The process that most take to investigate graduate school is rarely straightforward. Think of it as a funnel separated by three distinct phases: See, Think, and Do. Knowing what students are doing and thinking while in these phases should inform your recruitment strategies.
When in the See phase students are undifferentiated. They might understand that their long term career and personal goals will involve an advanced degree of some kind, but their plans are otherwise very vague.
Students in the Think phase are in an active phase of discovery, doing research on schools and programs, and are beginning to make decisions. While in the Think phase they can still be undecided about their field of study, and many are uncertain about the schools or the part of the world in which to pursue further education. But they are working actively to resolve those issues.
While in the Do phase students are whittling down their options into lists and are in the process of making final decisions. They’re creating their own rankings. They are getting everything lined up to apply, taking standardized tests, writing their narrative summaries, enrolling recommendations. They have become very differentiated.
How should programs act upon these stages?
See -> The See phase represents a significant opportunity to influence prospects early. Your main goal should be to ensure students in this phase are even aware that your program exists. You should target your searches broadly in terms of academic backgrounds and geographic locations. Widen the majors and locales. Students in the See phase are likely to be passive consumers of your information, so you should have video’s for them to watch, and although they might not respond to your bookmark, they’ll see it.
Think-> You can also be influential while they are in the Think phase. Your success will be dictated by your ability to engage them. They’ve researched what public material you’ve shared, but can benefit now by the human touch because they are curious about how and whether they fit into your community. Use all the engagement tools you can muster. Respond to Bookmarks and Messages on Gradschoolmatch, exchange emails and phone calls. Try to understand what they are looking for. Invite Collaborators on Gradschoolmatch to join the conversation. Consider introducing them to current students in the program.
Do-> You want students to enter your tunnel before they’ve advanced to their Do phase, as little opportunity exits to get on their radar, if not. If they are in your tunnel, engagement is essential for the simple reason that they are also in the tunnels of your competitor programs. If you waive application fees or have any other application inducements, now is the time to let them know.