How Enrollment Teams Can Navigate the Turbulent FAFSA Timeline
Yes, glitches and delays with the 2024-2025 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are frustrating and annoying. Yes, the resulting uncertainty has thrown the higher ed calendar into chaos. And, yes, tuition-dependent institutions are at heightened risk of falling short of revenue projections.
The good news? Opportunity is knocking for those institutions that are nimble enough to take advantage of circumstances. Here are two recommendations for making the most of a bad situation.
1. Resuscitate Your Comms Plan and Kick It Into High Gear
Many institutions will have to revive or create a plan for engaging prospective students over the next several months. The average student applies to six colleges or universities. If you don’t continue to message your applicants, you risk losing them to the schools that are.
Moreover, as delays and uncertainty mount, more students will begin to evaluate alternatives to four-year institutions – e.g., community colleges, the armed services, gap years or the job market – making it imperative that you share compelling content on the value of your educational experience.
Here are some suggestions:
- Upgrade and extend your comms flow immediately.
- Lean into story-telling, making sure your content is relevant and on-brand.
- Recycle existing content. Time is of the essence, so taking weeks to generate new content won’t work. Those emails you sent in October? They’re still good. Simply change the subject line, switch out the photography and maybe rewrite the intro. Then hit send. That will buy you time as you …
- Create new content. Continue to share new compelling stories about student, alum or faculty experiences. Look for student accounts of internships, externships or competitions—from debates and robotics to music and athletics.
- Be sure to post FAFSA status updates as soon as you receive them.
- For your Call to Action, stay with something like “Place Your Deposit Today,” but consider ways to motivate or incentivize that action.
- Avoid “just staying in touch” emails or text. Give them a reason to engage with your website or your staff.
2. Train Your Enrollment Team for the New Reality
Nurturing and sustaining relationships has never been more important. The FAFSA process is already stressful enough for students and parents. Ironically, in trying to simplify the process, the Education Department has created additional anxiety for everyone involved – enrollment teams included.
Institutions must enhance their service environment. The volume of visits, phone calls and emails will only increase as deadlines loom, and parents and students seek answers. Uncertainty will test everyone’s patience, but a well-trained admissions team will be better prepared to build relationships and successfully navigate these trying times.
Think of your team members:
- Can they effectively turn a question or service request into a relationship-building conversation?
- Are they learning more about the student and family during each interaction?
- Do they consistently enter this information into your CRM and gauge the level of commitment the student has?
If you want to ensure your team is maximizing its effectiveness, consider professional development training for your admissions counselors. Paskill Academy’s two-day, on-campus Yield Boot Camp will provide your team with the skills and concepts to impact your enrollment outcomes. Attendees learn how to nurture relationships and improve yield with better closing techniques and other communication strategies that are more crucial than ever.
Let’s set up a meeting to plan your Yield Boot Camp.