Refining Email Messages for Dual-Enrolled Students

Marianne Sipe

Marianne Sipe

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The dual-enrolled audience data set is a tripping hazard in higher ed communications. There may be times when it makes sense to send recruitment messages to freshmen or “just starting out” content to juniors who are enrolled in dual credit. And tracking all that data and messaging can get confusing, even with a smart CRM.

So, how do you decide what to send, to whom, and when? My experience with dual credit and early college credit students runs the gamut from building workflows to marketing for this special subset. So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Messaging to dual-enrolled and early college-credit students is unique from all other outreach because they are not really students at your college.

They’re Not Your Students…Yet

Dual-enrolled students have not committed to enrolling with you full-time after graduating high school. So, we can’t treat them like they are in our messaging. For instance, I know of one school that decided to auto-admit all students who came in as either an early college credit or dual credit student. That led to confusing communications. Family members started contacting the institution trying to understand what was happening, as they had never applied to the school. Internally, we had to reverse and alter admission records to “clean up” what we had created. This is not uncommon behavior that institutions continue to practice. A current article from The Wall Street Journal touches on “direct admissions.”

In our customer relationship manager (CRM), we had to create another workflow internally and a complete communication plan for this special group. A special code or attribution for these students is crucial to send clean communication lists. A CRM is helpful for dual credit and early college credit because data points can be set to trigger on each step in the system. Be careful about a student who is considered an active student and an inquiry in the same system, as it can be tricky.

Include Fresh/Soph Parents in Student Messaging

Parents or family members often are deeply involved in helping their dual-enrolled student through the process of registering and paying for credits. It is imperative that communications for this audience are shared with the family as well as the student.

Messages to this audience should be steps-based and centered on how to find information in small bites. Communications to parents and students might include:

  • Free credit offers which are great for families budgeting for college.
  • Stepwise instructions to access the college portal.
  • Special FERPA forms for students to sign that allow parents access to their student account—even for freshman and sophomore students.  If you can digitize this process to populate to the student’s record, you are a rockstar.
  • Recruitment material to start the conversation about attending post-high school. Set it up as introducing the student and family members to the school.
  • Meet and greet content: In some cases, the student or family has never heard of your school until the opportunity of dual credit was presented to the student in their high school classroom. Share information about how to find your institution and where it is located.

Nurture campaigns fit well for dual-enrolled students, and the quantity of messages is important. Sending messages that are relevant to the student and the stage of where they are in school is the key to keeping them engaged. For instance, sending messages about new dual credit opportunities through your institution may encourage them to keep taking classes with your institution—and may help them along the path to eventually enrolling.

Junior Year is a Dichotomy—Your Messages Should Be, Too

Communication with high school juniors requires a two-pronged approach. Keep including instructions on how to access the portal—some will have started dual credit in previous years but have forgotten their credentials and the login link. Some will be new to the system and need all the steps for the first time.

Many dual credit/early college credit juniors are high achievers and are starting to make plans for where they want to go to college. These students may not have set foot on your campus yet, so this is a great opportunity to invite them for a feature event like Preview Day or a personal tour.

Keep the family members involved with the communications going out to this group. Most likely, these same family members will drive or come along with the student to these events.

CRM data should have juniors set as an “inquiry.” Inquiries need a more robust communication plan than leads. Get insights on creating audience segments.

Seniors Are Ready for Special “Apply” Messaging

Weave these students in with your recruitment communications for juniors. However, the call-to-action (CTA) for seniors should be to apply to your college or university. Include an internal CRM code that allows you to include or exclude this audience in your communication lists. For instance, if this is the group where your school is looking to adopt direct admissions, pull a list to send a special message of congratulations about being admitted.

Consider sending a message highlighting the cost and time savings in submitting transcripts to your school versus another college or university. From my personal experience as the mom of a senior, this is a royal pain! From my experience, the average cost for submitting is about $10. Multiply that by three schools, and the family has spent $30 moving digital transcripts from one school to another. Take this pain point and make it a benefit statement for your school!

A Few Closing Thoughts

Approach communicating with dual-enrolled students as a two-pronged plan:

  • Provide tactical information about how to log in, register, and contact someone for help.
  • Send journey-centric recruitment messaging.

While honing your messaging for dual-enrolled students and parents takes time and finesse, the return of doing it right will be worth it. Effective marketing is all about meeting people where they are with the answers they need—and with a few strategic adjustments, you can be that standout resource for high school students considering college.

Need help making sense of your dual-enrolled student messaging? Contact me to get started.

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