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Custom application programs showcase school's strengths, draw new students

Royall's customized application process has become trusted marketing and recruitment tool
University Business, Nov 2011

When applying to college feels more like filling out an income tax return, it's no wonder more students aren't eager to do it, says Ronda Russell, Director of Admissions at Montana State University.

But when students are invited to apply in a more personal way, with an application that shows off a school's uniqueness, it can make a dramatic difference.

After Montana State used Royall & Company's customized application program, the out-of-state application submission rate more than doubled and lead to increased out-of-state enrollment.

"There was something about the branding and how it could be geared to each student that really worked," said Russell.

Montana State began partnering with Royall 11 years ago when it was trying to attract more out-of-state students and build a successful national recruitment program. Although the school was well-known in Montana, it had a lower profile elsewhere.

Royall's customized application program, which can work in tandem with applications such as the Common Application and Universal Application, enabled the school to strengthen its identity in several ways. When Montana State began offering their "Leader's Edge" customized application in new markets alongside their regular, institutional form, students specifically chose to apply using the customized application.

"The branding and the name resonated amazingly well with the kinds of students we wanted to attract to our campus," said Russell.

"It just highlights the things we do well. It works beautifully."

Through the Leader's Edge application, Montana State was able to show out-of-state prospects one of its greatest assets: location. The school is nestled in the Rocky Mountains, just north of Yellowstone National Park, among numerous ski slopes.

"It allowed us to use unique branding elements as part of the application process, and that really helped," Russell said. "It's just a superior package." Students also respond to features that encourage them to complete the application process and reduce the anxiety involved in applying to college. "It has a lot of follow-ups that prompt the student to get in and complete the application, if they didn't already," she said.

To make things easier, the Royall application program also provides secure electronic document transfer, so students can notify a school counselor to submit official documents, and in just minutes the counselor can send transcripts, letters of recommendation and up to ten other attachments to complete the application.

These days, 40 percent of Montana State's students come from out-of-state, thanks in part to Royall's customized application, program said Russell.

It was such a success that in 2008, the school began using a variation of the customized application to draw in-state students, with similarly impressive results.

"Our market share of in-state students throughout Montana was 12 percent, and now it's more than 16 percent," Russell said.

She says the application marketing program helped Montana State grow an already-thriving institution: "Sometimes, when things are going well, you don't feel the need to change. If it isn't broken, don't fix it. But this was an amazing opportunity for us, and it continues to make a significant difference." Since starting with Royall, Russell has come to rely on the company to find new ways of bolstering and shaping enrollment. "We seek out their advice on a weekly basis," she said. "We use them as our partner in marketing Montana State University."

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