Providing New Graduates a ‘Dignified Soft Landing’

Jack Klett, Capture’s Director of Graduate and Online Initiatives, recently presented his 5 Rules of Reengagement during a webinar. Revised and updated from a published version six months ago, he focused on the immediate actions graduate recruitment and enrollment teams can take to reengage with those prospective students already known to them.

Jack KlettWe sat down with Jack to discuss the 5 Rules of Reengagement, especially the new Bonus Rule revealed during the webinar.

Capture: You first published your 5 Rules six months ago. Why did you feel the need to revisit them so soon?

Jack: I had a big slide in the webinar that said, “The World Has Changed.” The Rules still apply, but they have taken on a new sense of urgency. Being at Capture, I have more data available than I ever did at an institution. I can aggregate data and develop real-time insights into the graduate market. The trend lines are clear. There is far greater interest in graduate study than there was this time last year. We are tracking an increase of interest roughly three times greater than last year. With that many more prospective students interested in formalized graduate education, I wanted graduate enrollment managers to know exactly what they can do immediately to respond to that increase in activity.

Capture: Three times greater interest!? Does that mean graduate programs can expect 3x their enrollment this fall?

Jack: If only it worked that way! There is typically an increase in visits to .edu webpages with graduate content as we move from February through to May. When we measured this increase in 2019, it reflected 11% growth in graduate page views. This year, the increase was 41%. This means that many of the prospective students — the ones graduate recruiters already know — are likely active on the site. By revisiting the 5 Rules, I was able to share an immediate plan for how to reengage with these prospects.

Capture: You provided a new Bonus Rule. Why was that important?

Jack: The 5 Rules detail how to reengage with distinct categories of prospects — your cold inquiries, non-responders, young alumni, prior cycle admits who didn’t enroll, prior cycle incomplete applicants, and even the recommenders who serve as influencers of prospective graduate students. This leaves out a critical group right now — 2020 graduates. These seniors, who graduated a matter of a few weeks ago, have had their world turned upside down. They need immediate assistance and their alma mater is extremely well positioned to provide it.

Capture: How is that?

Jack: Think for a moment what has happened to these young adults. They started their last year of college ready to take on the world. This was the year when they interview for those jobs they have so painstakingly prepared for. In many cases, they landed the job, ready to start once that bachelor’s degree was officially conferred. They did everything right. And what happened? The economy came to a grinding halt. There have been a number of stories written about these graduates as their offer was rescinded, and they are heartbreaking to read.

I remember jumping up and down with joy in my living room when I got the call with my first job offer. I was finishing up my last semester, and I recall the next day walking to class and just feeling so happy, and a bit proud. Proud that I had put in the work and earned the result. I can’t imagine getting a call, as commencement approached, telling me that the new life I had envisioned for myself was not going to happen.

Capture: So, what should colleges and universities do for these new graduates?

Jack: Catch them as they fall. Provide a dignified soft landing. And prop them back up by making them even better, more skilled, more knowledgeable. In the webinar, I outlined the steps to take for a pre-admit, or auto-admit process for graduate study. I instituted this process at my last institution prior to joining Capture. Properly executed, this initiative can become a part of institutional tradition, and an honor that is bestowed upon graduating undergraduates each year. I even went so far as to brand this initiative so it is easily recognized by members of the campus community.

In the current environment, the purpose is to offer those facing tremendous uncertainty an opportunity to use this time in the best possible way. Formalized graduate study and credentialing provides that dignified soft landing, while also making these students more skilled and more knowledgeable. I strongly believe that when we admit a first-year or transfer student, we are making a commitment to a lifelong learning partnership. There is no better time to advance that partnership than now.

Capture: Any other revised or bonus rules?

Jack: Conditions are always changing. Stay tuned!

Be sure to watch the webinar recording.