New Year, New Applications! Seven Tips for Boosting Applications
Wouldn’t it be great if on December 31, 2014, thousands of twenty somethings made New Year’s resolutions along the lines of “Apply to business school in the next 2 months?” Whether or not this is the case, with the start of the New Year, most programs still have classes to fill.
It seems timely, then, to explore some tips and tricks on boosting applications. Graduate Management News caught up with some seasoned admissions directors (and one ex-admissions director) to see if they had any insights that they could share with colleagues on this topic. Here’s what they had to offer:
- Remind Candidates that it’s Not Too Late to Apply. Shelley Burt, Director, Graduate Enrollment at Boston College, reminds us to put just as much energy and effort into your information sessions and recruiting events as you did in the beginning of your recruiting season. Candidates reach the decision to apply to business school at different times of the year. She suggests taking advantage of lead sources such as GMASS pre-test and test-taker names. In addition to your already strategic marketing messaging to this group, make sure to communicate that a strong application will receive full consideration for admission and scholarship, regardless of round/deadline.
- Don’t Ignore your Pipeline. Oliver Matthews, Head of Marketing at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, notes that in a crowded marketplace, finding new candidates isn’t always possible but that an often overlooked source of candidates are those already in your pipeline. Review your conversation rates, with a particular interest in those candidates who have started, but not yet completed their applications. Obviously something about your program caught their interest. Oliver therefore suggests not bombarding this group with your standard marketing messaging, but customize your outreach. Give them a preview of some of the attention and service they will receive once they enroll – create specific outreach (email, phone calls) which can provide them relevant admissions advice on completing the application process, careers advice or even tips on how to prepare for student life again.
- Explore New Markets or New Messaging. Nick Soriano, former Director, Marketing & Admissions at Nanyang Technological University, suggests that perhaps this is a good time to break out of your traditional target market. Use colleagues’ feedback, GMAC data, or other sources of candidate information, to learn where applicant interest is great and/or starting to grow, and be willing to explore new areas. Of course, you might already be recruiting in an area where interest is booming. In that case, you should try a new approach to promoting your programs. If you have been focusing on the flexibility or your program, why not start promoting something else such as graduate placement stats a new academic concentration at your school?
- Offer Incentives to Apply. Nick further notes that perhaps the key to boosting applications is not in the messages that you are sending, but the actions that you are taking. Of course, being able to offer more scholarships or financial assistance would be ideal, but is not always possible. There are, however, some less expensive, short-term incentives over which admissions offices have more control. Waive application fees for a period of time or provide GMAT™ waivers so that there is one less hurdle to the application process.
- Get on Candidates’ Schedules, Not Your Own. Rodrigo Malta, Director of MBA Admissions at the McCombs School of Business, reminds us that most of us plan our information sessions and city visits with some degree of regularity. Try varying your schedule to get the attention of some new candidate.
- Attract Candidates Early in their Decision Making Process. Rodrigo further suggests purchasing GMASS pre-test names. He notes that it is a great resource for targeting individuals early on in the process. Likely they are still window-shopping and wouldn’t an intriguing message from your program want them to take a second look?
- Targeted Marketing is Key. The seasoned admissions professionals all agreed on one critical point – know your audience and address them accordingly. And, unsolicited, each of them used the GMASS database as an example of how to do this. Even after purchasing names, in which you sought candidates based on specific criteria, continue to refine and segment your database. From your own experience or information that is readily available, understand your different target markets and message to them in kind. If you are reaching out to students in a specific geographic region, perhaps highlight current students or recent grads from that area. If you are messaging younger students, promote the career successes that your younger program graduates have experienced.
Many thanks to Shelley, Oliver, Nick and Rodrigo for sharing their insights I’d like to encourage you to do the same by posting your tips on the GMAC LinkedIn School Professional group. And until then, Happy New Year and Happy Recruiting!