The Official Blog of the Graduate Management Admission Council

Raising the Bar on Applicant Engagement with Data

Posted by William Rieth
William Rieth is director of Graduate Enrollment at the Fox School of Business at Temple University.

Posted on Sep 27, 2018 11:00:00 AM

Boost your application engagement through a data-driven strategy with this case study and set of best practices from Temple University’s Fox School of Business.


In the academic world professionals often relied upon gut instinct and tradition to drive recruitment strategy before effective data use. At the Fox School of Business, for instance, one of our traditional recruiting strategies involved attending international MBA tours. But were students even applying from these events? If so, were they even admissible? Sure, we could speculate, but without enrollment management data, we had no way to quantify the impact of these events beyond our gut instinct.

Not without the means to analyze data, that is. Once we implemented a CRM solution through Enrollment Rx, we gained the ability to collect, aggregate, and analyze our engagement strategies. We saw definitively that the international MBA tours were not offering a positive return on investment, and we were able to reallocate our quarter-million dollar travel budget to other initiatives, such as engaging with applicants more frequently before the application process.

In fact, thanks to our new ability to track applicant data and score leads, we found that 30 percent of our applicants did not even engage with us before starting their applications, something we could never have known before accessing aggregate data. By shifting to a data-driven approach, we were able to find this opportunity and create ways to meet it. Now, we can adapt to changing dynamics and even quantify our strategies to leadership.

Here’s what we recommend in shifting to a data-driven strategy:

  • Allow for culture shift: Set reasonable goals, provide coaching, and improve reporting to help staff adjust to “speaking” data. Thanks to our support in these areas, our team achieved triple-digit touch points with prospective students on a weekly basis–and we doubled the number of applications in just two years.
  • Recognize that one size does not fit all: Each of our 17 graduate programs appeals to a different audience–meaning one solution will not work for all programs. By examining our data, we found programs where phone calls helped nurture stronger relationships than emails, and we were able to adjust our touch points more effectively.
  • Educate academic leaders: Provide program directors and department chairs with training to help them understand quantitatively the interest their programs are generating. They may even be able to offer program-specific ideas that will help boost engagement.
  • Automate to save time: Identify time-consuming touch points–then eliminate them. Thanks to our data, we “found” 60 collective hours that were being spent reaching out to applicants with missing documents; once we automated this through an email, we gained that time for more personal touch points.
  • Adopt a full lifecycle vision: Consider how you can apply your top-of-the-funnel expertise to other areas of the funnel, from yield to retention to alumni engagement. You’ll find that a full lifecycle vision will deliver a more cohesive–and powerful–experience.

With a quantitative approach, we’ve been able to shift from making decisions to shaping and influencing applicant decisions. And most important, we’re able to engage more effectively with applicants, making them more likely to become students.

Topics: Application Trends, Data-Driven

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