Downtime: Holiday Break Is a Time for Renewal

It’s the end of a fast-paced fall semester and — as students pack up and head home for the holiday break and your team members clear their heads from fall travel, campus visit days and reading applications — it’s time for you to stop, evaluate and renew for the spring semester and the countdown to the Fall 2023 class arriving. 

Speaking of countdown, there are about 240 days between now and when students begin their studies this coming fall. How are you feeling? In conversations with many colleagues all over the nation, it seems to be a mixed bag. Some of you are up, some are down, some are cautiously optimistic about what is happening. The key right now is to evaluate what’s happening and renew yourself and your team for the stretch run.   

Here are just a few suggestions that I have learned over the 25+ years of being in your shoes. 

Get to know your team, more than you have.

The great resignation has caused many of us to hire new talent recently. Then we sent them on the road. You need to continue to build positive and meaningful working relationships with your team. While you may be feeling the pressure from “the top,” you need to be a positive force for your team. Show them some empathy and grace as they navigate this recruitment cycle. Their success is your success, so do the small things to ensure that they are focused, resilient, and have plenty of candy!

Ensure you are giving them the right tools to be successful.

Does your team have enough of the right information to do their jobs? Have they had the right professional development? Focus and build upon what they know because this will help them feel more confident in their positions. Your counselors are the most important resources you have for creating yield. Giving them the information they need with the right messaging will not only make their jobs easier, but it will help their job satisfaction as well. Remember: Happy counselor, happy yield season.

Get a temperature check on what is happening outside your department.

For many institutions, yield season is where faculty, staff and students participate most in helping bring the class to fruition. When was the last time you communicated with them about your team’s progress? Are your “closers” ready to jump in and help achieve your goals? The holiday break is a good time to begin to set that stage for the “big push” that is going to be needed. Lay your groundwork now.

Reevaluate your calendar.

The stability of knowing when your team is going to meet has benefits. However, changing the day and time of when you are going to meet can create a sense of excitement and renewal.  The monotony of staff meetings can drain the life from your team. You know you don’t like executive team meetings every week, so why would you subject your team to the same thing?  Be the change and energy creator your team needs.

Remember there are ups and downs!

Between January and August there will be peaks and valleys when it comes to enrollment.  Positive momentum can be created to help traverse those valleys. Over communicate your plan and provide guidance with data. Transparency about your daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual goals are as important as the goals themselves. Teams will naturally have competition to reach goals, but what is very prevalent is that if one team member is struggling for whatever reason, the team will respond to make sure the goals are attained. 

Give your team some time.

While we typically have downtime during the holidays, there will come a time where your team needs a break this spring. Those long hours will add up. Rotate them out early on a Wednesday, let them work from home a few days a week, or let them come in later in the morning. Continue to build your team relationships by recognizing their efforts with the one thing you might be able to help with … time. Recognizing they do have a life outside the office will not only show appreciation but give the necessary space that individuals need to be successful. 

Finally, I want you (yes you!) to take some time to reflect and refresh yourself. Many counselors and psychology professors have told us over the years that self-care is important to overall mental and physical health.  

Stop and remember this important fact. Enrollment management is an art and science. Typically, it’s measured by enrollment numbers, net tuition revenue, and overall retention for the campus. That’s the science part. The art is knowing the students you are enrolling now will grow into wonderful young people who will go on to do great things. You and your team are setting the stage for future excellence … and that is something to be very proud of. 

Have a great holiday break everyone! 

By Christopher Harris, Ed.D., Senior Enrollment Strategist, Capture Higher Ed