When students are in the admissions and enrollment process, a flurry of questions can arise. Most colleges utilize their website and email communications to distribute important information to students, but sometimes that’s not enough. Many students’ questions go unanswered during these processes, which can cause them to not apply or not follow through with enrollment in the fall.
The fact is students can miss important emails that may have been able to answer questions that they had. A study done by Bowling Green State University found that 54% of students don’t always read emails from the university or academic departments. That means important deadlines and specific instructions that are being sent through email could go unread.
College and university websites can be a great place to provide a wealth of information regarding statistics, admission processes and procedures, and enrollment details. However, the website should just be a foot in the door. Many higher education websites are filled with information that can be overwhelming and difficult to find answers to specific questions. By having the ability to engage with students in real time and give them instant gratification through specific answers, you can capture their attention and support their admissions or enrollment experience.
The ability to answer questions in real-time at a scalable amount is increasingly important for admissions and enrollment departments, declining enrollment rates and decreased budgets are becoming the norm. In the technology world, in-app messaging has increased engagement by 3x and increased conversions by 4x. Similarly, having the ability to engage and answer questions with students while they are on a website or inside their portal can have the same effects.
The driving factor behind the popularity of in-app messaging and Q & A tools is personalization. Students want information to be tailored to them, and they don’t want to sift through irrelevant details. A survey of 1,000 students conducted by Ellucian found that nearly 98% of students want their school to use their personal information to improve academic processes. That means colleges should not only be available for real-time questions, but they should be able to provide students with a “suggested” list of frequently asked questions based on their personal details, like their geographical area, financial aid status, or major.
Most universities and colleges would agree that a Q&A platform is useful and effective. Once you’ve decided to create this – where do you start? We’ve put together 4 strategies that you can utilize to create content that addresses students’ needs and achieves your overall goal, to ensure no questions go unanswered.
Tips on Creating Content for Your Q&A Tool
- Utilize your site’s search data.
Your website’s search data can tell you a lot about what types of questions students are asking. If you don’t already have site search set up on your website, you can follow these steps in Google Analytics to access data about keywords that are searched.
Once you have site search enabled, you’ll be able to see what visitors are searching for on your website. To take it a step further, you can even set up a filter to only show results from ages 25 or under if you are trying to narrow down student search data (and exclude parents).
Using this search data as a guide, you can begin to create develop questions that are related to the most common search queries on your site. For example, if a popular search query is “cars on campus”, you might create a question that says “Can I have a car on campus as a first-year?” – and then create the appropriate answer.
- Review reports from online orientation quizzes.
A great way to find out what type of content students are having a hard time grasping or not remembering is to review the data in your online orientation reports. By narrowing down which questions are most frequently missed by students, you can put together a list of questions and answers that would be helpful to have available in real-time on your website or portal. A good rule of thumb is using 50% as your indicator; for example, if 50% or more students missed a question, it should probably go on your Q&A list.
- Work with current students to establish a friendly and conversational tone.
Conversing with students in “their lingo” not only helps them comprehend the information easier, it can also help them feel more engaged. Current students can review your Q&A list to provide suggestions on wording as well as provide suggestions on new questions that should be added, based on their previous experience. By utilizing a tone that is familiar with students, you can establish authenticity through your communications, an aspect that is key to engagement across all types of applications.
Many students are willing to assist in these types of way; recruiting students from active areas like campus clubs and ASI are great places to start.
- Categorize questions based on demographics.
Once you begin to create list of questions using the first three categories, you can then begin to group your questions into “buckets”. Buckets may include first-year students, transfer students, international students, students receiving financial aid, and students eligible for graduation, similar to University of Illinois’ strategy for their FAQ page.
Using these buckets, you can then utilize an online tool or software to serve students questions and answers that are relevant to them.
Whether your Q and A software matches students’ questions with answers from a database, or it uses more of a live-chat strategy, having these questions ready will greatly improve your university or college’s ability to answer students’ questions instantly and in a scalable manner. These “instant answers” will not only improve retention rates, encourage prospective students to apply, and ensure students complete important processes for things like Financial Aid, but it will also cut down on staff time and resources.
This fall Comevo is introducing Discover℠, a Dynamic Q&A tool Comevo’s Discover ℠ , a dynamic Q&A Tool that helps students quickly and easily find answers to their questions – and lets staff focus upon more important tasks. Stay tuned and sign up for our newsletter to get the latest updates on our Discover tool.