Shared Admission Events and The Six Colleges Initiative

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Whitney Soule, Sr. Vice President, and Dean of Admissions and Student Aid at Bowdoin College joined the podcast to discuss the efficiency and effectiveness of joint admission events with like institutions, especially in a new era with fewer SAT and ACT takers.

Families and students can get a lotof information in one hour from six schools, rather than having to do six differentevents as one offs. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment attheir college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategiesor tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get intothe show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of theconnect ETU podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here todaywith Whitney soul, senior vice president and dean of admissions and student aid atBoden College. Whitney, welcome to the show. Thank you. Really excitedto talk with your day about the efficiency and effectiveness of joint admission events.Before we dig into that, can you give the listeners a little bit betterunderstanding of both Boden College and your rule? They're absolutely so. Thank you forhaving me and voting. College is a small residential Liberal Arts College locatedon the southern coast of Maine, so or about two hours north of Bostonand, as I said, fully residential, fully undergraduate, typically around eighteen hundredstudents on our campus. Course, right now, in the midst ofcovid where we, like many schools, don't have all of our student sincehere we have about a third of our student body on campus right now andwe'll probably be up to about seventy percent the student body on campus next term. So it's unusual right now, but in regular terms we're small residential collegeand a Liberal Arts College and that is one of the things that ties ustogether with the other five colleges in this project. For my role, Ioversee the admission which means the recruitment effort for Bodin in particular, and alsoour financial aid, and we have a very robust financial aid program we wereable to review our applicants need blind meaning...

...that we can admit students without havingto consider their ability to pay for Bodin, and we can back that up witha really robust financial aid program that guarantees that will be meeting the fullneed of the students that we enroll and that will be doing that without packagingloans for students. So that robust financial aid is another thing that ties thesix colleges together. That are part of the topic for today and I havean amazing team of people who have been able to think really creatively during thiscovid time where every admission office is had to think about recasting its work andrecruiting students when we can't meet them in person and we can't greet them hereon our campuses, how we present our schools to the outside world, bothof the students and their parents and then also to their high school guidance counselorswho are helping them navigate the college search process. Will you mentioned the creativityrequire to navigate tie times like these. Miss Really really is a unique andcreative collaboration. To kind of kick us off today, can you give usjust a high level overview of this six colleges initiative the building's apart of I'dbe happy to so. The six colleges that are working together are all smallliberal arts colleges, as I'd had described Boden. We're all residential, we'reall undergraduate and we all have very strong financial aid programs. So we havethese core values that are in common and the six schools working together are AmherstCollege, vote in College, Carlton College, Pomona College, swarthmore college and WilliamsCollege, and so we're spread around the country. Maine is where Bodinis, as I already said, Amherst is in Massachusetts, as is Williams. They're both in western Massachusetts. Carlton is in Minnesota, Pomona is inCalifornia and Swarthmore is in Pennsylvania. So what we don't have in common isour exact geography, though, and we're some Williams are both in Massachusetts.So from a strategic standpoint, from inefficiency...

...standpoint, which kinds of admission eventsmakes sense to do together with other other similar colleges and which don't? Fromyour perspective, it's a great question and actually pre pandemic. Many colleges usedto work together in something that we called group travel, meaning we would eitherpair with another institution or travel in a group that might be three or fourinstitutions together, sometimes in really big groups, as many as ten or more,and sometimes that would be colleges that are similar as the six are thatI just described, or very purposefully putting some large research universities together with smallliberal arts colleges and working together to promote both kinds of higher education in frontof Families and the group travel would typically work that a representative from each ofthe institutions would be promoting an event in a city or in a town wherethey would be using everybody's prospect lists and contacts to send out invitations to thatarea, to invite people to an event where each school would take a turnon the stage and describe their institution, usually with a slideshow and some keypoints about the school that would differentiate them from the others who were there sharingthe stage, and then do a broad q and a at the end forthe students, the parents and the counselors, whatever the audience might have been,to help them better understand school. So the idea being that there's alot of ground to cover and the more that we can help each other filla room and then have certainly the responsibility to do a good job of differentiatingourselves, benefits all of us, and so that was something that we weredoing. Many schools were doing that in advance of the pandemic, and sowhat we ended up doing was casting that concept into this virtual world, andone of the things we were really worried about as deans is that we havesort of lost the way of traditionally bringing...

...students into our mailing list where wecan communicate with them about things that are going on in our campus or howto apply to our schools or important things for them to know about the applicationprocess. Typically we would have all had thousands of students coming through our campusesby now, taking tours, sitting in on information sessions, perhaps having interviewswith an admission staff person if that's part of the admission process at a school. And of course we have no visitors now. There are a lot ofstudents who used to get onto our mailing lists because they would sit for standardizedtesting, whether that was the sat or the act, and would opt intohaving their names become available to colleges. And so we could get names ofstudents who had taken standardized testing and put them on to our mailing list andreach out to them. And without so many tests being available this year alaw, are a lot of students who didn't make it onto college outreach thatway. So we thought we might do is, in this case, bringthe six schools together who have so much in common, and we know thatwe already have overlapped prospect and applicant lists we know historically that a lot ofstudents that might be looking at Bowden might also be looking at Amherst and William'sworth more corom on our Carlton, and so it would be efficient for thestudent to do one spot, to sign up on one mailing list, knowingwhen they do that that they'd be joining the mailing list for all six schoolsand that the virtual programming that we're doing would still requires to differentiate ourselves butalso provide really efficient information around what schools like ours provide. And for studentswho are as overwhelmed by zoom as the rest of us, giving them ashot at learning about six schools in one space is good for them and it'sreally great for us because we can reach more people this way than we woulddoing it one off. You mentioned the historical normalcy of these kinds of collaborations, but from the outside the still feels...

...like a political feet. There musthave been some internal concerns or conversations about competitive fears, for instance. Inthis shared event, you theoretically run the risk of a student originally coming withBoden at the top of their list to fall in love with another institution.How did you navigate these concerns internally. That is both a risk and aninspiration, I have to say. So that is a risk that we arefamiliar with from our traveling together pre pandemic. As I said that the risk ofsharing a stage with schools that are are like your own. Students mightshow up to hear about Boden and become more interested in Carlton, let's say, but the reverse works for bode and so there may be students who showedup to hear about Pomona and find themselves falling in love with boat and instead. So we are all benefiting and also at risk at the same time bysharing the stage and in this case the virtual stage, but we also feela really strong responsibility. There is this competitive aspect of it and it doesrequire us to be very true to our own messages and institutional personalities and values, because that's one of the best ways for students to begin to see usas different places, that that the details that were able to provide around ourown schools relative to what we have in common, helps them understand us asdifferent places and and start to see their own fit with maybe one or twoof the six schools, or maybe all six of them, but can seeus as different entities, even though we're all working together. But I alsothink that inspiration of having to be very clear in your differentiation is also inspiringfor us as deans and and how much we care about moving students into thepipeline for higher education, that the more students who can get information about thiskind of institution to understand that schools like...

...ours can be affordable and not toturn away before they get started, to encourage students who might be the firstin their families to think about going to college to stay connected because we canafford them and to keep learning with what we're able to provide. This isdifferent this year because in the in the former way of traveling together, wemight have done one event a year. Are and this year the six collegeshave done I think three or four different programmings, with the Dean's working together, another set with our directors of admission working together, another set of programmingwith our international recruiters and then some very specific programming for our first generation tocollege and students of color, who in low income, students who are lookingat our schools. So the six of us have been able to work togetheron so many different topics in the span of the middle or late part ofAugust until now that we never could have covered together in traditional travel and thosethings are now recorded, so families can go to the six colleges dot orgwebsite and see the recordings of the presentations that we have done on topics that, even if it turns out they're not interested in any of our schools,may actually still be a service in explaining how some aspects of higher and collegeadmission works. What kind of feedback have you received this summer and fall fromstudents and families who've attended these shared events? I think the feedback well, there'sa couple ways of thinking about the feedback. One is how many peopleactually log in. So this is primarily in the evening and we know peopleare exhausted by zoom that they're encountering for their work or for school, andwe have probably over the course of time, since the end of August until now, had about forty five hundred students and parents logged in for our programming. That includes our international students. We've probably had one fifteen hundred or morehigh school counselors logged in for what we're...

...doing and so I think the volumealone says something about the population being both appreciative of the information and finding ituseful enough to come back and listen to more things. That's how many peopleare present with us when we're doing it live, and then the videos themselvesare getting a lot of replays. So I take that kind of the volumeand the attendance. I take is feedback that it's positive and people are lookingfor this kind of content and using it. The comments themselves that we get bothin the during the programming, when students and our parents or counselors aresending US messages in the chat and asking questions, is they're appreciative of whatwe have to say. They don't sometimes have very specific questions that were ableto answer, and we know that they're grateful for that and it's a wayof feeling informed and reassured that this process is still working and not entirely outof control. I think there is so much around us that is hard tograsp and the idea of searching for a college virtually is really overwhelming for studentsand families. Those who are supporting them, like their high school counselors, arealso really trying to figure out how to encourage and navigate and guide studentswithout the traditional measures, and so we feel really good about the engagement thatwe've had doing this. Have these one stop admissions experiences made you curious aboutthe potential of shared events or even shared operations for anything else between the colleges? I think that the shared events will continue to be part of our practiceand we had mapped out the schedule for what we wanted to accomplish with thesix colleges this fall as we were preparing ourselves and students to move into theapplication process. And we made that plan when nobody knew how long people weregoing to be limited in what they could do by Covid and I think we'relooking at a season ahead of us where...

...the limitations are still real and we'llbe there for some time. So I can imagine us planning out more programmingfor the spring, especially because at that point we'll have students who've been admittedto our schools who have not yet visited and might not be able to visiteven after being admitted, to check it out before having to make a decision. So I can imagine us doing programming and to your point, the admittedstudent programming will very likely need to be more likely be our own schools doingprogramming for our admitted students rather than a shared topic that we could do together. But in the spring we can work together and I imagine we will worktogether for how to prepare the students who are in the spring of their junioryear of high school to think about beginning the college search at that point inlikely a virtual space, or at least a limited way, if not entirelyvirtual. So I can imagine that. To get point about competitiveness, oncethat we've admitted our students and we're trying to bring in our classes, willprobably be individually very focused. Yeah, a students whom we've admitted and insome cases those students have been probably admitted to more than one of our schools. We wouldn't know that, but I can imagine that, given that weknow that there's a tension to a number of our schools from students, andso imagine we'll be on our own at that point and trying to land ourclass as well also at the same time working collaboratively to encourage juniors and toget information out there. And then I, like so many things, I thinkwhen the world starts to open up again more safely, we will allbe looking at, and by way I mean highered and college emission spolkes,thinking about what valuable things did we learn with virtual programming that we would keepand what will we put back in? That would be boots on the ground, facetoface, kind of recruitment, and I imagine that this kind of sharedprogramming and collaboration will stay in some way. We are, as I said,we're seeing that that families and students find it valuable and they can geta lot of information in one hour from...

...six schools rather than having to dosix different events as one offs when you really really great stuff. Any finalnext steps? Advice for institutions listening to this, considering or thinking about sharedevents? Do they need to really understand their niche of like institutions to makethis happen? What's the first political step they need to consider? I thinkthat the really the first step is to understand what it is you want toaccomplish by being together. So in our case we are like institutions were similarlycompetitive and, as I said in the beginning, there are a lot ofreally important things that our schools have in common that are shared among us,as well as shared interest among those who are looking at schools like our.So we knew we were building a group that would be tightly competitive in whatwe offer, but also that is a valuable landing space for students. Icould imagine a group getting together that would vary purposefully. I had given thisexample in the beginning when we were talking about the travel aspect of it,that might choose to have a combination of really large universities and small colleges together, and that could be a really valuable purpose as well to on one stop, you know, one piece of programming, be able to educate students and familiesabout really different approaches to hire it. So I think when schools are thinkingabout who they might want to collaborate with, you'd want to have ashared understanding of why you think you should be together, what your messaging wouldbe by working together. And then it takes it takes a lot of trustand a lot of collaborative work to think about how can we share the spaceand still feel like we are doing the very best work for our own institutionsand and it does work. I work with great people. The five otherdeans are absolutely terrific people to work with and we meet every week and tryingto find time when sixteens have a have...

...a free hour, it is challenging. And yet we've made that our priority since the summer and that has hada nice in addition to the work we're doing in those calls to prepare forour programming, it has been a really nice way for us to stay connectedto one another in best practices and sort of talking through what we're experiencing duringthis really complicated time. So there's been a nice benefit and a professional wayas well. Would need such a beautiful, inspiring story. Thank you so muchof your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect withyou if they have any follow up questions? Sure well, thank you. I'mglad you find it inspiring. It the pandemic has been crushing in somany ways, and yet there is something inspiring around the degree of problem solvingwe have to do on a daily basis and working together with other people todo that, and in this case other colleges, feels great and has alot to do with with the people involved and putting it together. Really greatteams on every campus if students want to get in to learn more about thesix colleges work, they can go to six colleges dot org. And again, the six college is included in this particular effort. Our AMHERST, Bowden, Carlton, Pomona, Swarthmore and and Williams. And if you want tofind out more about vote in college, you can go to Boden Dot Edu. It's the Owdo I n Dot Edu admissions and you can find our staffthere, including me and my email. That's the easiest way to get intouch with me or with our admission office directly, and each of the otherschools that are part of the six colleges also have contact information on their admissionsites as well if you want to follow up. They're awesome. Thanks somuch for joining us today, Whitney. You're welcome. Thank you so muchfor having me, yerk. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting newenrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprize wide approach to enrollment growth isuniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this...

...new education landscape, and Helix hasjust published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand newcontent on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded todayfor free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth universityfrom Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe tothe show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much forlistening. Until next time,.

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