Student Success: Things Just Got Personal

paul kirsch
director of marketing

From Recruiting to Move In Day

Working for Rapid Insight, I have had the pleasure to talk with many of our higher education customers about their experiences with the recruiting, admissions and student success initiatives at their institutions. It always inspires me to hear the genuine care they have for the students.

In the last year, this whole process became personal to me as my son went through the whole high school to college journey. Filling out the Common App, his college essay, the FAFSA Forms, applying to schools, doing visits, final selection and a few weeks ago, move in day. Yes, he did end up selecting a Rapid Insight customer for his school, although I promise I didn’t ask him to make that part of his selection criteria.

It’s been an amazing journey for the whole family and, like every parent, I am now torn between excitement for my son’s future and the empty feeling of him leaving the nest. We are counting down the days to parents’ weekend so we can go visit him.

Student Success

Mixed with the excitement and bittersweet feelings is also the reality I have read many, many times about graduation rates – as of the latest numbers, 59% of students who started school in 2009, graduated within 6 years.

As a parent, you never want to spend any time thinking about the potential that your child might not graduate from college- but certainly every year people have to accept this tough reality. You read every article you can digest around student success and make notes: statistics showing that students who take at least 15 credits a semester have a better rate of graduation, students who are more engaged on campus or who exhibit certain habits (eating regular meals) are more likely to succeed, just to name a few. I think my son has entered college pretty well equipped for success and I have gained a new level of appreciation for the hard work institutions put into keeping students in school and on the road to graduation.

The Interactions and the Data Behind It

So, going back to his journey, because I work for a data focused company, I made many notes on the interactions he had with each school (and we did as parents too). The steady stream of Facebook and Instagram ads after visiting the school websites, the personal emails and postcards from other students, the campus visits, they all kept him engaged and helped make an impact on his final decision. I know each school has information on our email open rates, what we clicked on, the campus visits made, and much more.

We are still getting the emails too. One of the most creative pieces from my own perspective has been the “In Your Shoes” series that my son’s school sends out to parents of incoming freshmen.  It’s written by the parent of a sophomore and the tips have been extremely helpful. One of these emails was even perfectly timed that we received it the day after we dropped him off at school- it discussed the importance of not checking in with our son too much at first so that he could adjust to his new routine. This was after many helpful emails on how we could make his move in day easier (and it went great, in no small part because of his school’s orientation and pre-orientation program).

All of this correspondence, all of these interactions can, in some way, be linked to data points. Some of them of course, are more about human connection or gut feeling- my son’s final decision was based on the overwhelming positive feeling he experienced during an on-campus visit where he shadowed a student for the day. There’s no way to measure how “nice” people are, but there is a data point out there stating that he made the visit. The school knows one of its biggest assets is its students and staff and they found a great way to incorporate that into the recruiting process. This also plays a key role in my son’s success on campus. He feels welcome by his fellow classmates as well as by faculty and staff.

Opportunities Ahead 

The beginning of a new school year is a great time to take a look at how you are using all of the data collected during the admission, enrollment and on-campus experiences. Here are some questions worth considering:

  1. Are there new data points you’ve captured in the last year or plan to capture in the upcoming year?
  2. Do you know how you will utilize this new data to help support your institutional strategies?
  3. If the data is scattered across many different systems, do you have an easy way to bring all of it together to begin to analyze it?

In my conversations with our customers, I consistently hear about innovation and change. The most successful schools are not the ones who just keep doing the same thing, instead they continually take a look at how they can improve and enhance their processes.

I’ve included links to two customer stories below that can provide inspiration about what some of your peers are doing. Best of luck in your new school year and, if you’ve come up with an innovative way to use data at your institution, I’d love to hear about it!


Clark University: Personalizing Admissions with In-House Predictive Modeling

Learn how, Tristan Deveney, Associate Director of Admissions and the staff at Clark University utilize technology to support their admissions process after an 87% growth in applications within three years.

UNC-Greensboro: Looking Beyond First Year Student Success

Learn how UNC-Greensboro wanted to take a broader approach to retention and looked beyond just the first years. Watch this video to learn how Jeffrey Collis, Data Manager at UNC-Greensboro, and Jon MacMillan, Senior Data Analyst at Rapid Insight, collaborated in this multi-year retention project.