize Influencers

Morning Consult reports that “72 percent of Gen Z and Millennials follow influencers, and teenagers are more likely to follow many.” Taking advantage of the reach that well-known alumni, professors, and distinguished students is a great way to reach your audience the way they want to be reached – via those who they seek out daily for information and opinions. 

Increase your video content output

Video is a crucial part in any higher education marketing strategy for the simple fact that your students and prospects can’t visit and experience your campus for themselves. So it’s up to the school to create an immersive experience representing the atmosphere of their campus and curriculum to those students at home in front of their computers/mobile devices. It’s imperative for marketers to make those experiences come to life through video in order to drive prospective students to enroll. Some video content ideas could be:

  1. Campus tour videos (check out our work for Ursuline Academy)
  2. Speakers
  3. Day-in-the-life videos
  4. Meet the professors
  5. Department spotlights

Obviously, every school needs their own strategic, brand-driven marketing solutions that are tailored to their specific goals and brand, which is something we can help with. Let’s chat and see how Geile/Leon Marketing Communications can help your higher education institution build a marketing plan that will get you the most return on investment. 

Trending from G/L: Important Lessons on Higher Education We Learned from a Spelling Bee

Shawn Maher

Trending from G/L: Important Lessons on Higher Education We Learned from a Spelling Bee

The Scripp’s Spelling Bee is a long-running annual tournament that pits the nation’s best elementary school spellers against each other in a tension-filled contest to crown the champion speller. Or at least that was what it was designed to do. In this year’s tournament, somehow eight students all tied for first place… and that’s not even the worst part.

One participant managed to circumvent the system and buy his way in without actually earning a spot. For the second year in a row. The student’s parents blamed Scripps Spelling Bee for a lack of oversight while spelling bee officials blamed the parents and school for a lack of supervision.

His parents said they knew their son hadn’t won the school bee. They claimed, however, that he sent the application on his own, and they merely paid fees and made travel arrangements with no suspicion of any wrongdoing whatsoever. When contacted by the Palm Beach Post, his father told the reporter,  “We are busy. We have three kids. We have a job. Unless we have a letter from the school, unless I have to take him somewhere or pick him up, we are not that involved.”

What is lost in the blame game, however, is a lack of understanding about why we strive for academic achievement in the first place. Between this snafu and the recent headline-grabbing, celebrity-laden college admission scandal, whatever happened to the idea of education as a tool for lifelong success?

The value of academic achievement, all the way from elementary school through higher education institutions, is found in obtaining knowledge and mastering skills. Not just framing a certificate or diploma to hang on the wall, but also utilizing your achievements to become successful in all of your future endeavors.

The more difficult the journey, the more rewarding it will be when you finally reach the summit. A diploma may get you in the door, but the invaluable skills that you have gained on the way to obtaining that diploma are what set you up to achieve your life goals. And that is the lesson that seems to have been lost in these recent incidents.

At the heart of these sentiments is what helps foster true success for institutes of higher learning. It is not an appeal to those searching for a shortcut or a transactional relationship. Instead, higher learning is an appeal to a lifelong hunger for knowledge, a quest for self-improvement and an aspiration to become something better, leaving the world a better place than it was before you entered it. It can be tempting, especially in such a fast-moving society, to seek out the path of least resistance. However, if there is anything we have learned recently, it is that the ability that results from a good education is a far more important predictor of long-term success. It may take more time and hard work, but the reward is definitely worth it.