Use 2021’s trends to inform 2022’s strategies
After another uncertain year of admissions, program changes, and market ambiguity, you may be having difficulty re-establishing benchmarks, planning for the upcoming admissions cycles and even evaluating success. Although you may be ready to move forward, taking stock of recent trends can help inform your next steps.
A recent article in Forbes outlines a few of the top learnings that emerged in the education industry in 2021. We’re commenting on a few of these as it relates to higher ed admissions and marketing so as to carry the lessons of last year forward into our planning.
The pandemic has continued to dominate headlines. Although this year may have given way to a bit more normalcy, there were still multiple disruptions that created uncertainty. Whether it was offering hybrid options, shifting policies on in-person learning, masking, or modifying events for students, your staff has been required to continuously shift to match the ups and downs of pandemic life.
What lessons can we take forward? Flexibility is king and communication is critical. While business schools herald change management as a key component to successful leadership, it can still be difficult to incorporate these elements into the admissions process, especially when it feels like you are chasing a moving target. But remaining aware of graduate recruiting trends, adapting quickly and communicating clearly can go a long way in validating your transparency to your current and prospective students.
With many schools modifying their admissions testing policies or making tests optional, the value of testing has been called into question for some prospects. If your school made decisions to suspend, amend or eliminate testing requirements based on limited accessibility, you may be facing questions today like when or how to re-instate testing, or what type of test will be your new standard.
What lessons can we take forward? Regardless of what your testing policy is or will become, be as clear as possible in all of your materials – website, digital advertising, emails, events – and make sure your updates are made in real-time to eliminate confusion. If you decide to change a rule, giving your justification for that decision can help avoid confusion. As a higher ed institution, you can feel confident in modifying your policies to fit the current business and economic environment and to ensure the best fit of students in your programs. Just be sure to clearly state your intentions and be transparent.
While a downward slide occurred in almost every area of post-secondary education, enrollment in graduate programs grew by 2.1%. In fact, GMAC states in their Application Trends Survey 2021, that, “..as candidates hedged their risks and schools introduced more flexible admissions policies, the application volumes soared in 2020. The 2021 application cycle is set in the context of this dramatic growth in applications in the preceding year.”
- What lessons can we take forward? The value of an MBA and post-grad Master’s degrees persists. And during a time when professionals are rethinking their priorities and reconsidering their career paths, graduate school remains a timeless way to add evergreen skills to any professional’s resume. With the “great resignation” upon us where employees are leaving their jobs in droves, the network students can gain through post-grad programs remains extremely valuable. In your marketing and admissions materials, be sure to tout the skills earned in your MBA or master’s programs as valuable going into the next phase of life.
The past couple of years has been difficult at best. And no one knows what 2022 will hold. But with the tools of flexibility, transparency, and clear communication, your school can stabilize admissions and even increase enrollment
If you need help with a new marketing strategy, selecting the right digital advertising channels to reach your target audience and personalizing communications for your prospects, contact GPRS today.