It’s a pretty common story across schools that the number of admissions “inquiries” tends to be decreasing. These days, candidates are getting the information they need online, without picking up the phone or filling out a traditional inquiry form. But, in admissions, we know how crucial it is to make a personal connection early. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Admissions Directors say, “Once they’re on campus, I’ve got ’em!”
Knowing that families are less likely to fill out that inquiry form, what’s an admissions team to do? Simple. Figure out new ways to get candidates to inquire: make it easy, relevant and worth it for them.
Think about your website.
How can a candidate inquire today about your school? If he or she has to click on your admissions tab, then search for a link to your online inquiry form it is seriously time to rethink your process. By this point, that candidate has probably already done some research about your school. It is possible that you’ve lost your opportunity to connect directly.
Furthermore, while there’s clearly value to admissions in having candidates fill out the traditional online inquiry form, the value for the candidates is questionable. What do they get in return for filling it out? A viewbook? A call? That’s not compelling. Again, you’re losing an opportunity to connect.
But you can catch them earlier and on different areas of your website. What if on your home page you had an inquiry link to attend an open house? If on your athletics page you had an inquiry link to meet with the team? If on your academics page you had an inquiry link to sit in on a class? These “calls-to-action” are personal, relevant and they offer something special – something the candidate can’t simply research on your site. This approach alone should increase your inquiry counts.
Think about your inquiry form.
How much information does it require the candidate to supply? This is important because (especially at the inquiry phase) the longer the form, the less likely it is to be submitted. So if you think inquiries are important to your admissions process, but you only have one inquiry form with lots of questions, it is time to rethink your approach.
At a minimum, work on shortening your current form as much as possible. Get the basics: candidate name, apply grade, apply year, parent contact information. Try to remove any fields that aren’t absolutely critical to your initial communication with the candidate. As an example, there’s probably no reason to ask about athletic interests on your form if you aren’t going to be coordinating specific targeted messages around those interests during the inquiry phase. Remember, your ultimate goal should be to get as many inquiries submissions as you can. A shorter form will help you do that. You can ask the more detailed questions during follow-up conversations or during the application process.
If you do need to get more information out of your inquiry form, while still keeping it short, you should consider implementing a dynamic online inquiry form. This technology enables the fields on the form to change based on how the candidate is filling it out. For instance, if a candidate indicates an athletic interest, you might then have your form show questions about the candidate’s previous teams or skill level. The magic of this approach is that the form initially looks very short and clean when your candidate opens it and the additional questions that “pop-up” are much more likely to get answered because they are relevant.
A groovy new approach.
Recently, I’ve seen admissions teams starting to implement online admissions scheduling technology to generate inquiry leads. They are posting links on their website to different recruiting events: open houses, tours, shadow days, etc. From there candidates can, in real time, view appointment availability, choose a spot and book it. Usually, they are prompted to fill out a short form with the basics. This is a great innovation, because unlike the traditional inquiry form, this provides a true incentive for candidates to give admissions teams contact information and gets them on campus very early in the process.