13.Jul.2020

Kirsten Fedderke
Senior Vice President

COVID-19 EXPANDS THE SUMMER MELT PLAYBOOK

Essential Communications Insights For An Uncertain Summer

As we roll into mid-summer, what do families need to hear from you to reduce melt and secure your fall class?  While the recipe for success is as varied as the types of institutions and students themselves, our recent research with parents of college-bound high school seniors gives us actionable insights to guide communications for the next six to eight weeks.

Our survey findings provide clear guidance: parents are looking for a balanced combination of reassurance that their student will be safe, transactional “next steps” to enrollment, and a glance into your crystal ball with all of the answers as to what fall will hold.

In the third wave of a series of research with parents since the outbreak of COVID-19, Lipman Hearne has continued to explore enrollment intentions, communications needs, and expectations of institutions among this important influencer audience.

As is always the case, a deposit can be an indicator of a student’s intention to enroll, albeit an imperfect one.  Amongst our sample, 55% of families had made one – and only one – deposit.  (35% made no deposit, and 10% made more than one deposit).  So, more than half were willing to take that first step towards commitment, even when most schools had not yet announced their fall plans.  We interpret that as a good sign that families want to keep their student on track for a fall 2020 start.

That said, deferral was still very much on the table.  Forty-seven percent of our respondents were considering deferring.  First-gen families were significantly more likely to be considering this option.

So, back to what parents want to know or hear to make that final enrollment decision.  When asked what might impact their choice, unsurprisingly, 55% agreed that how the college or university handles COVID-19 will be important.  They were also most interested in receiving information about a college’s plans for dealing with an outbreak on campus.  Additionally, how the state where the college is located handles the pandemic is also on their minds.

However, in nearly the same numbers, parents are looking for specific next steps needed to keep their student on track for fall enrollment.  In fact, information on registering for fall classes and attending an orientation were top of the list of sought-after details.

What, then, is the formula for success to assuage fears, instill confidence, and propel students toward fall enrollment?

  • Keep your foot on the gas as far as comms flows and outreach. They want to hear from you at least weekly, and many still seek daily communications.
  • Share as much as you can in this uncertain time. Even if your fall plans are still evolving, share scenario planning and specific details about where your institution may be heading.
  • Take control of the narrative about your campus. Integrate local news about the pandemic into your communications to give context to what is happening in your state, region, or city.
  • Give them everything they need to take immediate next steps for fall. They want to stay on track, so make sure it is easy to figure out what needs to happen next to make that happen.

Mobilize your internal staff, equip them with impactful messaging that resonates with parents, and turn them into a summer melt avoidance SWAT team! For more information on activating a plan to reduce melt and optimize your enrollment efforts, contact a Lipman Hearne enrollment strategist today.