There are really two things to consider on the topic of yield. The first is the actual yield rate. The second is the size of the incoming class. Oftentimes, the two are used in tandem when discussing yield. But let’s break them apart for a closer look at a strategy for both increasing yield AND increasing the incoming class.
To increase the yield rate, we want more accepted students to matriculate. Duh.
And there are three ways to approach this;
we can work to “predispose” applicants to want to yield before they are accepted (when they are accepted);
we can accept students who are more likely to yield when/if they are accepted;
we can work to convince accepted students that our school is the right place for them.
These are all very real and very effective strategies for increasing yield and the size of your incoming class. Many schools think they are doing these things (to some extent), but I am 100% certain there are ways to do it better. At every school.
Predisposing applicants involves “wrapping your arms around them” and showing YOUR interest in THEM. Doing this requires customized engagement experiences for your prospects and engagement intelligence for you. Serving up topics and information THEY want is your way to “demonstrate interest” to them. Show some love, and you’ll get some love back in return.
Accepting students who are more likely to yield when/if they are accepted is also a surefire way to increase yield (though it doesn’t help increase the size of the incoming class… yet… read on). So how do you know which students are more likely to yield? That brings us to the engagement intelligence.
Watching what they do and how they engage with you demonstrates their interest, and we all know this is a pretty good indicator of a student’s likelihood to yield. The problem is, most schools still look at the same few variables to demonstrate interest (request information, campus visit, interview, etc…), and these indicators have become watered down over the years. So much so that they are not as true an indicator of interest as they used to be. That’s partly because many students visit many schools and schedule many interviews.
Schools used to tell us, “all we have to do is get them here to see the campus”. But if the average prospect visits 6 schools (some WAY more), that’s only a 16.6% chance the prospect will matriculate to YOUR university. That’s not a high enough percentage to bank on.
Today, most Millennials (and the Z Generation coming up behind them) are engaging mainly in web and mobile environments, which means there are many more “demonstrated interest” engagements that you can factor into the equation. When you have that kind of engagement intelligence, you can make more informed enrollment decisions and accept students who are more likely to yield when/if they are accepted. This is the single best strategy for affecting yield, and so few schools use it effectively.
Finally, schools really need to “wrap their arms around” accepted students. We call it a “window of vulnerability”, when they have been accepted to your school, and at least a few others. So don’t be afraid to show a little love and enthusiasm. That also can be most effective in their preferred medium (web and mobile), but it needs to go well beyond their expectations. Most accepted students expect stuff from you about your deposit, housing, financial aid and student fees, but ignore the more impactful, emotional connections that can help sway them in your direction. For example: “Get ready to meet your lifelong friends”.
And finally, don’t ignore the power of Parents. They are the NUMBER ONE influence on where their son/daughter applies and yields (and persists, but that’s for another discussion). Gain their influence, gain their alliance and you have a much better shot of yielding that student. Oh, and start that discussion as early as possible.
So how does all of this help you INCREASE the size of your class? Intelligence-based enrollment decisions lead to better search, better outreach, better marketing and better engagement with prospective students. Each year you get smarter and smarter about who to engage and how to engage them. And this allows you to make smarter decisions with your budget, such as casting a wider net and reaching out to new markets. In other words, your smarter decisions allow you to use your budget more effectively to drive even greater results.
Oh, and there’s one more advantage to the above strategies…they can often result in a LOWER acceptance rate (if that’s appealing to you). Accepting students who are more likely to yield means you can accept fewer students who are less likely to yield.
So if you really want to make some positive change, take a different approach to make it happen.