Wittenberg’s class of 2023 is smaller than average, and the Office of Admissions attributes the decrease in enrollment to changes in the recruitment process.
Carola Thorson, Wittenberg’s Vice President for Enrollment Management, explained that the new recruitment model focuses on recruiting to retain students for all four years of their college careers.
“The result has been a new baseline for success, which has translated into a smaller class,” Thorson said. “All processes from this last cycle were evaluated, and we are continuing to use both the art and science of recruitment for retention in this cycle and future ones.”
The use of a new database from which to pull potential applicants accounts is one of the major changes to how Wittenberg recruits students.
“We changed search vendors for ‘suspects,”’ Thorson said. Thorson explained that ‘suspects’ are the broad group of potential students Wittenberg sends information to.
“For the last nine years, Witt utilized a company called ‘Royall&co,'” Thorson said. “Their approach is going out to the masses and giving much more transactional messaging.”
Transactional messaging refers to the practice of telling potential students to perform a certain action, such as filling out an application, rather than sharing specific highlights about an institution.
Thorson explained that by focusing its efforts on transactional messaging, Admissions was not recruiting students the school would keep through the entire admissions process, let alone for all four years of college. For example, many potential applicants reached through transactional messaging started Wittenberg’s application but failed to actually complete it.
“When you look at the number of applicants Witt had in previous cycles of 6,000 to 7,000 individuals, many of those individuals didn’t necessarily know exactly who they were applying to,” Thorson said. “The intention of making the switch from a very large top of the funnel to a slightly smaller top of the funnel is to have additional personal interaction, to be able to get to know the student and the family better and to be able to see the student who sees Wittenberg as the right school for them.”
Now, Wittenberg uses a company called Waybetter for recruitment marketing.
“In this particular class , we were cognizant of changing vendors from Royal&co to Waybetter to have more personal interactions between students,” Thorson said.
Rather than directing suspects to open an application, Waybetter allows Admissions to highlight stories from current students and develop a more personal relationship between suspects and the institution.
Thorson explained that the students who matriculate to Wittenberg’s campus and stay all four years want a personal relationship with their peers, professors and coaches, so now, Wittenberg focuses its marketing efforts on individualized correspondence.
“For college admissions, ethically, you should be recruiting students you can retain,” Thorson said.
Thorson added that admissions started recruiting through the new program late, though.
“We needed to be earlier communicating with prospective students in April because of the switch in vendors,” Thorson said. “There just weren’t enough people at the top end of the funnel.”
However, Thorson predicts that future cycles will yield record amounts of matriculating students.
“Subsequent years should be large because right now we have 10,000 suspect students, which is in line with the year prior to last year,” Thorson said. “We had a 9.6% yield last year, and this year, it was 17.1%. We’re getting to the right students, we just didn’t get to enough of them.”
Overall, Admissions predicts that the new marketing strategy will successfully bring more students to Wittenberg who will thrive here.
“I feel really good about the work that we’re doing that started last October, gearing up for what the fall of 2020 and beyond is,” Thorson said. “I’m excited for many new partnerships that the Offices of Admissions and Financial Aid have created across campus to create meaningful relationships with our students and families.”