Adapting Your Enrollment Experience for Today’s Students (2024)

The "2024 First-Year Experience Survey" by EAB explores the evolving preferences and challenges faced by first-year college students. The survey provides insights into student satisfaction, mental health, academic preparedness, affordability concerns, and the effectiveness of recruitment strategies.

Main Takeaways:

  • Satisfaction in College:

    • Overall Satisfaction: 84% of students reported being satisfied with their college experience in 2024, a significant rebound from 68% in 2020.
    • Disparities: Satisfaction levels vary across demographics, with lower-income students and students of color generally reporting lower satisfaction. A sense of belonging is crucial for overall satisfaction, with disparities indicating a need for targeted support services.
  • Post-Pandemic Challenges:

    • Mental Health: Support for mental health is a critical factor in students' perceptions of a "safe" campus. Lower-income and first-generation students place higher importance on mental health support when choosing a college.
    • Academic Preparedness: Students from historically underrepresented groups report feeling less academically prepared for college. This has led to increased use of support services like academic advising and tutoring.
  • Affordability Concerns:

    • Opting Out: An increasing number of students are opting out of college due to affordability and mental health concerns. 28% cited affordability as a primary reason for not enrolling.
    • Two-Year vs. Four-Year Institutions: There has been a four percentage-point increase in students enrolling in two-year institutions since 2022, primarily due to lower tuition costs.
  • Recruitment Strategies:

    • In-Person Recruitment: While many in-person recruitment activities have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, college fairs have not regained their previous influence. Institutions should focus more on high school counselors and community-based organizations.
    • Virtual Tours: Virtual tours remain essential, with a significant portion of students taking their first virtual tour at the application stage. These tours are crucial for initial research and later stages of the enrollment process.
  • Support for Underrepresented Students:

    • Direct Outreach: First-generation college students and those from lower-income backgrounds benefit significantly from direct outreach, including emails and personal letters from colleges.
    • Simplified Applications: Pre-populated applications help reduce barriers for historically underrepresented students, making the application process easier and encouraging higher application and enrollment rates.

Policy and Practice Recommendations:

  • Enhance Mental Health Support: Prominently market mental health services to prospective students to address one of their primary concerns and differentiate your institution.
  • Focus on Affordability: Highlight financial aid options, affordable tuition, and support services in recruitment materials to attract students concerned about college costs.
  • Utilize Virtual Tours: Invest in high-quality virtual tours to engage students throughout their college search and application process.
  • Direct Outreach and Simplified Applications: Use direct communication channels like email and personal letters, and consider pre-populated applications to ease the application process for underrepresented groups.
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Article ID: 160426
Wed 7/10/24 8:51 AM
Wed 7/10/24 8:52 AM