Four Tips for Navigating the Census Conversation with Leadership

Telling your fall class census story to campus leadership is no easy task. Every enrollment leader knows that just a few students can be the difference between hitting enrollment, net tuition and discount rate goals. As you prepare for Census Day, here are a few tips for telling your census story.


As recruitment becomes more complex, you are expected to know the incoming class at a granular level providing metrics such as:

  • Full-time, part-time, and first-year transfer headcount
  • Quality of the class, as defined at your institution
  • Demographic profile of the class
  • Geographic profile of the class

Enrollment leaders face growing pressure to be data scientists while also scaling up recruitment for the next cycle. Partnering with institutional research teams or an ed tech company can be a great way for you to relieve some of the data burden and ensure you have access to an in-depth, statistically sound analysis of enrollment trends.


In addition to a detailed understanding of the final class, you should perform a look-back analysis at the funnel to understand how the pool moved. Things are changing — and changing quickly. Even if your overall goal was met, there may be opportunities and challenges inside your funnel.

“Telling the census story to campus leadership is no easy task.”

Look back and ask:

  • Did the funnel move as we anticipated?
  • Did our conversions and conversion rates match our goals and historical performance?
  • Were there holes in the funnel we didn’t expect?
  • Did we see changes in the geographics or demographics of the pool at each stage of the funnel?
  • Did the behaviors of prospective students and families change in ways we didn’t expect?

If you saw changes from the previous year or outcomes that didn’t match your expectations, that information is critical for building future strategies.


For campus stakeholders, headcount is king. It seems simple and easy to understand — but it rarely tells the full story. As you share enrollment outcomes with campus leaders and key stakeholders, take time to educate on the current state of enrollment and other key metrics like net tuition and discount rate.

Present census information within context using this sample presentation outline:

I. State of the Market
Provide an overview of the current recruitment landscape and specific pressures facing your region or institution type.

II. Goals
Share the enrollment and budget targets set for the year.

III. Fall Class
Share your class profile, actual enrollment and budget numbers, and how they compare to goals.

IV. Challenges and Opportunities
Draw from your look-back analysis of the funnel to share where the pool deviated from your expectations, and why you believe those deviations occurred.

V. Looking Forward
Based on the final class and look-back analysis, provide a roadmap of where your recruitment team will focus for spring and the following fall, the strategic changes you will make, and potential investments that will be needed.

Finally, don’t miss the opportunity to tap stakeholders for their thoughts on where they see strategic needs in the future. Ask them if they’re hearing anything in your spheres that you need to know about if there are programs that need more support, or what is the most important thing you should consider in recruiting the next class.


Whether you hit your target or missed your target, enrollment leaders will always be tasked with delivering MORE. You need a comprehensive recruitment marketing plan to support recruitment of the next class — from search to yield.

Capture Higher Ed is here to help!

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