The ROI of Paid Media for Senior Search

The ROI of Paid Media for Senior Search

Danielle SaadBy Danielle Saad|January 11, 2024

Teenagers spend an average of 8.5 hours of screen time per day, which has increased year over year. For example, since 2015, there has been a 29.75% increase in screen time. Out of a 24-hour day, with at least 7 hours of sleep, teenagers spend 50% of their 17 waking hours on screen devices. Entertainment screen use includes time spent watching TV, playing video games, using social media, browsing websites, creating content, and other digital activities.

As every marketer knows, the best way to reach teenagers is where they spend the most time, which is why it’s crucial for colleges and universities to run paid media campaigns through social media channels, ConnectedTV, audio channels, or on the web. With lower costs and high ROIs, running paid media campaigns can help you reach your goals.

Offsetting The College Board Search Changes

As the College Board lowers the number of names available through its Student Search Service, paid media campaigns are becoming more important than ever for the student recruitment process. With large reach and powerful targeting abilities, paid media campaigns can help you connect with prospective students who are likely to be a fit for your institution.

We analyzed our partner institutions’ paid media efforts for recruiting Fall 2023 undergraduate students and compared them to the College Board’s Senior Search name purchases for Fall 2023, and here is what we found:


Our partners spent, on average, $15,000 more for the College Board’s purchased names than what they spent on paid media.

7% ratio

On DM lead-generation focused platforms, our partners averaged 309 leads and a 7% leads-to-deposit ratio.

2% ratio

In comparison to the College Board’s purchased names, the same partners averaged 5,873 leads, but have a much lower leads-to-deposit ratio of 2%.

35% yield

Paid media had a 35% yield, while the College Board had only a 7% yield.

A Look at ROI

We took it a step further to determine the ROI. We calculated this based on the tuition cost for one year and by how much was spent on paid media and the College Board Senior Search, based on the number of deposits.

Paid media and the College Board Search both resulted in high, positive ROIs of 4,269% and 5,200%, respectively. The College Board had more deposits which resulted in a higher ROI, but they had a lower lead-to-deposit ratio and a lower yield. The costs of entry for DM is much lower than one would expect and can generate similar, or in some cases, more favorable results than with the College Board’s Senior Search. Overall, we found that paid media ads cost 38% less than the College Board Search, and had a significantly higher yield (at a difference of 28 percentage points), resulting in an excellent, positive ROI.

Even though the student recruitment landscape is evolving, your partners at Spark451 know there are still multiple solutions to fill your Fall 2024 class and beyond, and we’ll be happy to help you get there. For a deeper discussion of how you can modify your undergraduate search plans to support your goals, feel free to reach out. Our knowledgeable client strategists and digital media specialists are here to support you every step of the way!

Brand Bifurcation


Brand Bifurcation

Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|December 7, 2023

Does your administration’s view of your institution match how the public sees your institution? If not, your college or university may be suffering from what we’re calling “brand bifurcation.”

In the latest episode of our “Total Conviction” video series, Steve Kerge, Co-founder of Spark451 & Jenzabar Vice President for Enrollment Marketing, highlights three common ways “brand bifurcation” can manifest within an institution, along with tips for how you can resolve the underlying issues related to each form.

Check out the video above now, and feel free to reach out whenever you’re ready to discuss specific ways you can battle any brand bifurcation that you’ve identified within your own institution. Our enrollment marketing strategists are here to help!

You can also revisit the full collection of “Total Conviction” videos here!

Financial Aid Simplification


Financial Aid Simplification

Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|November 9, 2023

As the federal government works to complete its overhaul of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in time for the planned December relaunch, now is the time to watch the latest installment of our video series, “Total Conviction.”

In this episode, Steve Kerge, Co-founder of Spark451 & Jenzabar Vice President for Enrollment Marketing, offers three distinct strategies for admissions teams who are preparing to navigate the new FAFSA process. Check it out above!

When you’re ready to discuss additional ways you can prepare for this season of change, please reach out. Our enrollment marketing experts will be happy to help you brainstorm and support your goals.

You can also revisit the full collection of “Total Conviction” videos here!

Reframing the Graduate Student Enrollment Journey

Prospective students are continually receiving offers from every brand and institution out there, every moment of the day. How do you break through the noise? The first, and most important, step in your enrollment marketing efforts is to truly understand the audience to which you’re speaking (enter: persona modeling — more on that in a minute) and then, to identify how you’ll attract their attention and usher them through the enrollment journey.

In higher education, the enrollment funnel has long been the model used to drive marketing and admissions strategy. However, prospective graduate students don’t adhere to a traditional enrollment cycle, thus, the funnel breaks down. Viewing the graduate enrollment process through the lens of a traditional customer decision journey (more commonly favored by marketers in commercial fields) allows for more flexibility for graduate enrollment managers to maximize efficiency in marketing and recruitment tactics. Let’s explore how to begin making this shift in strategy.

source: McKinsey

Customize Your Messaging to the Graduate Audience

Like many other efforts in enrollment, your outreach toward the graduate audience must be curated and customized. Because we are working outside of the traditional enrollment funnel, tactics must be hyper-personalized to the student based on not only where they are in their decision journeys, but also in their lives.

Consider this: On one end of the graduate student spectrum, you have the fresh-out-of-undergrad, hungry-to-learn 22-year-old. This student has fewer considerations for finding a graduate program outside of what feels like the right fit. On the other end of the spectrum is the single parent who is looking for a graduate program that will propel them into the next stage of their career; earning them more money and stability for their family. This student’s concerns when looking for a program are limitless — financial aid, flexible scheduling and formats, and time to completion.

The ways in which you speak to these two students should drastically differ, both in means of communication and tone/voice. This is where the adoption of the customer decision journey model, as opposed to the traditional enrollment funnel, is greatly beneficial. This strategy allows us to better understand our prospects and broaden our perspective when it comes to engaging with them.

So, how do we meaningfully customize our engagement toward this audience?

The Power of Personas

Persona modeling is the process of creating representations of who your ideal customers are, informed by research and historical data. This tactic allows for segmenting your audience based on factors such as demographics, psychographics, behavior, and more that you can then apply to your strategic messaging.

The first step of establishing personas is to do some digging: Mine your CRM for data and conduct both qualitative and quantitative research. Once you have your data in place, it’s time to map student information with a solid plan for engagement. Important questions to consider when building this plan include: What are the most important pieces of information this student needs to know? How should we speak to them? What are they motivated and inspired by?

By answering these questions, you should have a clear vision for each of your distinct personas. Now, it’s time to integrate these personas into your graduate student journey map.

Leveraging Personas to Personalize Your Journey Map

Like your prospective students, each persona is unique and will respond differently to messaging throughout their journey. Take each of your customer personas and strategically design their journey map to define targeting, messaging, and communication tactics at each step.

Let’s walk through an example together. Meet Dave, a prospective graduate student of Spark University.

personal image

Step 1: Awareness

Dave feels frustrated and stuck in his career. In an effort to climb the corporate ladder, he asks some friends for advice, engages with some professional organizations, networks on LinkedIn, and looks up free professional development opportunities.

How Spark University Meets Him

  • Word of mouth
  • Free resources (courses, webinars, white papers, podcasts, video)
  • Digital media advertising
  • Email

Step 2: Familiarity

Feeling hopeful about his future, Dave seeks out relevant resources that fit within his specific criteria around the time, energy, and money that he’s willing to spend. Once he has a grasp on these criteria, he researches what different institutions can offer him.

How Spark University Meets Him

  • Student/faculty/alumni profiles
  • Testimonials
  • Events

Step 3: Consideration

Dave has decided that graduate school is the right route for him and his lifestyle. Along with teaching him practical skills and holding him accountable, it will give him the status that comes along with an advanced degree. Dave connects with admissions offices and starts his applications.

How Spark University Meets Him

  • Email
  • Phone calls/text messages
  • Live chat
  • Meetings (in person or virtual)
  • Invitations to attend classes
  • Curriculum information
  • Student outcome info
  • Scholarships/funding

Step 4: Purchase

Dave has chosen Spark University! He has enrolled in classes and is working toward his degree. He is still trying to strike a balance between working and taking classes.

How Spark University Meets Him

  • Dedicated advisor
  • Text message/email check-ins
  • Surveys about experience
  • Events

Step 5: Loyalty

Graduate school was a success for Dave. He achieved his goal and is climbing the corporate ladder. He seeks continual professional growth, as well as the honor of supporting his alma mater, in an effort to continue to better himself.

How Spark University Meets Him

  • Professional/networking events
  • Career resources
  • Giveaways
  • Donation rewards/recognition

Our modern reality is that everything we do — for every distinct population — must be highly personalized. The prospective graduate population is no exception. These unique students require intentionally tailored messaging that will engage them in meaningful ways. Building personas empowers teams to employ strategic tactics and makes prospects feel important, and marketing to them through the framework of a customer decision journey makes it easier to connect with these students however and whenever they are ready.

The team at Spark451 is ready to discuss your graduate enrollment challenges and help customize your marketing and recruitment strategies using a customer decision journey approach. Feel free to reach out so we can get started.

Lessons Learned from Non-Enrolling Students


Brian JansenBy Brian Jansen|October 17, 2023

Choosing a college — it’s perhaps one of the biggest, most nerve-wracking, high-pressure decisions a student will make. I remember quite well how terrified I was to let my number two and three schools know I wouldn’t be attending. I had built a relationship with their admissions counselors and faculty, received a bunch of fun SWAG after getting admitted, visited several times with overnights, and even started exploring which dorm I might live in at each campus. It felt like a breakup. More than 25 years later, the memory still makes me a bit nauseous.

Hopefully, you survived summer melt. But now, as you reflect on the past recruitment cycle, you are probably asking what you could have done differently for the students you lost along the way.

Spark451 partners with numerous schools to help answer the question, “Why did they not enroll?” through our surveying services. And yes, sometimes the feedback collected is brutally honest and hard to stomach, but the information is beyond valuable, and at times, eye-opening. No matter how hard the feedback may be to hear, these moments of unfiltered honesty can help inform your strategy going forward.

Here, we’ll share five actual student responses from the many we’ve collected on behalf of our campus partners who conducted our Non-Enrolling Student Survey. Each example reflects a common theme that we see across many surveys. We’ll review the insights from each student and offer tips for how you can take action if you ever receive similar feedback from a student.

1: The Call is Coming From Inside the House

“I had a meeting with financial aid and felt that it was very unprofessional. Ultimately, that meeting was the reason I decided against attending the school when it was my first choice.”

Let’s face it. Some conversations, especially surrounding affordability and paying for college, can be tough. Kudos to our financial aid colleagues for helping students and families navigate the reality of college expenses. Looking at the big picture, however, we need to ensure that everyone on campus is consistent in both the messaging and interactions with prospective students who we hope will join our campus community.

Revisit your prospective student and parent outreach and take inventory of the on-campus experience. And I mean ALL OF IT. Especially communications and interactions not coming from the Office of Admissions. Every single touchpoint your institution has can make or break a student’s decision to enroll. Avoid things like impersonal bulk “Dear student” letters, and always consider reinforcing your school’s value proposition within each outreach effort, including such things as career outlook and post-grad outcomes. Consider holding a “Customer Service 101” retreat, and invite everyone from Athletics to the Bursar. Need some guidance? I’d recommend Be Our Guest — Perfecting the Art of Customer Service (A Disney Institute Book) by Theodore B. Kinni.

2: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

“I wish there were a better representation of food options, or even a sample cafeteria menu to look over. The food at the Open House was really fancy.”

Are we doing a disservice to prospective students by only sharing the shiny and new aspects of campus? One student commented in their survey response that they were only shown the brand-new residence halls (assigned to upperclassman, unbeknownst to them), and realized somewhat later in the decision process they’d be living in an older, un-air-conditioned dorm their freshman year. They wanted to know the true experience up front, see floor plans, know the amenities, and have a realistic understanding of where they might live not only freshman year, but throughout their college experience. They wanted transparency.

No doubt, there are a plethora of websites and social media platforms where students can go to read reviews about your institution from their peers, current students, parents, and alumni. Make sure you have someone on your team, even a student ambassador, keeping a pulse on what is being shared about your school in these forums. This gives you the opportunity to formulate an appropriate response and put a positive spin on the topic at hand (and, in some cases, correct misinformation!) while you engage with your prospective students.

You should absolutely celebrate and share what is new, special, and top-notch about your institution, no matter how big or small. New construction planned? Fall musical production announced? Biology programs move up in national rankings? Recent alumni donation to support student activities? Shout it from the rooftops. Just be mindful that your prospective students are looking for more than just rainbows and unicorns.

3: Show Me the Money!

“I would have really been happy to be a part of the university for Fall 2023, but unfortunately, even after the institution’s scholarship, I didn’t have enough funds to afford the education.”

According to a Forbes article from July 2023, there was $1.75 trillion in total student loan debt (including federal and private loans) with $28,950 owed per borrower, on average.

What is your institution doing to put the true cost of college expenses into perspective? One survey responder commented that she had wished estimated costs had been shown for the entire span of their four-year college timeframe, not just freshman year — which would’ve offered them a “big picture” idea of what they were signing on for and eliminated some of the future unknown.

Another way to humanize college expenses is by providing various testimonials and stories from current students and families. Every family’s situation is different, of course, but these stories can help show how others have approached paying for such an important investment, whether that’s through additional loans or obtaining an on-campus job. As mentioned earlier, we always want to tie in the value proposition of your institution’s degree and call attention to post-grad outcomes.

For students who have already confirmed their enrollment, getting an initial bill prior to starting classes can also be difficult to process and reason to panic and walk away. Consider sending a pre-bill communication that serves as a soft-touch outreach. Let them know when and what to expect (think “understanding your bill” like you may get from your mobile provider), who to contact with questions, and offer the opportunity to review their bill over the phone or web call, if needed.

4: Great Expectations

“The only reason I chose not to go is campus size. I wanted a bigger-city feel, which my chosen school is able to provide. However, if I end up not liking it there, I will reapply and strongly consider enrolling again.”

We all know that choosing a school often comes down to fit. The student initially chose to apply to your school for a particular reason. Help them recall why they were first interested in your institution to begin with. Sometimes, prompting them back into that earlier mindset can help them reevaluate what is most important to them. Perhaps it was the quality of a particular academic major or an early interaction with a faculty member that had originally sparked their interest.

Your institution may not be in a big enough city for the student above, but what other factors about the student experience could balance that out? Maybe it’s a study abroad opportunity or putting them in touch with a current student who came from a big city and chose your smaller school. Help them look closer at the pros of attending a rural college (i.e. cheaper living options, closer-knit campus community, the offering of student excursions to nearby big cities for a concert, etc.).

Ultimately, we need to respect that the best-fitting school for a student may not be yours. But we can still help them make informed decisions!

5: Groundhog Day

“I decided to not enroll at the college because too many of my friends from high school are going, and I wanted college not to be high school 2.0.”

While some students might find comfort in familiarity at their new home-away-from-home, others might welcome the opportunity for a completely different experience that will be anything but a repeat of high school. Being a teenage introvert, I took it to the extreme in college — joined a fraternity, rowed on the crew team, even got a part in a musical — all things I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing in high school. In essence, college helped me break out of my painfully shy personality. The college experience broke up the monotony and pushed me out of my comfort zone.

What does your institution do to interrupt the “same old, same old” that many prospective students seek to leave behind? It is one thing to showcase your student life and activities, but are we painting the picture of opportunity that will allow the student to see themselves on your campus, while challenging them to grow and experience new things? Having familiar faces around when they begin that journey isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Likewise, staying close to home and attending an in-state school can have its benefits, like special tuition rates. Keep this in mind particularly when working with local students, as well as those coming from your larger feeder high schools. These feelings of wanting to be around a brand-new set of peers are warranted and real, and you should be ready to address them.

What other lessons have you learned from students who chose not to enroll at your institution? I’d love to hear them. The experienced strategy team here at Spark451 would also love the opportunity to help you dive deeper into engaging with your enrolling and non-enrolling students. Please reach out to us to hear about all our student– and parent-surveying options.

2023 College-Bound Student and Parent Surveys: Download The Reports


Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|September 21, 2023

As a higher education professional, you are intimately familiar with the state of college and university admissions over the last few years. However, we have a feeling you’ll probably still be surprised by some of the findings from Spark451’s 12th annual College-Bound Student Survey Report and our latest Parent Survey of College-Bound Students.

This summer, Spark451’s Education Research Division gathered feedback from more than 5,800 students and more than 1,100 parents across the U.S. Download the reports to gain access to all of the valuable information for college admissions professionals, including:

  • The Class of 2027’s social media habits
  • How regional political and social attitudes influence admissions decisions
  • Which communication tactics resonate most with students and their parents
  • How satisfied students felt with the admissions process
    And much more!

Download the reports now. Then, reach out. We’ll be happy to help you determine if your upcoming admissions marketing and student search plans are fully in line with the latest data from students and their parents.

Finding Students Where They Are: Fueling Enrollment and Building Brand Awareness Among Gen Z


By Ann Levy, Director of Digital Marketing, and Megan Brammer, Senior Client Strategist

In today’s ever-evolving higher education landscape, capturing the attention of Gen Z is a challenge that higher ed marketers face. With their unique digital habits and preferences, effectively marketing to this generation requires a strategic approach that leverages the power of social and digital media platforms.

During SparkThink@JAM 2023, we teamed up for a presentation called, “Finding Students Where They Are: Fueling Enrollment and Building Brand Awareness Among Gen Z.” We explored the importance of marketing to Gen Z on social media, discussed strategies for building brand awareness, and delved into how digital media can fuel enrollment. We even shared an example of an institutional partner that has implemented all of these tactics and has seen an excellent return for their investment and efforts. Read on for some of the key points we discussed with the group.

The Setup

A mid-tier public university in the southeast that we’ve worked with for several years approached Spark451 in 2019 to help boost their digital footprint. They had lofty goals and needed help finding a vision to get to the finish line. We were tasked with helping them increase the university’s brand awareness in regional and national markets with an enrollment focus. Just as campaigns were picking up speed, a pandemic was added to the mix! We set out to hit and exceed their digital marketing expectations and goals — and learned a lot along the way.

Understanding the Gen Z Landscape

JAM slide 7

The average Gen Z social media user spends an average of nine hours a day in front of digital devices (Source: Forbes), many of which are on social media apps. To connect with Gen Z, we must first understand their digital presence and patterns. They practically live on social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat. These platforms are more than just entertainment; they’re influential spaces where trends are born, stories are shared, and brands find their voices.

“The typical Gen Z-er’s media diet starts with casually scrolling TikTok and Reels in the morning, switching to YouTube around lunchtime, and turning to Netflix or Hulu in the evening…”

(Source: LA Times)

Setting Target Parameters

With our university partner, we carefully studied their historical enrollment; their primary, secondary, and tertiary markets; and made strategic decisions for media buys that aligned with geographic and platform usage for our audience. We didn’t want to waste any budget on placements or platforms that didn’t align. Achieving this required a great understanding of the market and our Gen Z audience’s habits in order to be a success.

Authenticity and User-Generated Content Is Key

Gen Z values authenticity above all else. They can spot a disingenuous marketing ploy from miles away. To make an impact, higher ed marketers must embrace genuine storytelling and highlight the unique attributes of their institutions. For example, showcasing real student experiences through vlogs or testimonials can create an emotional connection that resonates with Gen Z’s desire for authenticity. Ask your student ambassadors or tour guides to snap a few pictures or videos during the next student event on campus — these assets will resonate with your social media audience more than any stock image ever could.

Gen Z craves involvement and actively participates in shaping online narratives. Encourage students, alumni, and even faculty to share their experiences using hashtags or hosting contests. By incorporating user-generated content into your digital marketing strategy, you create a sense of community and encourage engagement, while simultaneously showcasing the vibrant culture of your institution.

While TikTok videos are fun and engaging, they must also be organic, authentic, and relevant. This can be hard to generate without the proper help from your students. Our university partner has been able to quickly embrace TikTok trends as they come up. Their student ambassadors take videos on their phones while attending activities on campus, or even while they are just working in the admissions office! These materials have been a hit with our target audience, and they show prospective students that this school is not only a fun place, but that it embraces trends and doesn’t shy away from innovation. This subtext is extremely important to this audience base!


The university partner we referenced above is just one of our partner institutions to take on the digital space so keenly to support their enrollment marketing goals — and the proof is in the numbers. In the 2022–2023 enrollment cycle, our joint efforts in paid media have resulted in 21M+ impressions across 10 media platforms, with 3,198 brand new student and parent leads across these platforms. For the Fall 2023 enrollment year, we were able to bring in 1,404 unique prospect leads from a first source of paid media through our partnership, with nearly 25% of those leads applying for Fall 2023 entry, and 120 students enrolled — all purely from our paid digital efforts!

Marketing to Gen Z on social media is a powerful tool for building brand awareness and fueling enrollment in higher education institutions. By authentically engaging with this generation through storytelling, user-generated content, and strategic planning, you can create a dynamic and relatable online presence.

Let Us Help

If you’re looking for additional ways to optimize your digital outreach to Gen Z, please reach out to us to discuss your goals. Our experienced team of enrollment marketing strategists and digital marketing strategists will be happy to help you unleash your creativity to capture the hearts and minds of Gen Z!

This is just a small taste of all that was discussed during this year’s conference. To dive in further, save the date and join us at SparkThink@JAM 2024!

SparkThink @JAM 2024

Wednesday, May 29–Friday, May 31, 2024
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center Dallas, TX

This is just a small taste of all that was discussed during this year’s conference. To dive in further, save the date and join us at SparkThink@JAM 2024!

SparkThink @JAM 2024

Wednesday, May 29–Friday, May 31, 2024
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center Dallas, TX

Three Digital Strategies to Attract Non-traditional Learners


From our colleagues at Jenzabar

Many colleges and universities across the country are building non-traditional programs to attract new learners and overcome enrollment challenges. They’ve read industry reports and survey results, consulted in-house analytics and local businesses, and have even hired faculty and created curricula. Now, they are sitting down to undertake the final, and often most challenging, step: marketing these programs to non-traditional learners.

So, how can institutions effectively market courses to non-traditional students? Continue reading the Jenzabar Blog to discover three digital strategies you may want to consider.

Support Your Yield Goals With Personalized Portals and Microsites


Spark451 Media RelationsBy Spark451 Media Relations|August 15, 2023

As you know, students are applying to more colleges than ever in their college search process. To maximize yield efforts, colleges and universities must leverage CRM portals and microsites to offer personalized engagement to admitted students and their parents. Shoring up communication tactics, microsites/portals, and marketing campaigns for both students and families is critical to keeping your institution top of mind — and user-friendly for tech-savvy generations.

During SparkThink@JAM 2023, Spark451’s Senior CRM Strategist Ed Flaherty teamed up with Brewton-Parker College’s Associate VP of Admissions and Retention, Michael P. Moran, M.Ed., to discuss “Maximizing Engagement of Admits and Parents With Personalized Portals and Microsites.” Here are some of the key tips they offered during their session:

Leverage Your CRM

Whether you’re using Slate portals, Element451 Microsites, Salesforce Communities, or an SIS or homegrown solution, creating a personalized, engaging, and responsive space to share succinct information will help keep admitted students and families organized, excited, and engaged.

Get Personal and Keep It Fresh

To keep students engaged, prioritize sharing relevant content, such as program and funnel stage-specific information and next steps. Also, be sure to share resources that are available on campus; add options to interact with students, faculty, and staff; and be sure to change content over time so that prospective students and their families will be compelled to come back again and again. After all, a student may log into your application status portal a dozen times until their decision is released — once they are admitted, you can conditionally display new, fresh, and hyper-personalized content creating a whole new experience in a comfortable space.

Engage Parents

Think about ways to engage parents that work best for your tech abilities and systems. Here are a few things to try:

  • Create email communications delivering parent-centric information (housing, deadlines, resources on campus, plus financial aid and ROI)
  • Create a separate or shared portal space and encourage students and families to visit your portal/microsite together
  • Consider deploying parent surveys, mailings, or other engagement tactics to keep parents feeling connected to your institution

Avoid Pitfalls

To make sure that your microsite or portal is functioning optimally, be sure to:

  • Test the site as much as possible
  • Test the user experience (Share it with student workers or current students to test and break)
  • Make sure it is mobile friendly
  • Check for outdated content regularly
  • Don’t let it get stale — share new videos, stats, and update staff contact information as turnover happens

Let Us Help

If you’re looking for additional ways to optimize your microsite or portal, please reach out to us to discuss your goals. Our experienced team of enrollment marketing strategists and CRM strategists will be happy to help you devise a path forward!

This is just a small taste of all that was discussed during this year’s conference. To dive in further, save the date and join us at SparkThink@JAM 2024!

SparkThink @JAM 2024

Wednesday, May 29–Friday, May 31, 2024
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center Dallas, TX

This is just a small taste of all that was discussed during this year’s conference. To dive in further, save the date and join us at SparkThink@JAM 2024!

SparkThink @JAM 2024

Wednesday, May 29–Friday, May 31, 2024
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center Dallas, TX

5 Anti-Melt Strategies

5 Tactics for Surviving Summer Melt


Lara SalazarBy Lara Salazar|July 11, 2023

Summer: A time for rest and relaxation, to re-energize after the long winter season, and enjoy the long, sunny days.

If you’re in enrollment management, the idea of those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer might sound like a dream. As you know, the summer months are still a busy time in admissions—it’s when we do everything we can to hold onto our hard-earned classes and ensure that deposited students matriculate and begin classes in the fall.

The biggest threat: summer melt, a.k.a., when students change their minds prior to the first day of classes. Sometimes students have specific reasons for changing course: financial barriers, lack of resources being provided to them, or choosing a different major not offered at your institution. Other times, it’s a bit more ambiguous, which makes it challenging to find creative ways to limit summer melt. Either way, admissions offers must pull out all the stops to prevent as much melt as possible.

Need help finding a place to start? Here are five anti-melt tactics you can implement to continue connecting with incoming students all summer long. The goal of these different approaches is to help ensure a smooth transition to campus in the fall and include the personal touch that so many students need.

1: Personalized Check-ins

By now, many incoming students have formed relationships with their admissions counselors. From getting them excited about attending your school, to holding their hands through the application process, these counselors have become a trusted guide throughout students’ late high school years. It’s important to continue that relationship over the summer and for counselors to help facilitate the transition to campus in the fall. By continuing communication between the student and counselor with phone calls, texting, or other personalized outreach, the student will feel supported and connected to the school. Ideas for discussion topics include following up on housing applications, health and immunization paperwork, and making a registration appointment with their academic advisor.

2: Figuring Out Finances

Without a doubt, finances are one of the most important factors influencing a student’s ability to attend college. Providing clear information to help students and their families understand their financial aid and tuition payment information will help them know what next steps need to be taken. As a start, try connecting students to their individual contacts in the financial aid and business offices so they’ll know who to go to with questions.

3: Connect Students to Students

There are a lot of opportunities to connect students with each other through different social media platforms. Encourage students to join a “‘Class of” group online, where they can get to know each other. Create an Instagram account that encourages students to share what they’re planning to study and why they’re excited about attending your school. You might also want to consider hosting a social event on campus to bring students together and invite current student representatives from select clubs and organizations. The incoming students can sign up to get involved with a campus group when they arrive in the fall. These bonding opportunities will help get your incoming students excited about their future on your campus.

4: Stay in Contact With Parents

While much of your focus is on the student, it’s also important to recognize the transition this experience brings for the families. Make sure that parents and guardians know who their contacts are on campus, and provide them with tailored information about the transition to school, and how their student will be supported so they’ll feel included in the experience and confident that their student belongs on your campus. You may even want to administer a survey to parents so that the student services team can follow up with answers to any questions that arise.

5: Keep It Personalized

Continue sending personalized emails and other messages to incoming students. Try including a video message welcoming them to campus and letting them know you are looking forward to seeing them soon. Share information on upcoming events for the fall semester to help students get excited about getting involved in activities. Invite them to connect with their academic advisor or career services to get them thinking about their futures. We know personalization is key for keeping students engaged, and it will help to reinforce that they’ve made a good decision to attend your institution.

Ultimately, the goal of any anti-melt tactic is to create long-lasting connections for incoming students on your campus. If students feel supported throughout this process, connected to the campus, and excited about what’s to come, then they will likely be there this fall. Summer is an opportunity to show your incoming students that they are already a part of your campus community and that their future with you is the right choice. It’s important to remember that until these students are on your campus this fall, there’s always a chance their plans can change. Take the necessary steps to make sure you’re doing everything possible to keep these students engaged and excited, and you’ll be able to welcome them to campus this fall.

If you’re looking for additional ideas to address summer melt or other pain points you’re currently facing, please reach out to us. Our experienced strategy team would love the opportunity to help you succeed in diminishing summer melt.