Finding Time for Research


Next up in our series about research to support strategic enrollment management efforts: How to find the time?

In my previous post, I named five specific research inputs that are common, though that list is far from exhaustive depending on your research questions. At most schools, it’s simply not feasible to keep up with all of it annually, even with the best intentions.

There are several obstacles to frequent research. First, time. Schools are busy places! Enrollment managers are dealing with time sensitive funnel activity among all of their other responsibilities. Even with your eye on research, it often gets pushed to the back burner, and for understandable reasons. Secondly, the lack of strong information management systems can feel like a stopper. Without an effective system to gather data and organize it, staying on top of research often leads to further overwhelm.

So, what is a harried enrollment manager to do?

Remember that most institutions of higher education have an office of institutional advancement that is not only responsible for data gathering and interpretation, but ties together information systems and parses out information and insight to various departments. It is extremely rare to see that function in an independent school. In the absence of that on-staff expert, enrollment managers, advancement officers, and finance administrators are sometimes tasked with doing this work.

Rather than trying to tackle everything at once, consider cycling through the research, so that you always have something current to work with. Alternately, plan to devote significant time and resources every three years or so to do a larger amount at once. You also might spend some time and energy shoring up your data organization. I'll talk about this soon in another post.

Finally, I often recommend to enrollment managers that by calendaring one "special" task outside the normal flow of their work each month, much can be done to move forward. If research is your priority for the year, calendar one research related activity each month that will help the flow moving in the direction you want. Perhaps in August, you review the data from the admission funnel survey you did last year and finalize any tweaks to your process. In September, you might look at demographic trend projections. In October, you could work on a competitive analysis, and so on.

By calendaring slots in your schedule for research, you have a better chance of following through. Easier said than done, I know.

Next, we'll discuss the "how" of research. As always, I invite your questions and comments.