Student Search season is about to begin (again). Admissions and enrollment offices have closed the binders on their summer retreats and annual planning sessions and codified the year’s goals for the division. I’m going to guess that no one’s goals include “reducing the quantity of names purchased.” I’m also betting no one’s sheet of divisional goals includes “do away with Student Search.”

But you know what…maybe those goals should be ones to consider.

For many schools, Student Search represents the single largest outside expenditure the division will make. What’s unfortunate is that many institutions seem reluctant to engage the process and do something (gasp) different, or (double-gasp) better.

As we visit and work with different schools, we’re exposed to many scenarios of overspending on names and overbuying of names because of fear. Many leaders are afraid to really engage with the process of Student Search by pushing up their sleeves and making some tough decisions that will ultimately guide the shape and profile of their future classes. It’s hard because it represents change and a commitment to an unintuitive approach. And not to be ignored, the biggest fear factor may come because we all know who is held accountable come the start of school. (Insert VP for Enrollment headshot here. Capito?)

Over the next several weeks this blog will be debunking some long-held myths about Student Search. An over-arching myth is that we should all be engaging in Student Search. H·A ThirtyOne believes we should all be engaging in Student FIND. Are you a FINDER? If you want to join other enrollment leaders who have recognized there are more efficient and productive ways to recruit and retain students, visit our informal geographical roster of FINDERS. Place your name on the map and you’ll continue to hear more about this radical new way of enrollment management.

Do you have a million dollar Student Search budget and need to show meaningless numbers along the way to securing your enrolling class? If so, you may not want to identify as a FINDER. FINDERS are the gritty innovators who are interested in doing their admissions best (and often have to do so with less).

MYTH # 1. You’ve got to buy a lot of names.

The rules are changing. Today’s Student Search is really an “Interest Identifying” campaign that helps extend your school’s brand and begin shaping the impression of your institution in a prospective student’s (and family’s) mind. It is wiser to buy fewer names and purchase names earlier, conducting Sophomore and Freshman searches, rather than buy scads of names in the Senior year and hoping for the best. Most schools buy too many names in general, without enough thought to who they are searching. What would happen if they asked the question, who do we want to find?

Starting with a different question can lead to a different approach, different opportunities, and different outcomes. So instead of thinking about big name purchases, what happens if you think about reducing your name purchase?

I like reductions. When I cook I like reducing rich ingredients down to their real potential. Sautee the onions, add the butter, the broth, and then the cream, oh and the cheese…and slowly simmer until only the best ingredients remain.

In many ways it’s the same with your inquiry pool. If you feel pressured to overspend, you’re eventually going to have to simmer your inquiry pool to a reduction of high quality leads that you’re more likely to convert. What if you could remove the moisture in your recipe without all the expense? Sometimes you can’t and if that’s the case, we’ll advise some clients in some years to do a big Student Search campaign. But sometimes you can. You may have more options than your realize.

(Call me to discuss this if you’re interested in not doing Student Search this year, 919-306-8122.)

So, if you must Search, do it better. This better way is called Finding.

If you want to brainstorm about ideas like these please join us at our pre-NACAC Ideastorm on the campus of Marian University on September 17. Few seats remain, so email us directly if you are interested, or find us at  NACAC at booth 1238 with other innovative, FINDER folks…like you!

Next week, Myth #2. “If only I had a good CRM.”