Enrollment and Marketing

Throughout the last six years, Chatham has devoted significant investments of staff, time, energy and resources to support recruitment and marketing for CCW students. As previously reported, we have spent 2.5 times ($4.5 million vs. $2.2 million) more on these activities for CCW compared to all graduate and online programs (that have continued to grow in enrollment during this period while CCW enrollment has declined). Through feedback we’ve received, we know that a few people feel that perhaps strategies or tactics that were (or were not) pursued in admissions or marketing are a major reason for this. This blog post provides more detailed information and context around key considerations on this topic.

Enrollment Staffing
Chatham College for Women has had five to six admissions counselors (including some who are CCW alumnae) assigned to recruiting CCW students. There are currently five recruiters for CCW compared to three full-time and one part-time for the College of Graduate Studies, one for the Falk School graduate programs and one for the College of Continuing & Professional Studies. At the same time, we have between 18-20 Undergraduate Student Ambassadors who assist in recruiting efforts for CCW compared to 3-4 Graduate Student Ambassadors. Enrollment counselors attend fairs in our key feeder markets, visit high schools, call and reach out to students, partner with others on campus and much more in their efforts to recruit students.

Alumnae & Community Involvement
Alumnae (along with others in the Chatham community) have always been involved in recruiting efforts in various capacities; with some of the most recent efforts taking place as recently as February 2014. Examples of alumnae involvement through the years (with increasing frequency over the past two recruiting cycles) include:

  • Participation by alumnae, staff, faculty and parents in a unique “meet the students and families” event at Open House
  • Presentations and a talk by alumnae at Accepted Student Day
  • Participation of alumnae in interviewing students at the World Ready Women scholarship event
  • Alumnae volunteers with the Rachel Carson Book Award Program
  • A personal note from an alumna and faculty member for each prospective student who visits
  • Alumnae volunteers at some regional fairs and with special events
  • In partnership with the Alumni Association Board, alumnae volunteers were solicited to personally reach out to prospective students in their area
  • Creation and promotion to prospective students of the Chatham Alumni “Where Are They Now” Pinterest Board
  • Promotion of the benefits of CCW alumnae to prospective students via communications, including this example called “Full Circle.”

It is important to remember that while we work diligently to ensure we involve multiple people in the admissions process and the recruiting of students, much has changed over the years in the undergraduate recruiting market. As example, high schools and counselor offices are facing budget and staff cuts making engagement at high schools more challenging. In addition, many universities are also cutting back on attendance at college fairs and incorporating more online, virtual fairs to meet student demand, and in the process changing the ROI and value on this traditional approach.

At the same time, the rise of hundreds of college search and “student/college matching” websites coupled with the growth of the common application mean that students can easily find out about and apply to multiple colleges without ever visiting a fair or talking to a recruiter (be it staff or an alumnae volunteer). This follows a trend from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), which reports in their State of College Admissions 2013 report that twenty-eight percent of Fall 2012 freshman had submitted seven or more applications for admission, down slightly from 29 percent in Fall 2011.

Student Athletes
Student athletes make up between 25% to 30% or more of an incoming first-time, first-year class. Coaches play a critical role in supporting admissions efforts and counselors. Admissions counselors and coaches work closely together, attend fairs, visit with prospective student-athletes and pursue other collaborative efforts to support this key student population.

High Engagement & Getting Students to Campus
While the world of admissions has seen significant change over the past few years, efforts to create a high-level of engagement, community involvement and “personal touch” have been significantly emphasized for the past two years. Student ambassadors call and write students, are matched up with students with similar majors or interests whenever possible and are utilized more extensively in campus events. New campus subject-based tours, shuttle tours of Oakland, events/forums on the tutorial, career development, internships, student life and more have also been created to support these key recruiting events. The has led to a significant increase in attendance in on-campus recruiting events over the last two recruiting cycles as well as improved feedback on the events, yet has not impacted enrollment.

Marketing & Messaging
From a marketing perspective, we pursue an integrated marketing approach that parallels and supports the enrollment and admissions efforts. Over the past years, this has included activities across traditional and increasingly digital channels including as examples: college search magazines; high school publications and college fair publications; cinema advertising; streaming TV & radio; mobile platforms; Google Ad Words and web-based advertising.

A key strategy over the past two years has been built around a series of videos developed to focus on the tutorial, internships, innovative programs like the 3-year Interior Architecture degree and the “Why a women’s college” messaging. Prospective students were directed to a computer, mobile and tablet-friendly landing page, www.chatham.edu/realitystars, where they could watch videos (consisting of real CCW student stories), learn more about CCW, see visuals of the campus and engage with our social media content . Publications such as the CCW View Book have also been revamped to communicate the benefits of a women’s college and showcase students, academics, financial aid, the campus and our location more.

The collective recruitment and marketing efforts this year have increased inquiries over previous years and driven over 50,000 visits to the site with an average time on site of over 5 minutes. This site became the 2nd most visited page on chatham.edu (after the home page) and 64% of all traffic came from visitors accessing on a mobile device. The most popular videos were Why a Women’s College and the creative that performed the best contained a message of “Find Your Voice”—something we have heard over and over from many students at Chatham that informed our work. Even though our efforts have greatly increased website visits and inquiries up over the past two years, we have not seen the same corresponding uptick in applications or enrollment.

Collective Efforts, Declining Results
Let me be the first to acknowledge that like in any business, there is always room for continuous improvement in sales and marketing activities, and Chatham has and continues to monitor and implement this through the years. There have been significant investments of energy, time, resources, analysis and measurement, collaboration and new ideas among the entire Chatham community to support marketing and recruiting efforts for CCW. It’s not just for a lack of trying, of allocating enough resources or not involving enough people in the process that we are where we stand today in terms of enrollment.

Even with all of the collective efforts that have led to improvements in some areas from year to year such as increased inquiries, event attendance or even applications (in previous years), first-time, first-year enrollment has unfortunately continued to decline through the years. Today—even with a doubling of efforts over the past two years targeted at showcasing the benefits of a women’s college education—we are reporting that applications for traditional, first-time first-year students are running at this time about 14% lower this year over last (they were also down that year from the previous year) and enrollment is projected to decline again.