Admissions: Stop reinventing the orientation and recruitment wheel

Community college admissions officers are familiar with constant change.

“Two-year schools tend to try something new every year in the admissions orientation process,” observed Lisa Freel, Director of Admissions at Frederick Community College. “I’ve worked at both [two- and four-year institutions] and many community colleges redo the process every year.”

In response to a major Maryland state law -- the College and Career Readiness and College Completion Act -- Frederick’s admissions team implemented a collaborative, comprehensive communications plan that helped stabilize their application-to-matriculation process, leading to less chaos in August and clearer pathways to success for students.

“We finally have something here that we can keep and build on,” Freel said. “We’re no longer reinventing the wheel every year.”

Streamlining and strengthening

The Admissions office teamed up with the Counseling and Advising office to collaborate on the communications plan, and the offices are more interconnected now. These days, staff from both offices work with students and parents throughout the process, helping link students to resources and giving them a stronger, bigger learning support team.

“At many community colleges, admissions efforts stop after the student is accepted,” Freel said. “Here, Admissions doesn’t just recruit, accept, and stop. We have touch points through testing, advising and registration to make sure students become fully enrolled and acclimated through their first year.”

In fact, their campus building is undergoing a redesign and by the end of the year, the collaborative offices will be colocated in the new building, alongside a new lab and resource center for students.

“Staffing isn’t where it should be,” Freel said. “By dividing and conquering, we made sure not to put the entire workload of orientation on one office.”

Doing more with less

The collaborative effort has led to more targeted and sequential messaging, helping students more clearly understand next steps as they move through registration.

“Most admissions offices have funnels but ours is unique in some ways,” Freel said. “We have very specialized targeted messaging for different populations -- not just adult and high school, but also bridging ESL students, dual enrollment students, and so on.”

“As a medium-sized community college, we don’t have a big budget, so we don’t have a CRM or automated communications,” added Jennifer Moxley, Admissions Advisor and Recruiter. “We do a lot of things with Excel and homegrown processes to make this work. That means it would work for any community college or smaller college that doesn’t have a lot of resources.”

Their color-coded communications chart delineates types of touch points--emails, personal phone calls, robocalls, handwritten postcards, and targeted mailings.

Making August less overwhelming

Another major component of the new approach is the implementation of the Required Orientation, Advising, and Registration (ROAR) program. ROAR includes:

  • Open houses to share general information about college.

  • Meetings with advisors to make an academic plan and online orientation video.

  • Convocation right before classes begin to introduce students to support services, classroom processes and college wide policy and procedures.

  • Student success month during the first month of classes, to continue to feed students information about resources and processes.

“We’ve had great results in the two years we’ve been doing this,” Moxley said. “Our students feel more prepared and we’ve been able to double our communications.”

In addition, the data shows that more students have completed the registration process earlier than they had in previous years.

“Getting students in earlier and getting them registered has helped reduce the August demand on counselors, advisors and other staff,” Freel said.

Looking ahead

Freel and Moxley are excited to see what else is possible as they build on the success of ROAR. The new building space will unite services so students don’t have to “bounce around campus” to find what they need, and there are plans to take ROAR “on the Road” to high schools served by the college.

Freel and Moxley bring their story, and ideas for how you can do something similar on your campus, to AACRAO’s 2018 Annual Meeting -- March 25-28 in Orlando. Learn more and register now.