Reducing “No-Shows” at Admissions Events - Part One

Getting students on campus is a well-known key to successful admissions conversion and yield programs. Few marketing communication strategies can match the yield rate for students who visit for a tour and admissions interview.  As a marketing services company that has helped colleges improve both applications and enrollment, The Allied Group is committed to finding new ways to get more students to sign up for campus visits.



But success depends on students who sign up actually showing up on campus. A discussion on LinkedIn’s College Admissions Experts group indicates that some institutions experience no-show rates of 50%. That can cause problems for both students and enrollment managers. How can applicants make informed decisions without coming to campus? Can admissions officers accurately assess borderline students they’ve never met? What effect will a low yield rate have on the institution?



Can colleges reduce the no-show rate? Suggestions offered by the group included calling students rather than relying on mail or email, teaching reps to avoid telling too much over the phone, calling parents to make sure the appointment made works for them, and calling to remind the student the day before the interview - all seemingly sound suggestions.



Two further recommendations have a sound basis in research. Studies have found, as communications psychology expert Robert Cialdini, PhD puts it, “People always want more of what they can have less of.” Students who compete for admission value it more highly. Utilizing that principle, one experienced admissions officer advised informing the student about something Admissions needs to properly consider their application, like crucial paperwork or their commitment to being a good student. Another likes to let students know that she is fitting them into a tight interview schedule. This has the tendency to make the appointment feel more important to the prospect. If the schedule is tight, a wise admissions officer will make sure students know it.



Another important research finding that can help is the Commitment/Consistency principle, demonstrated by over 1,000 studies. Dr. Cialdini writes, “Once an individual takes a stand, goes on record, or establishes a position, there is a tendency to respond in ways that are stubbornly consistent with it.” In one study, restaurant staff lowered the percentage of people who failed to honor their dinner reservations by two-thirds, from 30% to 10%, by obtaining a commitment.



After taking the reservation, staff normally said, "Please call if you have to cancel." The researcher changed that to a question, "Will you please call if you have to cancel?" The staff member then waited for a response. Naturally, most patrons promised to call. And having made that commitment with their own lips, most honored it.  Could a similar approach succeed in getting more prospective freshmen to honor their commitment to visit campus?



Research reveals an additional step that could further reduce no-shows. It utilizes a proven principle that is both easy to apply and highly effective. What is it? You can learn the answer in “Reducing “No Shows” at Admission Events – Part II.”

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