Case Study: Summer Session Enrollment Growth with MindMax

Case Study: Summer Session Enrollment Growth with MindMax

How MindMax has helped schools across the country boost web traffic, increase student response rates, grow enrollments, and generate millions of dollars in additional revenue.

Students reap tremendous rewards when they enroll in summer programs, but getting them to enroll has proven challenging—even for the most prestigious universities.

Every year, highly competitive public and private universities enlist MindMax to help boost summer session enrollments. Here, we’ll look at the challenges faced by 10 different colleges and universities and explore the solutions that delivered real results.

The Challenge: Low Enrollment Rates for Summer Sessions

Admissions officers often point to small class sizes as one of the benefits of summer coursework. In truth, small classes are most often an unintentional byproduct of low enrollments. Programs that don’t meet their enrollment goals often hurt a school more than they help, negatively impacting program budgets and diminishing course attractiveness to prospective students and educators alike.

Across the schools MindMax partnered with, there were three primary audiences targeted for summer enrollment:

  • High schoolers in pre-college programs. Several schools looked to the high school students already enrolled in their pre-college programs. Who better to continue their learning journey throughout the summer than a student already bound for an undergraduate degree? Yet enrollment among this group was falling short of expectations.
  • International students. This group seemed to be a promising enrollment audience, but the universities weren’t having much luck enrolling these students into summer sessions—even when online options were available.
  • Lapsed enrollments. A third audience, lapsed enrollments, was also failing to meet expectations. Schools struggled to convince former students to return to their academic careers, even with summer sessions promoted as a comfortable stepping stone.

As MindMax dug into the details, our team uncovered more information about each school’s unique challenges. While low enrollment was the end result, the root causes were varied: everything from outdated creative to unoptimized ad strategies to roadblocks in the application process. One Ivy League university, for example, discovered that up to 80% of potential summer program enrollees abandoned their course purchases in the shopping cart due to the late introduction of an application fee!

“MindMax took a comprehensive and genuine approach to understanding our programs and our culture. We embarked on new and uncharted territory for our office and they helped bring us up to speed quickly. They set up our ad platforms and transitioned us from our previous vendor. They did this with no disruption or gap in our workflow.”

—Executive Director of Continuing Education, Small Private New England College

MindMax’s Solutions for Growing Summer Program Enrollments

After identifying the specific challenges for each school, MindMax developed and implemented strategies targeted at optimizing the marketing funnel and increasing summer enrollment rates. 

Solutions included incorporating enrollment management services for personal outreach; identifying and targeting new audiences for digital marketing; refreshing creative assets and optimizing paid campaigns; implementing on campus “guerilla marketing” tactics; and reducing friction in the registration process. Here are some examples of the results:

1. Personalized outreach boosts student response rate to 43%

MindMax A/B tested a personalized summer enrollment marketing strategy against one private liberal arts university’s current, more generic outreach. Half of all phone and email marketing recipients experienced the personalized approach, while the other half received the older style of non-personalized marketing. 

The university’s in-house methods earned a 17% response rate, while MindMax successfully increased the summer enrollment outreach response to 43%, drawing an additional $800,000 into the university. These results were driven by proactive outreach to lapsed enrollees via personalized emails and phone calls. 

To gather additional information, MindMax asked any disinterested students to share why they were opting out of summer program enrollment. This data, along with the growth in enrollments, proved so valuable that the university adopted MindMax’s personalization method for its entire outreach team.

2. New audiences lead to enrollment success

For a midsize Ivy League university in New England, MindMax led efforts to identify and market to fresh audiences who might be more receptive to summer sessions:

  • Admitted freshmen who had chosen not to attend the university
  • Students who had been denied admission in the previous four to five years
  • Private school classrooms

MindMax developed the final segment, private school classrooms, as a creative alternative to a university’s former focus on individual high school students. Under the new model, a private school could purchase an online summer program for an entire classroom, with the students’ familiar teacher overseeing the learning experience. The classroom approach had clear benefits for students, made the school’s marketing efforts more streamlined, and was tremendously successful. By embracing a new way to enable online learning, the university was able to significantly increase enrollments.

3. Unexpected strategies generate $1.5M annually

One New England university sought to transform its online summer sessions into year-round offerings. Inspired by the school’s in-person courses, MindMax built and marketed eight online programs for promotion across three enrollment terms annually. These online learning options drove a $1.5 million increase in the university’s annual earnings.

To boost enrollment in another university’s School of Arts & Sciences summer programs, MindMax encouraged the school to reallocate funds from current ad hoc marketing efforts. Instead, they sought to reach current students through highly targeted dormitory geofencing in digital marketing campaigns as well as “guerilla tactics” such as placing vivid posters in common areas and distributing free marketing swag on campus.

4. Improved digital campaigns boost summer program web traffic by 16%

To make one Ivy League university’s summer programs more attractive to international students, MindMax helped reimagine the school’s approach. As international students neared the deadline to obtain student visas for in-person learning, the university’s marketing message would shift to promoting online courses. The deadline-triggered strategy resulted in a significant increase in online summer program enrollments.

For the same school, MindMax evaluated and optimized email, pay-per-click (PPC), and retargeting campaigns, driving a 16% year-over-year increase in visitors to the summer programs website.

Meanwhile, MindMax was leading another university’s comprehensive digital marketing strategy. By providing a full suite of creative assets and continually optimizing online ads for conversions, MindMax helped the school successfully reach maximum enrollment for its summer and continuing education programs. Spanning lead capture, nurture, and enrollment, the digital campaigns leveraged Google Adwords and Facebook to hit enrollment goals during each year of engagement.

5. Automation and adaptation reduce friction and enhance accessibility

Reducing friction is crucial to any user experience. For one large public research university, MindMax found that students who weren’t already enrolled at the school experienced too much friction when trying to register for summer programs. MindMax implemented a marketing automation platform and CRM system and built custom automations and interstitial pages to more effectively reach, nurture, and enroll students into the school’s summer programs.

At another New England Ivy League institution, MindMax discovered that prospective students were abandoning their online shopping carts at the moment of purchase. Students would be on the verge of checkout, their personal information already entered, when an alarming 70-80% of them would drop off.

Research revealed that the drop-offs occurred the moment students realized they would need to pay a $50 application fee. Although the fee was stated on the enrollment website, the majority of new enrollees didn’t notice it until they’d nearly completed their registration details.

MindMax helped the university establish an innovative pricing strategy that allowed summer program enrollees to submit their applications fee-free—and applications increased dramatically as students stopped abandoning their online carts and started completing the enrollment process in greater numbers. Ultimately, the engagement delivered an 18.4% increase in overall program enrollments.

MindMax Delivers Successful Enrollment Strategies that Drive Results

While summer programs have their own set of unique challenges and considerations, they are not a monolith. Increasing enrollments requires alignment with a school’s brand, an understanding of program-specific challenges, and insight into the entire marketing and enrollment strategy. As a mission-aligned organization with deep experience in full-funnel execution, MindMax is uniquely positioned to help higher ed summer programs succeed. 

By developing game-changing strategies for attracting new students, MindMax successfully helped 10 colleges and universities meet or exceed their summer session enrollment goals. Contact us to learn how we can help your school do the same!