In just a few weeks, we’re going to be entering National Community College Month – it’s one of my favorite “National” months of the year!
It also happens to be one of the biggest months for Community Colleges – preparing to wrap up the semester and encouraging current students to register for Summer and Fall courses. It’s also the time where Community Colleges can capture those “Guest” or “Visiting” students who will be home (even if virtual) from their 4-year institution.
Last year, we were just at the start of the pandemic, and many institutions were forced to be creative in how they recruited Summer students. We’re now a year into this, and many lessons were learned. This blog post highlights three key recruitment approaches for Community Colleges focused on increasing Summer enrollment.
Text Your Former Guest Students
I have a huge family, and if there’s one thing I discovered about the college students in our life – they never respond to phone calls (lucky if their voicemail is set up), they breeze over the emails (confused on how our 70-year-old Aunt Betty knows how to send one), and maybe they’ll “Like” the family post in our social media group. However, they always respond to the text message!
This scenario leads to the first tip – send the text!
The text message doesn’t have to be long but should be personal. Have the text come from an Advisor or a Faculty Mentor the student may have worked with within the past year. Your goal here is to bring back a returning Guest Student to take on additional courses this summer. So, a text like this may work:
Hey John, it’s Jane from TargetX Community College! I hope your semester is going well!
I wanted to see if you’d be interested in taking classes again this summer at the college! Let me know either way!
You’ll see I broke this SMS messaging into two different texts, and you’re probably thinking, “Why on earth would we do that?” Well, the answer is simple – it makes us look like a human rather than a robot generating an auto-text.
Breaking the messages into two separate messages will capture the students’ attention. We’re all familiar with that one text message that says, “Your order is ready,” or “We’re trying to reach you about your extended car warranty.” Having two messages makes it feel more personable – and as if it’s a real person reaching out. Remember, we know our students want that personalization, so start with the initial contact. The perception here goes a long way!
Provide an Incentive to Current Students
Who doesn’t love something free!? Or at least the feeling we’re getting something free when in reality, we might not! It’s the power of an incentive and, again, perception! This leads to my second tip in effectively recruiting Community College students for Summer enrollment – provide an incentive.
Over the last year, colleges and universities have been super creative in recruiting and retaining students. We’ve seen some Community Colleges offer one free class for the Fall 2020 semester to help boost enrollment and encourage students to register for additional courses. I’m not saying go that far, but be creative in your approach.
For example, many Community Colleges had to loan out computers to students over the past year, with the expectation of returning the computers at the end of the semester. Market a message that offers students the ability to keep their computers throughout the summer by registering for at least one Summer course.
As a faculty member, I know many of my students utilize their college-issued computers for personal use. They tell me so when I’m meeting with them in our virtual evening sessions. So, take advantage of that opportunity. And, don’t forget, if you’re also offering them wifi hotspot devices – that comes too!
Whatever your institution is comfortable in offering current students – go for it! But try to offer an enticing incentive! Oh, and start this process soon – before April!
Be There – Virtually
This third tip, to me, is the most important one of the three. Be There!
I’m a huge FISH! Philosophy person and the “Be There” is one of their key components to successful communication. You’d think this may be more of a challenge as we’re living in the virtual world, but it’s not. “Be There” isn’t talking about physically being present in a face-to-face setting – it’s talking about giving the student your full attention, even in the virtual world.
For example, when I’m meeting with my students virtually, through Zoom, when I start the meeting, I tell the student, “Oh, give me a second, I want to turn off my cell phone for our meeting.” In reality, my phone was already turned off, but this lets the student know they have my full attention. In many cases, I’ve had the student say, “Oh yeah, let me do that too real quick,” and they’ll silence their phones. Now the student and I are fully present and there for the conversation. We’re limited with distractions, and we can use the time frame allotted to get work done.
This seems like a small gesture, but it works!
Research has shown that students, especially Community College students, need that extra level of encouragement and attention. By utilizing this “Be There” attitude, you’re providing that extra level of “customer service” that the students will remember. Doing this can create that “sense of belonging” the student needs – you’ve become their “connection to the college.”
Though focused on summer recruitment, these three tips can be utilized throughout the year – because Community College recruiting doesn’t have a season, it’s ongoing every day!
Check back to our TargetX blog posts over the next few weeks as we prepare to celebrate National Community College Month in April. Also, put a hold on your calendars for the upcoming national Community College webinar, “Community College Focus: Addressing Equity-Minded, Inclusive, and Culturally Responsive Student Initiatives,” hosted by TargetX on April 14, 2021, at 2 p.m. (ET)/11 a.m (PT). More details to come!