As reported in the USA Today and elsewhere, this is turning out to be a record year in college and university applications. Many of the articles are focused on enrollment caps and either the challenge for the student (increased competition) or challenge for the institution (financial aid and budget cuts). But there is another challenge for especially smaller, private institutions: conversion.

While an increase in applications (especially stealth apps) can be a blessing, being one of a dozen or more cross applications means work in the final funnel of conversion.

It is important for all enrollment offices to have in place a strong and creative conversion marketing plan. Here are five ideas to turn the record application pool into a record enrollment year:

1. Campus Visit
It is commonly known that chances for enrollment and matriculation go up tremendously when the applicant and family visit campus. But that visit has to be something that reflects the uniqueness of your brand promise and culture. Put your best foot forward. If your campus is known for technology and progressive application of the sciences, use QR codes for self-guided parts to a tour. If it is known for community life, be sure that the applicant spends the night in a dorm. Find out what prompted the student to apply before he or she arrives and tailor the visit toward those needs.

2. Social Networking
What better way to help make the conversion than by letting the student’s peers do it for you? Set up a private social network where students can interact, meet one another, and discuss their plans and excitement for starting this new season of their lives. In networks we have set up, we have seen an increased percentage of matriculants from those who participated in the accepted student network.

3. Insider Perks | Loyalty Program
Look to retail for other ideas: Perhaps your campus can set up a “perks” program. Allow the student to earn points for every student or faculty member with whom they engage. Create FourSquare check-in locations around campus and award points for “checking in.” Allow the student to then turn those points into spirit wear or other discounts on campus.

4. Group Chats
Leverage tools like Twitter or a conference call to create regular group chats. Have a popular professor or, better yet, a well known alumni spend 30 minutes with accepted students to answer questions, discuss their experiences or provide suggestions for their future. Students and families may engage, or they may lurk, but they will listen. Look for ways to create these forums to provide additional experiences.

5. Relationships
After it is all done, it is still about building relationships. As you can see above, all the other ideas revolve around ways to create those relationships — visits, social networks, perks for conversations, or group chats. While there are probably several dozen more ideas that I could write, it all comes down to building the relationships that will foster a decision. An added benefit is that with those relationships, not only will matriculation increase, but retention numbers will follow.

Do you have additional ideas? Add them in the comments.

Image by Mabel Amber via Pixabay