January 15th was the UCAS deadline day – the last day for UCAS applicants to submit. And this week you’ll be either celebrating or reeling at the student recruitment figures for your institution.
For most universities, this is the key time to really know where you are with your applicant numbers. Suddenly, everyone is interested in undergraduate recruitment.
Are applications up or down? How are we doing against competitors? Have we got everything we need in place to maximise conversion of these applicants and make sure they choose us?
Senior management will be looking closely at the student recruitment and admissions teams – and if you are at the centre of that, working in recruitment or admissions, it can be a difficult and stressful time.
I’ve been there, in key recruitment or admissions roles at several very different universities, and know exactly how that feels.
Much of the time your department gets little interest or support from the wider university, and suddenly you are right in the thick of it, under the microscope and (if you are lucky) being given extra resources to spend in super quick time.
So what do you do? Spend more on advertising? Set up a new applicant Facebook group? Put on free coffees at your visit days? You’ve been planning this recruitment cycle for more than a year, and now you are expected to pull yet another rabbit out of the hat! Well, for what it’s worth, here are my top suggestions on how you can get the most from the situation.
If you haven’t been offered additional funding, now is a great time to bid for it. That one big project or initiative that you’ve wanted to do for ages, but didn’t have the budget for. Now is the time to raise it – because now is the time that the pressure is on.
Heads of Department may not normally pay too much attention to student recruitment, but they are paying attention right now.
Take advantage of this moment to tell them about what you are doing and get them on board with all your conversion activities. You’ll be relying on their staff to deliver amazing stuff on applicant visits, so get the Heads involved in these, attending them and getting buy-in from their staff.
The number one conversion tool you have at your disposal is your visit day programme. Here are six tips to make sure you get the most from them:
Of course, some applicants may not be able to attend. But don’t write them off. Smaller scale weekend or half-term events and workshops can give them an alternative opportunity to connect with your university.
And, of course, online events bringing applicants together at one time can be great for those with too far to travel. If you don’t know about it, do check out how Unibuddy Live can deliver an online experience for your prospective students!
Whatever extra initiatives you decide you can do right now, I’d encourage you to focus on giving your applicants that real sense that they belong. This is best achieved through personal connections with people who share their interests and passions, in a place that feels like it could be home.