Three Reasons Students Apply But Don’t Enroll (and how to fix them)


By: Christopher Tashjian May 07, 2018

Three Reasons Students Apply But Don’t Enroll (and how to fix them)

As enrollment management professionals, we’ve all been there. The application numbers look great, but when it comes time to enroll something’s missing — students! What happened to all those great applicants that were going to fill classes? Something is keeping your great applicants from becoming student. Read on to discover three big reasons students apply but don’t enroll.

Learn what’s keeping your applicants from turning into enrolled students. Schedule a free assessment with Aslanian Market Research. They can provide a Lost Student Analysis study to discover the gaps in your enrollment management and admissions processes.

1) Surprised By Costs

When you ask students what’s keeping them from enrolling at schools they’re most likely to answer costs. In fact, more than half of the respondents in a recent graduate study* said that cost was among the most important factors in choosing where they enrolled (undergraduates** responded similarly with 49% ranking cost as the highest factor; download the report). What’s the solution? Be transparent about costs and communicate with prospective students early and often. Students usually know about tuition fees but can get surprised when program fees, books, housing, and other fees start to add up. Including a simple costs estimator on your website can help. This one from Arizona State University, helps students prepare for the true cost of attendance.

2) Outcomes Don’t Match Expectations

You’re doing a great job communicating your value proposition. You’ve shared alumni success stories, but even with all that, students want to be sure they’ve made the right choice. Today’s non-traditional students are enrolling in a program to improve their careers. They’re taking a big step. It’s understandable that students more than ever want to be sure they’re going to get a good Return on Education (ROE).
Solution? Be great at expressing your school’s ROE.  Be sure your admissions staff can answer questions about the job markets students are facing. Your school recently revamped its business program to focus on technology. Explain how the thinking behind that change was based on today’s markets. Talk up your schools corporate partners. Explore ways online learners can take what they’ve learned to their jobs and communities.
Students want quantifiable data. Share info on alumni employment rates and income levels. The Department of Education publishes “Gainful Employment” research that looks at outcomes of different education programs.
For more school-specific data, PayScale shares data about average incomes based on the college where the degree was earned. Show that your school has a track record of alumni success and high potential incomes. It will alleviate students’ worries about a lack of job prospects after graduation.

3) Limited Support Leading Up to Enrollment

We’ve all heard about the “Summer Melt.” It’s when up to 20 percent of students back out of enrollment commitments in the months leading up to first day of school. If you’re seeing a big decline in your committed students, consider whether a lack of support might be the culprit. For traditional students, there’s a natural drop off in support as they leave their high school guidance counselors behind. For non-traditional students, it can be anything from a bewildering admissions process to family and job commitments that keep them from enrolling.
What can you do? A low-cost solution could be an email or text campaign during that interim period between applying and enrollment. Text messages can be incredibly successful, with about 99% of messages read and the vast majority (around 90%) opened immediately. A well-planned text message campaign can help your students stay engaged and feel committed to your school. Plan your campaign around key milestones in your admissions process.

Final Thought

More students these days are applying to multiple schools and waiting to get all the offers back to see which program suits them best. Be sure to consider this factor when looking at your enrollment data.
In the end, you want to attract high quality inquiries who become great applicants and eventually enroll and go on to graduate your programs. Knowing why students are applying but not enrolling is just one part of the equation.

Learn what’s keeping your applicants from turning into enrolled students. Schedule a free consultation with Aslanian Market Research to learn about their Lost Student Analysis studies. We’ll help you discover the gaps in your enrollment management and admissions processes.

* Download the full Post-Traditional Graduate Students Report here:
** Download the full Post-Traditional Undergraduate Report here: