University at Buffalo Sees 75% Conversion Rate To Application With Unibuddy
As the largest and most comprehensive institution in the State University of New York (SUNY) system, the University at Buffalo is constantly innovating. With 30,000 students to serve across their undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, their enrollment teams focus on delivering a world-class applicant experience, as scalably as possible.
In the aftermath of COVID-19, and leading up to the fall of 2022, several Buffalo graduate schools began to feel their individual enrollment strategies needed improvement. In particular, they wanted a more scalable way to leverage the power of their current students.
As Ryan Taughrin, Assistant Dean for Enrollment Management at the Graduate School of Education, put it, “We were all executing on the smaller tactics – an ambassador program, connecting peers over email when they reached out. But we needed something that nurtured the high volume of traffic we were bringing to our website, a technology that integrated with our CRM Slate, and was affordable due to funding challenges.” Jennifer Rosenberg, Associate Dean of Admissions at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, had tried many different ways to engage students – Zoom events, Skype chats, even a free instant messaging solution. But they weren’t seeing the engagement they wanted.
The University at Buffalo team first had exposure to Unibuddy after seeing a demo at the annual NAGAP conference. The immediate draw was the ability for prospective students to seamlessly connect with current students over a chat tool embedded directly on a university website. “We knew peer connection was a critical and growing need, regardless of the school or department,” Taughrin said.
So, seven Buffalo graduate and professional schools banded together to purchase Unibuddy. “We had the support of our central team as well, who saw how Unibuddy could help us rise above the noise. The ROI was clear,” noted Erin O’Brien, Chief Marketing and Enrollment Officer for Buffalo’s School of Management.
Each graduate school implemented its own instance of Unibuddy, which created consistency in the Buffalo prospect’s experience while still allowing for individual department customization. Like many institutions, Buffalo’s enrollment teams are lean and resource-constrained. “We were able to get set up in a day. It literally involved dropping code onto our website,” O’Brien said. “Unibuddy provided a really easy onboarding process,” Taughrin added. “We were provided with the personalized support to ramp up fast. Our IT team was fully supportive; it took one 1-hour meeting to implement. And our ambassadors simply downloaded the app, and got to work on their profiles. They were thrilled they could answer questions at their convenience on their phones. No more office hours, they loved it!”
One aspect their School of Management especially appreciated was Unibuddy’s integration with their CRM Slate. By combining Unibuddy’s engagement data with their system of record, the enrollment team was able to cater to students’ individual needs as well as create more compelling content and messaging based on what they’re seeing is top of mind in peer-to-peer conversations.
Not yet a full cycle into their implementation, the University at Buffalo is already seeing positive results. In its first season of usage, the Graduate School of Education saw a 75% conversion rate to application for those students who engaged in Unibuddy conversations. Compared to 50% of students applying after they attend an information session, “in our pilot year, this was a significant increase,” Taughrin commented. For the School of Management, “Unibuddy as a lead source outperformed all information sessions, interviews, live events and other list sources by a large margin, and helped us identify stealth applicants.” In hard numbers, 40% of Unibuddy users went on to apply to the School of Management, and 18% of Unibuddy users deposited for a 2023 term, “which those in this sector know is impressive for a single tactic.” The School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences saw 350 students from 26 different countries engage and over 3,000 messages exchanged between October 2022 and May 2023, helping to bolster their diversity goals.
Qualitatively, Rosenberg noted that students’ conversations gave her team the insights they were missing. “Unibuddy enhanced our ability to yield students by creating transparency into their needs, which lets us nurture and convert them so much more easily and in a personalized way.” In fact, the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is now starting to use Unibuddy to convert admitted students and propel them toward enrollment.
“Unibuddy is by far the most impactful strategic tool in our toolkit,” said O’Brien. “When I measure engagement in Slate, prospective students spend more time interacting with our ambassadors than any other channel or activity we offer. That’s the nurture experience we were looking for.”
Ultimately, Buffalo’s enrollment teams wanted to improve the student experience and ensure they could get students’ burning questions answered. Taughrin noted: “Undergrad is not the same as grad school. It was important that we help students disentangle myths, feel confident at each stage of the application journey, and be an informed consumer. We want to make the grad school journey less daunting, and Unibuddy helped us do that.”
In the aftermath of COVID-19, and leading up to the fall of 2022, several graduate schools at the University at Buffalo began to feel their individual enrollment strategies needed improvement. In particular, they wanted a more scalable way to leverage the power of their current students.
In only six months, the Graduate School of Education at the University at Buffalo saw a 75% conversion rate to application for those students who engaged in Unibuddy conversations. The School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences saw 350 prospective students from 26 different countries engage and over 3000 messages exchanged between October 2022 and May 2023.