Many colleges believe that as soon as they get an application from a student,they are on the way to an enrollment. We know that is not true. This is just one part of a much longer process that leads through to graduation. The path of the actual enrollment process is a long and demanding one guided by the stitch-in process. But what many schools and universities do not recognize is that more than one person needs to be stitched into the many pieces of the quilt that is enrollment and retention.
It is as important, if not even more important to sell to, then enroll the entire family. The issue of the buying group has already been discussed. Now it is time to talk about how to go about enrolling the family. It is actually an easy process and one that reaps major benefits.
If the college enrolls the family, it involves them in the success of the student. It does begin with the buying group but does not end there. Here are seven steps to enrolling the full family or the people who will be the support group to the student.
Seven Steps to Increase Families in Retention
1) When you send the requested information like the view book, sales brochures, invitation to meet with a rep, an application to the student, mail a separate and specifically-targeted mailing to the family.
For example, should a student ask for an information packet, also send one to “the family of…” This smaller packet should have a letter welcoming the interest of the student and the family. True, they may not yet know the student has shown interest in the school but by contacting them you let them know and start the sale to them as well as the potential student. You then have the opportunity to help shape the discussion in a favorable light.
In the letter, let the family know how the school is a good academic and PRACTICAL choice. Talk about the jobs graduates get or grad schools they get into. Obtain permission from some of your successes to mention them and their stories in the letter which points to the short brochure also include.
In the letter also provide the name(s) and telephone numbers or email addresses of any campus contact people should they have any questions. If you have a parent website and/or FAQ, direct them to it. And invite them to campus along with their son/daughter. Start forming your buying group.
2) Create and include a short, graphic and picture heavy brochure that has been created not for the potential student but for the family. Again, if you have success stories, show their pictures and a short story. Certainly show pictures of graduation. That is what they are buying – graduation and success for their children. Provide a picture of the person who they can contact for information; a college family admissions liaison. All this reinforces the letter and reinforces one another.
By the way, if your school has many adult students, you will want to have a separate brochure with adult success stories and husbands and wives helping one another then celebrating at graduation.
3) Include the family in mailings about open houses, tours, new student parties. Have welcoming pre-class start parties for parents and family members so they can meet other parents and family members like them. This can create additional bonds to the school and people engaging in the same adventure. People like to see others like them or doing similar things to provide an internal checkmark against the “Am I doing the right thing?” Nothing says “yes” like meeting others with the same question saying “yes” too.
And invite children. Provide some babysitting and play for them in another room or area so they can have fun at the school and their parents can spend time on the college, not watching the kids. For older kids, set up a TV, a movie and some refreshments. Moreover, if done correctly, you can start planting a seed for future enrollment growth.
4) Stay in touch with helpful information on the financial aid process, how registration works, payment plans and any other information that could be helpful to families of potential students. Keep this all short and in a relaxed tone. Skip all the academicese, that in-group tech and slang we use to show we are in academia. Something as common as FAFSA for us may be an acronym puzzle for others. Call it the form that you may have to fill out for federal financial aid. We call it a FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If you want to explain the FAFSA and process, the Wikipedia WikiAnswers is a good place to start. It even explains SARS which may sound like a disease to those who don’t know academic technoslang.
5) When you send out acceptance letters, also send one to the family. By now, you may also have the names of the parents, husbands, wives and even some other family members. If you have them, use them.
Congratulate them as well as the student. Welcome them to the university, college, career school or community college. Then provide a short discussion of what is next for them and the student. Make certain you provide important dates, deadlines and resources as help for them. Also for dorming students, perhaps include a list of what students CAN bring to their dorm room. Be absolutely certain to let them know that the list is not a the student should have… but an it’s okay to have…
Invite the families to a family-only event at the school. Sure they will be at the student and parent orientation but make the people who are paying the bill special. They are the ones who will be there the night the student calls or announces this is just too much for me or I don’t want to study algebra any more or I’ll just never make it here or they just don’t care about me here. Give them the experience of the personal concern the school has as well as some of the resources that can help their family member make it through the I want to quit night. Make them believe in the college by you showing you believe in them.
6) When there is a success or good news story for or at the school, let the families know as well as the students. For example, if the student is a business major and a business grad gets a promotion, it is time to let everyone know about it. Send an email to all the business majors and their families and tell the success story that began at your university.
7) Keep the families in the loop as an important part of their student’s success. Send them emails about events at the school. Let them know when an important date is coming up weeks in advance. For example, an email about finals week can always be helpful especially if you include some helpful things they can consider.
For instance …the coming week can be a tough one for some students. It is the week of final exams for the semester/quarter. This is a time when students are studying hard and even all night to review or read material that might be on an exam.
It might be a good idea to just call to let your son/daughter/husband/wife know now that you know it is a tough week coming up and you are right behind them. Tell them to contact you any time he or she wants just to talk or even to let go some steam or anxiety. Be there for the student. Some families like to send a final’s week survival kit with some comfort food, cookies, candy, and whatever their student might enjoy while burning the midnight oil or compact fluorescent light bulb.
And know that if studying gets to be a bit much, we have XYZ to break it all up. The cafeteria is open all night for example for a break, a snack, a cup of coffee or some cake to keep going. And we are all available for a discussion break too or for you to call us and let us know of any issue you wish to discuss. Our special family finals line number is….. and our email is ……..
It is certainly not only okay but a great idea to include grandparents in all of this. They may be an important part of the student’s family. In fact, it could very well be that they are helping pay for the education. They can also be a valuable contact resource for students who sometimes prefer talking with grandparents about some things than parents. Grandparents can be seen as a more moderate and one step removed so safer to talk with. So, include them as well.
What does enrolling the family mean for you? Increased retention. More income and another benefit later. Increased alumni participation and donations. The more students feel attached to the school, the more they give. And parents can also be a donation source. There have been some major gifts to colleges and universities from parents who are thankful for the help and assistance they provided their sons and daughters, husbands or wives, and grandchildren.
N.Raisman & Associates has been providing customer service, retention, enrollment and research training and solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits, workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. N.Raisman Associates prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s services.
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