Over the past two years, the number of colleges hitting new student enrollment goals has declined by 8%—sinking to a grim 34%. That means almost two-thirds of schools don’t have the numbers they expected or needed by the time they should be finalizing their roster. In order to get those numbers back up, colleges need to stand out in a prospective student’s sea of choices.
Luckily, there’s an easy and resource-light way to get started: personalized automation.
By collecting data efficiently and then using it to personalize your messaging, you’ll be able to engage more students without using more of your valuable resources. Whether it’s personalized emails to interested high schoolers, inviting messages to current students, or topical invitations to alumni events, it’s easy to automate data collection and still keep things personal with automation tool Zapier.
Together, Formstack and Zapier can do things like automatically send personalized messages to students who express certain interests or create unique calendar events from online sign-ups. And you don’t need to be tech savvy to get it done. Codeless automations called “Zaps” are simple for anyone to build. We’ve included quickstart templates throughout this post so you can get started with one click.
Pro tip: With Zapier’s education deal, students and educators get six months of free access to Zapier’s premium features.
1. Automatically connect prospective students with the right admissions counselor
University websites are one of the primary ways that students seek out information about prospective schools, but it’s easy for that interaction to remain cold and anonymous.
Create a new form inviting students to learn more about the programs they’re most interested in, and be sure to include a few questions for them along the way. For example, ask students where they’re from, and after they submit the form, you can automatically email the student a personalized thank-you note from their regional admissions counselor.
Quickly following up with a personalized note will let prospective students know they’re not going to get lost in the shuffle. Providing them with a clear point of contact—a person rather than an office—will make them more likely to follow up or reach out with questions. And if you can hook them early on in the process, they’re much more likely to enroll in the end.
2. Personalize campus tours by gathering student information before a visit
College visits are usually a whirlwind of stops over just a few days. By the end, all the schools can start to blur together and students’ excitement can dwindle. That’s why it’s so important to make the most of the few hours you have with each student—and be sure your campus stands out.
Use a dynamic online form to collect and manage sign-ups for campus visits. Then, set up a Zap to send that information to a spreadsheet so you can easily sort it and assign tour guides and student hosts based on the prospective student’s interests in majors or on-campus organizations. By pairing students with guides and hosts who can best answer their questions and speak from experience, you’ll offer a unique—and memorable—experience.
Using automation to log student data in a centralized place is a great start. Add a third step to your automation to seamlessly add these prospective students to your CRM, marketing automation tool, or project management platform so your team is queued up to take action.
3. Build your student email lists with valuable information
Once students are enrolled, you want to be sure you get to know them. They represent your school now, so the more you can do to make them feel valued, the more likely they’ll be to get involved—and become long-term proponents of the college.
Have each first-year student complete a form with some basic information, and then create a Zap to have that data automatically sent to your email service provider and to notify your team with a weekly summary of the list size. Instead of manually exporting form entries and importing to another tool, you can spend your time on the human side of student relations. Plus, your team can stay on the pulse of how the list is growing, without having to take the time to check in.
4. Stay up to date on your alumni to keep them engaged
Your school’s responsibility toward students doesn’t end at graduation, but 85% of alumni professionals don’t think their colleges are doing enough to keep them invested. If you want your alumni to give back to your community, you need to continue fostering those relationships.
The first step in personalizing alumni relations is knowing what your alumni are up to. Create a form with all the relevant questions and include a link on your site, at the end of all email communications, or even as a QR code in the hard copy of your alumni magazine.
Then, create a Zap to automatically update alumni information in your contact management app. That way, all your alumni data is always up to date so you can better personalize your messaging. In addition to boosting donations, a robust alumni network will help attract new students so you can better hit your numbers.
These are just a few of the ways you can quickly and effectively use automation to maximize your impact and reduce the amount of time spent processing student and alumni data.
By automating your data collection, you can make sure the right connections are made between students and staff—and let students know they aren’t just a face in the crowd. Even small measures to personalize interactions make a big difference, and with Zapier working for you, you’ll be able to make a little go a long way.
Learn more about these and other ways to automate higher education by registering for the upcoming webinar with Emma and Formstack on Thursday, June 14: “Building Seamless Engagement from Admissions to Alumni Relations.”
About the Author
Cate Blouke earned her PhD from UT Austin and has spent most of her career in higher education and journalism. She’s a jack-of-all-trades sort of writer: from arts criticism to email marketing to food blogging.