Last week I received a phone call from Maranda, a stay-at-home mom who has been working on her PhD and is ready to re-enter the higher education admissions game after taking ten years off to care for her children. Maranda was my Director of Admissions for the now defunct Mountain State University, and what a story we could write about the rise and fall of a wildly innovative organization. Recruiting and enrollment management were two things MSU did with precision and Maranda was the best Director of Admissions I have ever had the pleasure of working beside.

College AdmissionsMaranda explained that the timing is right and she is ready to get back in the enrollment management game; she is nearing end of her PhD program and her husband is considering relocating his practice. She wanted to know if I could find her an unpaid internship in an admissions office so she could get back up to speed with the new practices and policies for higher ed recruiting that emerged while she was home being a Mom.

I thought for a while about what has changed in higher education recruiting. Sure, the way schools use social media has certainly changed, and there have been some changes in student information system vendors, but other than those, I really don’t think we have made wholesale systematic changes in how we market, recruit and enroll students. So I started thinking, what could the new enrollment management function look like if we did things differently?

When trying to answer these types questions, I have a tendency to suggest an innovative solution that is EXACTLY the opposite of what is currently being done. What would happen, for example, if instead of admissions officers and selection committees choosing the incoming freshman class, we let the applicants themselves determine who will be in their class? Let them decide whom they ultimately want to be associated with as alumni. This would give those applicants who really want to attend one particular institution an opportunity to use crowdsourcing and Facebook-style tactics to improve their chances of getting accepted, an especially useful tactic for those students who, on paper, may not appear to be a perfect candidates, but whose uniqueness could ultimately enrich the campus. Now this cannot be the sole criterion, but it definitely could be a significant factor in the selection equation.  Of course, there are many details to work out, but it certainly is a conversation starter.

As for Maranda, I have found her an internship with one of the colleges in our consortium. The skills, tactics and approaches she used ten years ago are still relevant because we were so efficient and good at recruiting back then, now she is well ahead of the game today. Don’t tell her though, because they need her help… and for free to boot.

What are your thoughts about how to truly change the way we recruit and enroll students?  Post and share!