Customer Relations Management Services: Interventions to address the enrollment gap

As the fall semester draws to an end, your admissions office may be reviewing your new student enrollment data for the Fall 2017 recruitment year. Has your admissions team discovered a decline in your applicant numbers as compared to the previous school year? SEM Works’ proprietary customer relationship management (CRM) system can support your institute to target specific interventions to address these application gaps and improve yield.

The CRM process begins with an audit of your current communications and marketing to determine the areas that need the most improvement. Based on the audit results, the CRM team collaborates with the institution to customize a communications plan tailored to your target audiences. Does this system sound too good to be true? Well it gets even better. The SEM Works CRM team will design, write, distribute, track, and collect data on all CRM communications—yielding fast results, painlessly. Our expert team members will consult with your institution to highlight and display the appealing features of your institution and program. More importantly, we will focus on related student benefits and outcomes. Our CRM team will submit these communications to your team to seek your approval of the content and design to align best with your institutions’ vision and mission. SEM Works hosts the CRM system on our server, disaggregate the data to analyze enrollment trends and correlations, provides project management services, and manages inquiry and applicant data. The primary mission of our proprietary CRM system is to alleviate additional responsibilities from your staff and IT department.

In order to reach and engage every demographic, the CRM system utilizes the following communication channels:


  • Generate electronic communication directly from the CRM database, which is tracked (unique opens, clicks, opt-outs, and bounce backs) and then reloaded into individual student records, where data can be logged and reported.
  • Offer the integrated opt-out feature, which easily removes students who do not want to receive email from future communications without removing them from the system for admissions tracking purposes.
  • Deliver campaigns as text-only or html email, which can be sent to specific groups based on any attribute stored in the CRM database, and are personalized to each student by their CRM profile information (i.e. name, hometown, major, etc.).
  • Utilize integrated prospect history to view results of dissemination and adjust send times to maximize future responses.
  • Thoroughly test all emails prior to sending to ensure low spam ratings and optimal display across all platforms and web browsers.


  • Develop individual profiles highlighting academic, extracurricular, and career prospect features for each of your academic programs.
  • Address an email version of the microsite when students indicate an interest in a particular major.
  • Deliver special microsites to students who have not declared a major with information and links to all programs, allowing them to “shop” for the right major.
  • Update microsite regularly to include the most current information on program features and institutional developments.
  • Send a new microsite email is automatically sent to students who change their majors with information on the new program.


  • Integrate online forms (either stand-alone or within a web portal) into CRM database to streamline event registration and tailor response messaging to each prospective student’s current status.
  • Advertise events to select audiences based on geographic region, academic standing, specific interest, or any other data field in the CRM.
  • Send reminders, updates, or requests for feedback can be sent whenever you choose and are completely customizable for each event.


  • Assist in developing web-based forms to meet your recruiting and enrollment needs, such as online inquiry, application, and event registration forms.
  • Seamlessly integrate these forms into the CRM database to facilitate the complete tracking of prospective student contact with your institution and the generation of responsive touch-points based on these interactions.

If your institution is interested in utilizing SEM Works’ CRM system, please feel free to visit our website for more information and our contact information. We would love to partner with your team to identify and address your institution’s enrollment challenges.

Bolstering Your Institution’s Presence: How to utilize social media presence as a recruitment tool for prospective students


Social media is an essential method of communication for the current generation of prospective students. Many educational institutions have embraced social media campaigns to successfully recruit prospective students.

In the vast sea of collegiate social media accounts, is your admissions team struggling to stand out in the crowd? The SEM Works’ social media team has done the work for you! Based on our research, the colleges with the strongest social media prospective and current student followings involve the president of the school and the Admissions Office. Most prospective students report that they feel a stronger connection to the institution when the president actively participates, supports, and promotes the school’s social media campaign. These are just a few examples of successful social media messages that incorporate the president and Admissions Office to boost student enrollment and retention:

  • Orientation videos
  • President welcome videos
  • Back to school buzz videos
  • Holiday greeting videos or messages
  • Social media giveaways

One of the most successful strategies to increase your college’s social media followings is to create a student-led social media initiative. Some campuses will have the Admissions Office select student ambassadors while others allow the Student Union or Student Council to lead the initiative. In order to ensure the students are accurately depicting the school’s message and mission, your Admissions Office will also need to build in some training and accountability measures (i.e. viewing postings beforehand). Prospective students report that student-led social media campaigns are extremely engaging because they allow them to see a vision of the potential for their own college experience and current students possess a degree of credibility and authenticity. These are just a few examples of how to engage prospective students and involve them in your school’s culture by using the following student-led social media initiatives:

  • Facebook and Instagram live videos
  • Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat) take overs
  • Music videos
  • National recognition

Are you now feeling overwhelmed with how to create or revise your own social media initiative for your educational institution? Here are some videos from other colleges and universities with successful social media campaigns for inspiration:

Looking for specific apps to incorporate in your social media campaign plan? For more specific social media applications to increase student enrollment, visit our previous blog post Social Media: Creating a Buzz on your Campus to Boost Student Enrollment. In order for the school and student-led social media initiatives to be consistent, it is imperative to create a universal motto or hashtag. Most of the social media sites mentioned in the other blog post will provide statistics of the target student audience on each platform.

The Death of Classroom Lectures: How Experiential Learning Fosters Student Achievement

The Death of Classroom Lectures

Academics were among the first to shift the focus from the institution (or faculty) to the students. I vividly recall studying the benefits of active learning in my doctoral coursework in higher education curriculum and instruction in the early 80’s. In November of 1995, the cover article in Change initiated discourse in the academy over a paradigm shift from instructor-centered teaching to student-centered learning (Barr & Tagg, 1995, November). Admittedly, it has taken years for this seismic shift to infect academic culture, but the metamorphosis that has transpired is revolutionary. The “sage on the stage” has been gradually supplanted by faculty who engage their students in active learning; coach and facilitate rather than lecture; customize the learners’ experience based on their needs and learning styles; and leverage technology to enable learning. By fostering a learning environment where students are encouraged to collaborate, create knowledge, synthesis and apply information, strategize, and even find entertainment in the learning experience, faculty create the conditions for improved student success (Tapscott, 2009).

More recently (2014, June), a meta analysis was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America that compared student success in classes using traditional lectures versus active learning methodologies. This analysis of STEM courses affirms what many prior researchers and instructors have observed—average examination scores improved by approximately 6% in active learning sections and students in classes which were taught using traditional lectures were 1.5 times more likely to fail than those taught in classes deploying active learning techniques. Moreover, the wealth of research and scholarly publications associated with the learning styles of Millennials support these findings.  

While the research on this matter provides clarity around the pedagogy that is best for student learning and success, the inertia that often plagues the academy has impeded wide-scale adoption of active learning. This malady is not without more practical challenges. For example, active learning requires extensive preparation time and often more contact hours with students, including group and individual feedback. With that said, the return on investment is huge.

Arguably, the interactions between faculty and students in an experiential learning environment are where the competencies and foundational underpinnings of student learner and success are forged. Based on consultancies at over 400 institutions and extensive institution-based research on attrition causation, this author is convinced that student success/retention efforts will achieve optimal results only if learning is first and foremost focused on active student engagement around content with real-world application. Learning must be relevant to engage students—igniting their passion for subject matter and related career pathways.

When this happens, students rise to the challenge. They persist. They excel. Therefore, if for no other reason, we must continue the journey toward active learning.

Written by Dr. Jim Black

President & CEO of SEM Works


2016 Financial Aid Policy Changes: Is your Admissions Office ahead of the curve?


fafsa blog

Strategic Enrollment Management Updates: Fall 2016

Prior-Prior Year

As you may be aware, another federal financial aid policy change is on the horizon. Beginning October 1, 2016, students and families can use tax returns from two years ago to complete the FAFSA. This change means that FAFSAs will be available for completion in October instead of January, and therefore, financial aid awards will be made much earlier than in past years—giving students and their families a more complete financial picture to make informed decisions.

While the policy changes driving financial aid are fairly clear, the impact on human behavior due to the policy changes is less known. In particular, changes in admission application and enrollment decision-making patterns are likely to affect how institutions implement recruitment strategies, along with some other institutional practices like when tuition and fees are determined.

Since we do not exactly how student behaviors will evolve, the following are our best predictions of potential recruitment changes—most of which will not be seen until Fall 2017:

  • College affordability will be less of a mystery and consequently, related conversations with students and their families will occur much sooner with more emphasis on net price than sticker price.
  • Recruiters will need more in-depth knowledge of financial aid, so that they can effectively engage in the aforementioned conversations.
  • Scholarship awards will need to be provided to students much earlier in order to be competitive.
  • Since most institutions do not award financial aid until a student has been admitted, the volume of applications is likely to increase in the fall term and possibly over the summer months.
  • Unless the prime recruitment outreach timeframe shifts from fall to spring (focusing on juniors), the increased volume of applications will collide with the peak period for inquiries—requiring more automation and possibly seasonal staffing to prevent a backlog.
  • Admissions notifications and financial awards could be sent together—creating a competitive advantage for institutions that can synch these two processes.
  • Recruitment activities such as the following may shift earlier in the cycle:
  • Focusing more on high school juniors (e.g., student search, communications, publications, events).
  • Having more prospective students visit campus earlier in their decision-making process.
  • Shifting the nature of open houses, so that “shopping” events occur in the spring and commitment days (Admitted Student Open Houses) are offered in the fall and spring.
  • Starting in earnest yield activities in the fall.
  • Evaluating transfer credit earlier and potentially long before all coursework is completed.

Get ready. The world of student recruitment, as we know it, is about to change.

Social Media: Creating a Buzz on your Campus to Boost Student Enrollment

Since the debut of Facebook back in 2004, various forms of social media applications have organically and globally reached millions of people. Whether you support or resist the social media movement, the outreach and sheer magnitude of its impact on our society are undeniable. In the world of higher education, social media platforms provide a unique opportunity to reach, relate, and engage potential and current students.

During the National Small College Conference in July, SEM Works’ enrollment consultant, Dr. Kathy Baugher, led a round table discussion focused on social media. Many of the admissions counselors and social media managers for several small colleges joined in this meeting of the minds and sharing of resources. Based on this discussion, we compiled a list of the most effective social media tools to engage the current student population and reach prospective students.

Top Social Media Sites

FacebookFacebook– Some applications for higher education include the Facebook Live Stream for important campus events, private groups for admissions or courses, and separate pages for transfer students to receive updates for their appropriate graduating class.

snapchatSnapchat– Most of the small colleges utilized this app for their student social media teams to document events occurring on their campus to engage prospective students.

instagramInstagram– Most of the small colleges had an Instagram account for their school as well as their Admissions Office. The general format of utilizing a picture and caption to reach a wide audience is appealing to both current and prospective students.

twitterTwitter– Small colleges typically use this social media platform similarly to how they utilize Instagram and Snapchat to highlight relevant and trending topics specific to their campus.

youtubeYoutube– This website is mainly used for students who video blog about positive experiences on their college campus or give prospective students virtual tours of the campus.

Utilizing Social Media for Marketing and Communication

In order to most effectively utilize the power of social media, the conference participants discussed the following applications to increase current student engagement and boost student enrollment:

  • Communicating important details to parents and students specific to the college campus (i.e. deadlines for admission or scholarship applications, reminders to submit transcripts to the Admissions Office, information about financial aid).
  • Developing a student social media team to implement initiatives such as a social media take-over, where students document events occurring on campus to post to the  school’s social media accounts. Most of the admissions counselors or social media coordinators recruited the initial students and created unique passwords for those students (and changed them frequently to control content).
  • Creating a general college hashtag to allow prospective students to view the trending topics at each campus.
  • Marketing a clear and uniform message of your school’s brand and mission to prospective students.

In order to connect with the newest generation of prospective students, it is crucial for those involved in higher education and student enrollment to embrace and implement these social media platforms. How have you embraced social media sources on your campus to boost student enrollment? Please feel free to share resources in the comment section below!