Thursday, 13 February 2014

Applicant Day Checklist

With the University's Applicant Days now in full swing, I thought now might be an apt time to blog about how to get the most out of these days and ensure you maximise your chances of conversion. As with most blogs that I write, the core theme here will be centred on the premise of building a meaningful relationship with your attendees and leaving them with a lasting impression. I'm sure you'll agree that the tips contained within this blog are nothing ground-breaking, but perhaps instead more of a useful checklist for running successful subject sessions on an Applicant Day.

Add Value

First and foremost, ensure you get the basics right and remember that our applicants will be using this day as a means for judging whether Chester is right or not for them. Consider how best to deliver a dynamic and engaging session at the same time as ensuring that the applicant finds out everything they need to about your subject. And consider aspects of your programme where there is added value to ensure your course stands out from the competition. For instance, you might want to highlight how our work based learning module enables our students to gain invaluable experience in their chosen profession prior to graduating; a great employability message that demonstrates a good return on our students' investment.

Adapt Content

For some of our applicants, the role of an Applicant Day is a little like the second viewing of a house to a prospective buyer. If an applicant has previously visited us on an Open Day, their second visit following an application will be a means for them to check the more practical aspects of the course; the nitty-gritty of what it will actually be like to be a student at Chester. For this reason, it is worth adapting your session from the one you may have delivered on the Open Day. Not only will an applicant not want to sit through the same session again, but their requirements for the session may be different. By this stage of the decision making process, an applicant is likely to have already done a certain amount of research on the University and your course.

Make it Tangible

Applicants will want to see where their subject will be taught and the facilities that they will have at their disposal. Therefore, ensure our applicants have the opportunity to see your facilities and, if possible, allow them to 'have a go'. As such, you could compare this to test driving a car, where the customer has already heard about all the capabilities of the vehicle that they're considering buying; now they want to get behind the wheel and feel what it's like to drive.

Create a Good First Impression and Be Accessible

They always say first impressions count, so consider the best way of making applicants and their guests feel welcome. This could be something as simple as offering your guests some free refreshments in your session.

Our event based surveys tell us that our visitors appreciate the personal touch so, if possible, allow some time to get to know your applicants, take an interest in their background and ensure they have an opportunity to ask questions. Of course, if you have a large group to attend to, the ability to be able to do this effectively may be a little trickier to achieve. But please don't let this be a barrier. My advice would be to make yourself accessible outside the constraints of your subject session and invite your applicants (and their guests) to return later for a consultation on a one-to-one basis.

Engage Student Advocates

In a previous blog, I wrote about the importance of student referrals as a trusted source for further information on your course and a means for portraying the real student experience. Therefore, ensure you involve some of your students in your sessions and encourage your applicants to ask them questions.

Leave a Lasting Impression

Similar to creating a good first impression, you should also try to leave your applicants with a lasting impression. Of course, we hope this will happen as a matter of course by virtue of executing all the above points. But it might be worth considering giving your applicants something tangible to take away with them as a reminder of the day and, more importantly, the University and your course.

A regular anxiety I hear from staff is that the frequency of Applicant Days dilutes applicant numbers attending your sessions, making it more difficult to create a good impression. It was one of the common themes of our recent staff survey and something we are looking at very closely in MRA. The obvious concern here is the perception of our visitors when they visit a department with very few other applicants in attendance. However, it's worth noting that Applicant Days do create a positive spike in our conversion rates and our feedback tells us that, on the whole, our applicants gain a favourable impression of the University.

If you are hosting a subject session with a small group, this should really be turned into a competitive advantage as this will allow you to be able to deliver a session where you are more accessible to the applicant.

And if you are able to engage on a more personal level, why not make an impression on an applicant by doing something as simple as handing them your business card? Not only will this demonstrate that you are happy to be contacted following the Applicant Day, but it may also impress on the applicant that you are particularly interested in them as an individual and that you're keen for them to become a student on your course.

Follow Up

And, of course, this should really go without saying, but always follow up on any interest you get before, during and after an Applicant Day. Essentially, how we engage with our applicants can have a massive influence on how successful we are at converting applications into enrolments.

Here to help...

I hope you've found this blog to be of some use and interest. If you'd like to read more on how to run successful subject sessions at an Applicant Day, you might like to also read Anna's blog from last year. Alternatively, for further advice and guidance, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Until the next communication...


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