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NIU sees record number of freshman applicants

March 21, 2013
Kimberley Buster-Williams

Kimberley Buster-Williams

The successful implementation of several key recruitment tactics, data-driven decision making, collaborative efforts with Academic Affairs, increased strategic marketing led by University Relations and early planning have resulted in more than 18,000 freshman applications for fall 2013 recruitment to date.

In the enrollment management “funnel” – where the top of the funnel represents all prospective students and the bottom of the funnel represents all enrolled students – the number of applicants is always significantly higher than those who ultimately end up enrolling at any institution.

However, getting prospective students to make the effort to apply is certainly an important first step. So far this recruitment cycle, NIU has seen an 11 percent increase in the volume of freshman applications received compared to last year at this same time.

One important key to NIU’s success is the efforts of the Enrollment Management Council.

Chaired by the acting vice president for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management, with active participation from President John Peters and leadership in the Division of Academic Affairs, this campus-wide, multidisciplinary committee provides advice and counsel on a wide variety of enrollment-related topics, including recruitment techniques, enrollment strategies and retention efforts.

The active collaborations of the members on this team have resulted in more strategic conversations about what all members of the NIU campus community can do to support a diverse student body actively engaged in achieving their academic goals.

As reported earlier, active participation by the colleges in a number of recruitment efforts is another key to the successful application outcomes NIU is experiencing.

Recent activities have included:

  • faculty participation as speakers, on panels and in education fairs at all NIU admissions activities;
  • development of the Blackboard Communicator Project to facilitate communication between the colleges and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions so customized messages can be sent to prospective students; and
  • virtual chats with representatives of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Summer orientation tour“The whole enrollment management team is working very hard to bring in the next class of students by removing potential barriers to application. We want prospective students to be able to provide information to us in a way and time that is convenient for them,” said Kimberley Buster-Williams, acting associate vice president for Enrollment Management and director of Admissions.

“One of the strategies we’re using is to provide information to prospective students and their families “virtually” – through programs such as online “chats,” webinars, and official transcript submission via a new portal used by many high schools – to increase efficiency for both prospective students and enrollment professionals.”

Another key to the increase in applications lies in the efforts of NIU’s enrollment management team.

Leaders in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, Student Financial Aid and the Scholarship Office have proven track records in their respective areas and are bringing their fresh perspectives to enhance NIU’s enrollment management efforts. In addition, the admissions director, financial aid director and associate director of Admissions have experience implementing successful recruitment strategies at private institutions, some of which have boosted recruitment efforts at NIU. Further, because key enrollment managers at NIU are either from Illinois or the Midwest, NIU is able to balance sophisticated recruitment techniques with knowledge about the northern Illinois market to attract prospective students.

Learning Today, Leading Tomorrow: photo of NIU banners on campusThe research associate position in Enrollment Management is focused on identifying effective techniques for tracking data and communicating with individuals who have abandoned the application process or who have completed a FAFSA form indicating an interest in NIU but who have not yet applied.

Additionally, the recruitment process has more mechanisms in place to get feedback from constituents in the recruitment process.

Re-visioned recruitment campaigns, such as Transfer Tuesdays for transfer students and a Virtual Decision Day for freshmen, have been launched to provide unique, focused opportunities for students to get connected to NIU.

Similar to standard open house programs, Transfer Tuesdays provide specific information important for transfer students. Virtual Decision Day – like an on-campus, on-the-spot decision day – allows students to experience a virtual check-in, group presentations and private consultations, and to confirm their enrollment and request additional information.