After the Acceptance Letter

So high school seniors have by now pretty much gotten into college. Now it’s up to the colleges to get them to show up. Eric Hoover writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education that:

Each spring after acceptances go out, admissions officers do much to woo high-school seniors and their parents, with follow-up letters, e-mail messages, telephone calls, big receptions, small gatherings, and various on-campus events. All this is meant to ensure good feelings among applicants and, in turn, a good “yield” (the proportion of admitted students who enroll) for the college.

These traditions… they have new urgency. As enrollment outcomes have become more difficult to predict in recent years, many colleges and universities have put more time, money, and thought into postadmission recruitment. That’s especially true at small institutions with relatively high price tags, which must state their case in an era of economic uncertainty.

Lafayette College in Easton Penn., for instance, personalizes the acceptance letters it sends to applicants and has undergraduate students call prospective students in the evenings. Called the “Sweet and Subtle Science of Wooing the Admitted,” the Hoover article explains that:

Measuring the effectiveness of all this outreach is difficult. The why of college choice is often a mystery, even to students. Lafayette knows that applicants are about three times as likely to enroll if they have visited the campus, but the college is more likely to land those students to begin with.

Of course, getting admitted students to enroll is probably not really that sweet or subtle, or Lafayette wouldn’t assign a good portion of that responsibility to undergraduates; it’s mostly about offering the undecided kids better financial aid.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer