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 lot of information in one hour from six schools, rather than having to do six different events 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 at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETU podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Whitney soul, senior vice president and dean of admissions and student aid at Boden College. Whitney, welcome to the show. Thank you. Really excited to 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 better understanding of both Boden College and your rule? They're absolutely so. Thank you for having me and voting. College is a small residential Liberal Arts College located on the southern coast of Maine, so or about two hours north of Boston and, as I said, fully residential, fully undergraduate, typically around eighteen hundred students on our campus. Course, right now, in the midst of covid where we, like many schools, don't have all of our student since here we have about a third of our student body on campus right now and we'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 college and a Liberal Arts College and that is one of the things that ties us together with the other five colleges in this project. For my role, I oversee the admission which means the recruitment effort for Bodin in particular, and also our financial aid, and we have a very robust financial aid program we were able to review our applicants need blind meaning...

...that we can admit students without having to consider their ability to pay for Bodin, and we can back that up with a really robust financial aid program that guarantees that will be meeting the full need of the students that we enroll and that will be doing that without packaging loans for students. So that robust financial aid is another thing that ties the six colleges together. That are part of the topic for today and I have an amazing team of people who have been able to think really creatively during this covid time where every admission office is had to think about recasting its work and recruiting students when we can't meet them in person and we can't greet them here on our campuses, how we present our schools to the outside world, both of the students and their parents and then also to their high school guidance counselors who are helping them navigate the college search process. Will you mentioned the creativity require to navigate tie times like these. Miss Really really is a unique and creative collaboration. To kind of kick us off today, can you give us just a high level overview of this six colleges initiative the building's apart of I'd be happy to so. The six colleges that are working together are all small liberal arts colleges, as I'd had described Boden. We're all residential, we're all undergraduate and we all have very strong financial aid programs. So we have these core values that are in common and the six schools working together are Amherst College, vote in College, Carlton College, Pomona College, swarthmore college and Williams College, and so we're spread around the country. Maine is where Bodin is, as I already said, Amherst is in Massachusetts, as is Williams. They're both in western Massachusetts. Carlton is in Minnesota, Pomona is in California and Swarthmore is in Pennsylvania. So what we don't have in common is our exact geography, though, and we're some Williams are both in Massachusetts. So from a strategic standpoint, from inefficiency...

...standpoint, which kinds of admission events makes sense to do together with other other similar colleges and which don't? From your perspective, it's a great question and actually pre pandemic. Many colleges used to work together in something that we called group travel, meaning we would either pair with another institution or travel in a group that might be three or four institutions 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 that I just described, or very purposefully putting some large research universities together with small liberal arts colleges and working together to promote both kinds of higher education in front of Families and the group travel would typically work that a representative from each of the institutions would be promoting an event in a city or in a town where they would be using everybody's prospect lists and contacts to send out invitations to that area, to invite people to an event where each school would take a turn on the stage and describe their institution, usually with a slideshow and some key points about the school that would differentiate them from the others who were there sharing the stage, and then do a broad q and a at the end for the 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 a lot of ground to cover and the more that we can help each other fill a room and then have certainly the responsibility to do a good job of differentiating ourselves, benefits all of us, and so that was something that we were doing. Many schools were doing that in advance of the pandemic, and so what we ended up doing was casting that concept into this virtual world, and one of the things we were really worried about as deans is that we have sort of lost the way of traditionally bringing...

...students into our mailing list where we can communicate with them about things that are going on in our campus or how to apply to our schools or important things for them to know about the application process. Typically we would have all had thousands of students coming through our campuses by now, taking tours, sitting in on information sessions, perhaps having interviews with 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 of students who used to get onto our mailing lists because they would sit for standardized testing, whether that was the sat or the act, and would opt into having their names become available to colleges. And so we could get names of students who had taken standardized testing and put them on to our mailing list and reach out to them. And without so many tests being available this year a law, are a lot of students who didn't make it onto college outreach that way. So we thought we might do is, in this case, bring the six schools together who have so much in common, and we know that we already have overlapped prospect and applicant lists we know historically that a lot of students that might be looking at Bowden might also be looking at Amherst and William's worth more corom on our Carlton, and so it would be efficient for the student to do one spot, to sign up on one mailing list, knowing when they do that that they'd be joining the mailing list for all six schools and that the virtual programming that we're doing would still requires to differentiate ourselves but also provide really efficient information around what schools like ours provide. And for students who are as overwhelmed by zoom as the rest of us, giving them a shot at learning about six schools in one space is good for them and it's really great for us because we can reach more people this way than we would doing 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 must have been some internal concerns or conversations about competitive fears, for instance. In this shared event, you theoretically run the risk of a student originally coming with Boden 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 an inspiration, I have to say. So that is a risk that we are familiar with from our traveling together pre pandemic. As I said that the risk of sharing a stage with schools that are are like your own. Students might show 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 showed up 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 by sharing the stage and in this case the virtual stage, but we also feel a really strong responsibility. There is this competitive aspect of it and it does require 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 us as different places, that that the details that were able to provide around our own schools relative to what we have in common, helps them understand us as different places and and start to see their own fit with maybe one or two of the six schools, or maybe all six of them, but can see us as different entities, even though we're all working together. But I also think that inspiration of having to be very clear in your differentiation is also inspiring for us as deans and and how much we care about moving students into the pipeline for higher education, that the more students who can get information about this kind of institution to understand that schools like...

...ours can be affordable and not to turn away before they get started, to encourage students who might be the first in their families to think about going to college to stay connected because we can afford them and to keep learning with what we're able to provide. This is different this year because in the in the former way of traveling together, we might have done one event a year. Are and this year the six colleges have 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 programming with our international recruiters and then some very specific programming for our first generation to college and students of color, who in low income, students who are looking at our schools. So the six of us have been able to work together on so many different topics in the span of the middle or late part of August until now that we never could have covered together in traditional travel and those things are now recorded, so families can go to the six colleges dot org website 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 college admission works. What kind of feedback have you received this summer and fall from students and families who've attended these shared events? I think the feedback well, there's a couple ways of thinking about the feedback. One is how many people actually log in. So this is primarily in the evening and we know people are exhausted by zoom that they're encountering for their work or for school, and we 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 more high school counselors logged in for what we're...

...doing and so I think the volume alone says something about the population being both appreciative of the information and finding it useful enough to come back and listen to more things. That's how many people are present with us when we're doing it live, and then the videos themselves are getting a lot of replays. So I take that kind of the volume and the attendance. I take is feedback that it's positive and people are looking for this kind of content and using it. The comments themselves that we get both in the during the programming, when students and our parents or counselors are sending US messages in the chat and asking questions, is they're appreciative of what we have to say. They don't sometimes have very specific questions that were able to answer, and we know that they're grateful for that and it's a way of feeling informed and reassured that this process is still working and not entirely out of control. I think there is so much around us that is hard to grasp and the idea of searching for a college virtually is really overwhelming for students and families. Those who are supporting them, like their high school counselors, are also really trying to figure out how to encourage and navigate and guide students without the traditional measures, and so we feel really good about the engagement that we've had doing this. Have these one stop admissions experiences made you curious about the 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 practice and we had mapped out the schedule for what we wanted to accomplish with the six colleges this fall as we were preparing ourselves and students to move into the application process. And we made that plan when nobody knew how long people were going to be limited in what they could do by Covid and I think we're looking at a season ahead of us where...

...the limitations are still real and we'll be there for some time. So I can imagine us planning out more programming for the spring, especially because at that point we'll have students who've been admitted to our schools who have not yet visited and might not be able to visit even 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 admitted student programming will very likely need to be more likely be our own schools doing programming 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 work together for how to prepare the students who are in the spring of their junior year of high school to think about beginning the college search at that point in likely a virtual space, or at least a limited way, if not entirely virtual. So I can imagine that. To get point about competitiveness, once that we've admitted our students and we're trying to bring in our classes, will probably be individually very focused. Yeah, a students whom we've admitted and in some 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 we know that there's a tension to a number of our schools from students, and so imagine we'll be on our own at that point and trying to land our class as well also at the same time working collaboratively to encourage juniors and to get information out there. And then I, like so many things, I think when the world starts to open up again more safely, we will all be 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 keep and what will we put back in? That would be boots on the ground, facetoface, kind of recruitment, and I imagine that this kind of shared programming 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 get a lot of information in one hour from...

...six schools rather than having to do six different events as one offs when you really really great stuff. Any final next steps? Advice for institutions listening to this, considering or thinking about shared events? Do they need to really understand their niche of like institutions to make this happen? What's the first political step they need to consider? I think that the really the first step is to understand what it is you want to accomplish by being together. So in our case we are like institutions were similarly competitive and, as I said in the beginning, there are a lot of really 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 what we offer, but also that is a valuable landing space for students. I could imagine a group getting together that would vary purposefully. I had given this example 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 families about really different approaches to hire it. So I think when schools are thinking about who they might want to collaborate with, you'd want to have a shared understanding of why you think you should be together, what your messaging would be by working together. And then it takes it takes a lot of trust and a lot of collaborative work to think about how can we share the space and still feel like we are doing the very best work for our own institutions and and it does work. I work with great people. The five other deans are absolutely terrific people to work with and we meet every week and trying to 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 had a nice in addition to the work we're doing in those calls to prepare for our programming, it has been a really nice way for us to stay connected to one another in best practices and sort of talking through what we're experiencing during this really complicated time. So there's been a nice benefit and a professional way as well. Would need such a beautiful, inspiring story. Thank you so much of your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? Sure well, thank you. I'm glad you find it inspiring. It the pandemic has been crushing in so many ways, and yet there is something inspiring around the degree of problem solving we have to do on a daily basis and working together with other people to do that, and in this case other colleges, feels great and has a lot to do with with the people involved and putting it together. Really great teams on every campus if students want to get in to learn more about the six 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 to find 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 staff there, including me and my email. That's the easiest way to get in touch with me or with our admission office directly, and each of the other schools that are part of the six colleges also have contact information on their admission sites as well if you want to follow up. They're awesome. Thanks so much for joining us today, Whitney. You're welcome. Thank you so much for having me, yerk. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprize wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this...

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

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