While the new school year has just begun, it is never too soon to plan enrollment for the next academic school year.
Suzanne Sharp, Vice President of Strategic Enrollment Management, is enthusiastic about the updated recruiting process, contracting with Noel-Levitz, a consulting firm, for the admissions program.
“This firm breaks down every demographic detail for colleges to pinpoint prospective students for schools like Stephens and to better match students to institutions of higher education,” Sharp said.
According to its website, “Noel-Levitz is committed to helping institutions meet their goals for enrollment and student success.” The firm monitors trends of students and categorizes them to help schools recruit students who match the institutional goals.
Not only has Stephens partnered with Noel-Levitz, but the admissions office has hired new admissions counselors. Sharp calls her team “experienced, passionate, and educated,” which makes for a hard working team.
This team as well as the one from the previous year, is what helped bring in the 138 first-time freshmen, and the 42 transfer students, for a grand total of 180 new faces on campus. Along with the 355 returning students, that brings Stephens student body to just under 550.
The Admissions staff of 2011-2012 left the college to move on to other opportunities. With this new staff, there comes more intensive training.
As a result, “our staff is working smarter,” Sharp said. Each admissions counselor was taken on campus tour to learn about and better understand its five schools: Performing Arts, Fashion and Design, Organizational Leadership and Strategic Communication, Interdisciplinary Studies and Humanities and Science. This was done so that when potential students arrive and ask about them, the staff can have an honest answer, rather than responses based on hearsay or secondhand reports.
Admissions budgeted for 175 new students, giving the college a cushion in the event that more students enroll than expected.
Sharp and the admissions staff have been implementing new strategies this year and freshmen have seen their results. Jasmine Meurer, a freshman fashion design major from Fulton, Mo, experienced these new strategies firsthand as an applicant to Stephens.
“The next day I got a call from Jamie Link (an admissions counselor), saying, ‘Hey, you should come visit!’”
Meurer also said she and Link stayed in contact the entire year and, with that kind of consistency, Meurer felt welcomed to Stephens.
Even though Fall 2013 is nearly a year away, Sharp wants freshman enrollment to be over 300, nearly double the 175 students for which the department has budgeted. With that goal in mind, Admissions must strategize where and how to disseminate information to high school seniors. With the help from Noel-Levitz, Stephens will send packets, letters, emails and make phone calls to potential students.
“Half of Stephens women come from Missouri. The rest is everywhere else,” said Sharp.
Freshman Fiona Kerr from Leawood, Kan. , explained how she was homeschooled and attended a home school college fair.
“Stephens had a booth, and I got more information. I also did some Internet searching as well,” Kerr said.
Like Meurer, Kerr said she was in contact with her admissions counselor consistently.
Regardless of where potential students are located, Stephens has been making a conscious effort to invest more in the recruitment process.
Becky Saunders, a transfer student form Arizona State University, found out about Stephens through her mother’s alumnae connections. Once accepted, she received a “big box of goodies.” Saunders’ eyes lit up when she said that receiving this box made it “more obvious they cared.”
Before acceptance, every potential student will receive a postcard that includes information about campus visit events, such as Open House, Scholars Weekend and Experience Stephens.
Sharp and the rest of admissions also work on campus to increase enrollment by conducting focus groups. The information shared in the forums is analyzed and applied to the marketing process.
As the year progresses, more information about academic enrollment will follow, with updates about marketing initiatives and responses and results of these efforts.