Summer on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University is coming to a close. In the last three weeks we have welcomed new students in the LMU-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, LMU-Duncan School of Law and Caylor School of Nursing. Next week brings Faculty/Staff Conference Week which culminates with New Student Survival Week.
It’s hard to believe that it has been three months since the Class of 2012 crossed the stage at Tex Turner Arena, but alas, time flies. It was roughly same time as graduation when I was invited to join a group that was working on recruiting more students for fall. You see, though our retention efforts were on pace to make up any shortfall, our new student projections for this fall were lacking. After nearly 10 years of record breaking enrollments, LMU had reached a plateau.
You can point the finger in many directions as to why our new student numbers were down. There is the economy, the intimidating notion of college or simply the fear of not fitting in. Another factor in LMU’s new student short fall was the strides the University was taking to increase admissions standards and enhance its academic rigor.
So roughly three months ago, I was invited to join that committee to brainstorm on what things we could do to finish the recruitment cycle strong and bring more new students to LMU. The group included a trustee, the Dean of Enrollment Management, the Director of Admissions, the Dean of Community College relations and the Dean of Administration plus a University employee that specializes in promotions.
The group immediately went to where everyone goes for a quick fix, marketing efforts. They inquired if we had done enough marketing, if we had ran enough ads, if there was something that we could do to get more people to apply? What were we doing right now? I always feel uncomfortable when those questions start to fly. Not because they aren’t valid questions, but because I always feel like no matter what I’m going to say it’s going to sound defensive. The cold hard facts for this group at that moment were that it was May and the advertising budget had been planned and spent months ago. So there would be no quick fixes.
Looking for plan b, we discussed the current applicant pool and discovered that there was a fairly large group of applicants who had already applied and been accepted to LMU, but had not registered to join the Class of 2017. To me, it was the golden ticket. Here was a group that we already knew were interested enough to apply to LMU. The admissions folks told us that they had been communicating with this group for months and that they were just taking extra time making decisions. “They haven’t told us they aren’t coming to LMU or that they were going anywhere else. Our counselors have called them and they keep saying they are still making their decision,” Admissions Director Sherry McCreary reported to the group.
If they were still in the market to come to LMU, I assumed that repeated calls from our admissions counselors would only do so much. We needed to find a different way to reach them. The group discussed the University’s greatest selling points including the picturesque campus and engaging student body. “A lot of times all it takes is for prospective students to tour the campus and they are sold,” the admissions folks reported. This led to a discussion of adding another recruitment event like our Railsplitter for a Day or Preview Day events, but with several new student orientations already scheduled throughout the summer there was no time to add something else. Which brought us to the conclusion that if we couldn’t get prospective to students to Harrogate, maybe there was a way to bring Harrogate to our prospective students.
The result was a communication plan that included video embedded emails addressed to those accepted, but not registered students and the student series was born.
The series of videos features a host of current LMU students telling about why they chose LMU and sharing what their lives at LMU are like.
I would like to tell you that the student series was a massive success and we were able to convert 150 of the 300 people in that pool of accepted applicants into registered students. However, I not sure that is the truth and we won’t have final figures until classes start. Whether we still come up short or not, the student videos have been a big hit and something our admissions staff has already said we need to continue to utilize.