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Megan Youngblood

Admissions campaigns

Communicating beyond yield: Tips to reduce summer melt

June 16, 2020   //   Megan Youngblood

Enrollment deposits used to be a good indicator of butts in seats.

Not anymore. Especially if COVID-19 keeps your actual classroom seats off limits come fall, since recent surveys show that students think online learning doesn’t always measure up to the traditional college experience.

Pivoting your communications to keep prospects informed, interested and ultimately committed — what has become a daily art form — does not end now.

Now that your extended June 1st deadline has come and gone, what’s left for you to do to bring prospects over the finish line? We’ve scoured online higher ed resources and gathered ideas from clients to help you secure students this fall.

Tips to reduce summer melt


Reinforce your brand

  • Communicate your value and share your best stories. According to Moody’s Investors Service, universities with the strongest brands are best positioned for coronavirus challenges.
  • Show what Plan B (or Plans C and D) might look like. Get out ahead of the possible virtual-only experience and highlight success stories that feature what it’s like to learn online at your school.
  • Focus on your best programs and push in-demand majors that lead to careers that will thrive in our new normal.


Recreate the campus experience

  • Make it simple to connect with a person. At Union College, every day this spring there were two Zoom meetings hosted by a dean for prospects to attend, and admissions is already thinking about instituting virtual meetings for every enrollment cycle.
  • Create a virtual hub to showcase your campus culture. Some ideas: brand spirit videos, alumni videos, current student videos, quick lo-fi videos, department and program welcome videos. Also include transparent messaging about COVID-19 and plans for fall.
  • Allow prospects to sit in on summer virtual classes.
  • Connect prospects with brand ambassadors — faculty, students, student services staff — who can talk about your campus from different viewpoints and build a community for your prospect.


Offer deeper tuition deals

  • Consider multi-tiered or income-based tuition, offering in-state tuition to out-to-state students or deferring payment for fall tuition until the spring.
  • University of St. Thomas in Houston is making its new associate degrees free! And offering discounts if students stay on for a grad degree.
  • If you’re a private institution, can you match the in-state tuition of state-school competitors?
  • Donate $100 to a favorite nonprofit when students register for classes.
  • Offer introductory online courses for free or at a discount to incoming freshmen.


Incentivize with campus perks

  • Give privileges to early registrants like early class registration or a dorm room with a view.
  • Offer free meal plans, free football tickets, free books signed by your star faculty, free parking.
  • Hold a sweepstakes for free room and board, bookstore credit for textbooks and free parking for a year.


Consider the unthinkable

  • In a chaotic admissions season, everyone’s free game. So cast a wider net: return to prospects who inquired but never applied and prospects who started but never completed applications. Even think about admitted students from last year who enrolled at another institution instead.

Need more hands on deck? Ways Zehno can help.

Flagship content

Talk to us about profiling your people and places with social distancing in mind. Our flagship content model delivers packaged pandemic-proof content — photography, videos, profiles and more — that you can repurpose across multiple platforms for years to come.

Digital campaigns

Our campaigns cover everything from strategy to creative for virtual campus experiences, videos, personalized emails to targeted microsegments, social media content and more.

Communications planning

Let us help you pinpoint what’s working now — and what should work better. Then we’ll create a plan that aligns your work with your institution’s goals, and maximizes your staff time and budget.


Go back to the drawing board and start with the biggest questions: How are you communicating your value? What are you saying to stand out in your competitor set? Our project can start where you need the most help: focus groups, surveys, a competitor review, brand audit, brand positioning, key messages or creative.


We can help you move the needle. Contact us for a customized project scope to fit your goals, budget and schedule.

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