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The Enrollment Funnel: Understanding the Admissions Process



What is the Funnel? 
The enrollment funnel is a metaphor used to categorize the stages prospective students move through on their path to enrolling at a university. The funnel has historically functioned as a useful model for enrollment planners seeking to develop the best recruitment strategies for each stage of the admissions process.

How Has it Changed? 
In recent years, with the widespread availability of information on the web, easy-to-use online application systems, and changing demographics, the enrollment funnel has evolved into a less centralized and more complicated paradigm.

For instance, prospects may not respond to initial contacts but still apply (skipping the inquiry stage), while other students choose to remain anonymous until the point of application.

These shifts have led enrollment managers to adapt multi-dimensional approaches to student recruitment. In addition to implementing robust communication plans at each stage in the enrollment process, admissions offices now place greater emphasis on optimizing their websites, and meeting the expectations of "secret shoppers" with tools like virtual tours, social media and mobile resources.


Enrollment Communications

Recruiting our class requires multiple touchpoints during each stage of the process. The Enrollment Communications staff complements in-person recruitment by reaching new audiences and expanding pre-established connections.

The following is a brief overview of Stony Brook's recruitment tactics and operational structures for each traditional stage of the funnel.

Prospect Stage
The prospect stage refers to inquiry-generation strategies which include:

  • Student Search: We conduct a nationwide search for high-achieving high school juniors and sophomores.
  • Recruitment Travel: Admissions counselors attend college fairs and visit high schools across the country and internationally.

These programs help build brand awareness and expand our pool of inquiries for future classes.

Inquiry Stage
After students express interest in Stony Brook, we begin messaging them with a broad array of e-mail and print communications.

  • Personalized Communications: Each inquiry is processed through our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, which allows us to send customized communications based on academic interest, source of inquiry, and other demographic data.
  • Viewbook: All inquiries are mailed this publication, which contains information about academic programs, ways to get involved in student life and our value.
  • VIP Portals: Inquiries are also given access to personalized VIP web portals, providing customized information about their academic and extracurricular interests, as well as a checklist of the steps they need to take to apply for admission.
  • Calls to Action: An assortment of communications encourage inquiries to:
    • Apply for admission
    • Visit our campus
    • Take a virtual tour
    • Join online chats
    • Meet admissions counselors visiting their high schools

Applicant Stage
The Admissions Office processes more than 40,000 applications per year, and performs a holistic review of each applicant's credentials. To help manage the volume of applications, as well as the expectations of applicants for status updates, we have adapted a series of efficiencies:

  • Document Imaging: All applications and credentials are digitized into our imaging system, optimizing the review process.
  • Enrollment Research: High-level statistical analyses are run so that we can predict the exact number of students to admit to meet the University's multi-faceted enrollment goals.
  • Self-Service Tool: Applicants use the University's self-service portal (SOLAR) to check their application status and view a list of missing items.
  • Proactive Outreach: A network of e-mail notifications alert students when their applications are complete or when items are needed.

Admit Stage
The Admissions Office coordinates an assortment of programs to assist admitted students and their families with their college section.

  • Admitted Student Days: All-day events offering opportunities to interact with faculty and tour campus facilities.
  • Out-of-Area ReceptionsAdmitted students and their families attend receptions in other states and nations.
  • Visit-a-Class Program: Select students are given the opportunity to sit-in on a class in a preferred area of study.
  • Brookhaven National Laboratory Tour: Top students in the STEM disciplines tour state-of-the-art facilities such as RHIC, NSLS, and the Center for Functional Nanomaterials.
  • Financial Support: We reward high-achieving students with merit scholarships and offer need-based aid to those who qualify in the form of loans, employment opportunities, and grants.
  • Online Engagement: Our private social network, group online chats, and interactive webinars, and other social tools help integrate students into our community.

Enrolled Stage
We maintain close communication with the Office of Student Orientation and Family Programs, Department of Campus Residences, and Undergraduate Colleges staff to help ensure that members of the incoming class continue to complete required enrollment steps, from their New Student Preferences form to attending Orientation. Many of our staff members participate in Orientation and move-in weekend programs each year. We also process final high school transcripts, and post AP and college credits.

Finally, we take time to perform comprehensive audits of all programs and events hosted in the prior year, examining what worked well and what can be improved for our next cycle —in an enrollment management landscape that continues to evolve.