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Combatting FAFSA Frustration, Recruiting Transfer Students, and What Undergraduates Want Out of Their College and Admissions Experience

Combatting FAFSA Frustration, Recruiting Transfer Students, and What Undergraduates Want Out of Their College and Admissions Experience
Table of Contents

Welcome to Halda Insights, our newsletter full of in-house research, marketing & admissions strategies, and AI insights. Our complete Graduate Student Enrollment Report is now available (for free), we hope you'll check it out!

Issue Preview:

  • Your future Undergrads want!
  • Molloy University: Transfer recruitment innovators
  • Combatting FAFSA frustration
  • Niche presentation: Moving families from curious to motivated
  • High schoolers still love test-optional admissions

As always, our in-house data insights are in bold. Enjoy!

Students value jobs more than ever

63% of high school students claim that an immediate job offer at the end of their college experience is a top priority*

We can sit back and opine on the long-term virtues of a liberal arts education (and there truly are many), but today’s students, more than ever, want immediate return on their educational investment. They want jobs--fast.

There’s a tendency to say, “Of course they want a job. This isn’t news.” Only two years ago, however, just 49% of respondents to the same survey claimed an immediate job offer as one of their top two priorities for college. That’s a 14% increase over that span. Perhaps it’s a little short-sighted on the students' part, but the reality is they want to know exactly how their education will get them employed.

From a practical standpoint, it’s clear that highlighting your education-to-career tracks and cutting edge on-the-job training/internship opportunities should have an even larger impact on today’s students. It’s also clear that in this increasingly utilitarian educational zeitgeist, some of those much-maligned academic programs need consistent reframing.

You know the disciplines–areas like English, Anthropology, languages, etc. (we can say this because the author himself, is a proud English major). These courses of study have incredible long-term benefits, but without consistent story-telling around their value in the workforce, they’re doomed to go the way of the dinosaur–just look at the cuts West Virginia made last year.

*Students were asked to provide their top two priorities for their college experience.

Converting that hard-to-target transfer student

We’ve done some highlights in this newsletter before, but perhaps none of our partners are targeting a more inscrutable population of students than Stephen Ostendorff, Dean of Admissions at Molloy University.

Stephen uses on-site personalization tools to engage and convert transfer students on key web pages. This is giving him a better sense of the the transfer traffic he’s getting, who’s returning over and over again to the site, and how to best interact with them. These tactics helped him increase this Fall’s transfer class by 60+ students. Here’s how he optimizes that engagement:

  • Creates an empathy-driven student enrollment experience
  • Gets the most out of his relationship with vendor-partners
  • Respects students’ time with quick information delivery

He’s even looking to expand this marketing motion to veterans and other segmented populations. You can read more about Stephen’s recruitment approach in the full Molloy Case Study. We’ve learned so much from him over the years. We think you will too.

Combatting FAFSA Frustration

This has been a tough week for enrollment professionals. May 1st is normally a celebration of the decision to go to college, a culmination of years of work and consideration. The FAFSA debacle has turned that joy into continued consternation as students wait for word on their options.

Fortunately, we do have some partners (including Stephen at Molloy University) who've found some interesting ways to use Halda's tools to connect with students and families struggling in FAFSA limbo.  

When students land on their site, they are immediately invited to sign up for FAFSA updates and to start a conversation about their particular situation. It won't solve the whole systematic mess, but it's a lifeline that can go a long way. Here's a look at how it works on Molloy's homepage. We invite current partners to contact their account manager about implementation. And if you don't work with us already, we'd be happy to have a conversation.

K-12 Personalization Spotlight at the Niche Summit

Halda’s own Thomas Steinman was a featured presenter at Niche’s massive virtual summit last week. He modeled sophisticated personalization techniques for K-12 schools, and follow-up that converts up and down the enrollment funnel. Here are a few of his key fundamentals:

  • Build your website for the Silent Shopper
  • Target your website personalization
  • Update your email best practices for today’s families

Here's Thomas on the power of reaching the Silent Shopper with a personalized website experience...

And you can check out the full presentation here!

Test-optional may be the only option

  • 24% of current 12th graders report they will not take the ACT or SAT.
  • 15% of current 11th graders report they will not take the ACT or SAT.
  • 11% of current 10th graders report they will not take the ACT or SAT.

Some schools have tried to backtrack from a COVID-fueled rise in test-optional admissions, but students appear to have gotten used to this test-free new normal. Nearly a quarter of today’s college-bound seniors aren’t taking any tests at all, and while that number seems to be declining for subsequent classes, the data still suggests that test-free undergrad admissions is still a sticky proposition.

45% of college-bound seniors don’t plan on applying to any schools that require tests, along with 25% of juniors and 30% of sophomores. And those coveted untapped student populations–international students, first generation students, etc.–are especially unlikely to consider testing part of the picture moving forward. 29% of first generation students don’t plan on testing, compared to 16% of continuing generation students. This is even more dramatic for international students, 46% of whom don’t plan on testing.

As we prepare for the Enrollment Cliff, creating a path to college for diverse student preferences and backgrounds will be crucial to maintaining healthy institutions. Testing is an important data point–many argue it actually promotes diversity and opportunity. From the student perspective, however, it’s an issue that’s still far from black and white.

And if you want a little deeper insight into the relationship between testing and enrollment marketing, check out our blog on the Search Cliff in Higher Ed!

Thanks for checking in with Halda Insights! We hope you'll stay tuned for more data and AI nuggets!

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