Young adults are mercurial by nature. Throw them into a complex enrollment environment and they become even more inscrutable. During yield, students absorb information rapidly, introducing difficult-to-predict enrollment behavior. From application to enrollment, their understanding of college choice matures even as their stable essential identity is emerging.
So, what changes and what remains the same? More importantly, how should you respond to these changes to maximize yield?
Eduventures’ unique national data sets allow us to track, at an individual level, shifts in priorities from application to enrollment decision. To do so, we examined data from more than 6,000 high school seniors who participated in both our Prospective Student Survey and our Survey of Admitted Students this past enrollment cycle.
In December, they told us their thoughts about application decisions; in May, the exact same students told us how they made their enrollment decision. What is the difference between the two funnel stages? How does that relate to students’ essential mindsets? How have they expanded their worldview during this time? What is the implication for yield strategy?
To keep things simple, let’s answer these questions through the lens of three of our six Prospective Student Mindsets: Social Focus, Career through Academics, and Career Pragmatist students. Here is a quick refresher on who these are (for more information, read our In-Depth Report 2017 Prospective Student Survey: Mindsets During Search):
- Social Focus: For these students, college is primarily a social experience with lifelong friends and a job at the end of the road.
- Career through Academics: These students expect an integrated academic and career experience that will lead to a long-term career.
- Career Pragmatist: These students seek the immediate return on investment of a job right after graduation. They want an affordable education in a supportive community.
The chart below shows how the priorities for each student mindset shifted from application to enrollment on six key dimensions. Through these mindset shifts, we can draw three key yield strategy tips.
Tip #1: Career through Academics students are steadfast, diligent, and on a determined path. For this cohort, pursue a yield strategy that has the same characteristics.
These students, who self-identified as highly conscientious and less open in personality, are the truest of all. They know their own minds. They said they cared about affordability and core academic experiences as primary drivers, and they stuck to them. They showed only a slight decline in the importance of career preparation as a secondary driver. Yield strategies for Career through Academics students can take them at face value.
Tip #2: Yield strategy for Social Focus students should build from your institution’s social context, but make connections into the heart of academics, and get real about cost.
During yield, Social Focus students explore socially vibrant campuses and learn about the heart of the student experience. From interest to application, however, they learn to care more about core academics than the social environment. They also learn to care about what the whole endeavor will cost. This is a healthy dose of reality. In the end, these students don’t lose their soul: they still care about the social environment at nearly twice the rate of all other students. Social Focus students start from a place of excitement about the social context and then get real.
Tip #3: Yield strategy for Career Pragmatists should follow two critical and related paths: keep affordability front and center while opening up important conversations about the role of academics in ROI.
Career Pragmatists, a conscientious, community-oriented, but relatively academically inexperienced group of students, experience something of an awakening during yield. The quality of an institution’s core academics factors little into application decision. Instead, at this stage they focus on affordability, career preparation, and flexible programs. While affordability remains the number one driver for this type of student, core academics increases in importance to supersede career preparation in the enrollment decision. In turn, flexibility, while still valued more among Career Pragmatists than any other mindset, falls dramatically. In the end, Career Pragmatists learn that the academic components of college are an important part of the value equation in their consideration of return on investment (ROI).
Of course, students are going to change over the course of the enrollment cycle. Some of this is due to their own maturation, some of it is due to the interactions they have with family and friends, some of it is due to the interactions they have with colleges and universities, and some of it is due to serendipity.
This is part of what makes traditional undergraduate recruitment challenging: the need to respect students’ essential characteristics and motivations (show they belong at your school) while encouraging the expansion of their world-view (show something they didn’t know they needed). Both are necessary to support a truly informed enrollment decision. Admissions offices that present this kind of balanced decision provide students a path of least resistance, grounded in real connections, open to unknown opportunities.
How Students (Really) Decide: Key Insights from Eduventures Survey of Admitted Students
The competition for traditional undergraduate students is harder than ever before. With populations continuing to shrink in many regions and the pressure to achieve enrollment goals continuing to rise, the name of the game for many institutions is yield.
Understanding that students have many options when it comes to pursuing their post-secondary educations, it’s important to have an understanding of not only finding the right students, but what impacts student behavior, particularly after the point of being admitted to the schools to which they have applied.
Eduventures Principal Analyst Kim Reid will review key insights from the recent Eduventures Survey of Admitted Students and discuss how these findings may be applicable to your institution as you begin to shift your focus from “reading season” to “yield season.”