Strategic Projection Modeling for Graduate and Professional Schools
Admissions professionals at graduate and professional schools face unique challenges when it comes to enrolling a class. You are often limited by small historical datasets and inconsistencies and nuances in the data tracking. You may experience extreme fluctuations in both the external market and your own internal strategies that can decrease the usefulness of historical data. Ultimately, graduate and professional school admissions officers must know how to move forward and make critical enrollment decisions with a whole lot of uncertainty.
Many admissions professionals dream of acquiring a tool that can predict the future and thus solve these problems (Who will show up on opening day? How much will they cost in scholarship dollars? What will be the average GPA?). It is impossible, even with the best tools, to know precisely what’s going to happen in the future. We believe the key to building the best class possible in the graduate and professional school space is not about finding the perfect product (a Magic 8-Ball for admissions), but in adopting what we call a Strategic Projection Modeling process into your practice.
What is Strategic Projection Modeling and why is it valuable in admissions?
We designed the ARROWS Modeling process with one thing in mind—to help graduate and professional schools build the best class possible cycle after cycle. As former admissions professionals, we worked with predictive modeling but found it was too data-reliant for our needs. We didn’t want something that spit out a scholarship strategy based solely on historical data and didn’t take into account the nuances of the law school market; the intricacies (and limitations) of our data; live market and applicant intel and updates throughout the cycle; the shifts in institutional goals and priorities that can happen at any time; our own wisdom, experience, and intuition; and good old common sense.
Strategic Projection Modeling is the process of using historical data, combined with market and other relevant information, to forecast future outcomes along a specific set of variables. ARROWS Modeling can help your institution formulate and meet admissions goals related to variables such as class size, applicant quality, net tuition revenue, and discount rate, as well as explore how these variables are impacted (and impact each other) based on the choices you make. We understand that you need to be efficient and strategic in awarding your limited scholarship dollars. ARROWS Modeling offers a highly valuable decision-making tool and process to help navigate this and other challenges—helping you to develop enrollment and scholarship strategy; forecast enrollment outcomes; and monitor, track, analyze, and re-assess strategy throughout the admissions cycle.
Being able to make reasonable enrollment forecasts and informed admission and scholarship decisions throughout the admissions cycle is a standard best practice that should be expected from every admissions office today. Schools that use ARROWS Modeling have the advantage of being able to:
- Identify options and develop high-level strategy
- Make day-to-day decisions that are informed and strategic
- “Turn on a dime” when opportunities or challenges arise
- Communicate effectively with stakeholders
- Grow your vault of useful and clean data, making modeling more and more valuable over time
Who do we work with?
We specialize in modeling for graduate and professional schools including law, business, engineering, and other graduate programs. We most often work directly with admissions deans and enrollment managers throughout the admissions cycle, while bringing in the dean, financial officers, and other key stakeholders as appropriate at critical decision-points. We encourage the admissions/enrollment managers to involve others from their department in the process. In our experience, the more people on board, the more strategic their overall operation is likely to become.
Why is our approach to modeling unique?
First and foremost, we understand the challenges specific to graduate and professional schools. Not only are there limitations that come with small data sets (relative to most undergraduate programs), but “muddy” data is also prevalent in graduate admissions, as are inconsistent, subjective scholarship strategies that make it difficult to analyze past effectiveness of awards. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is that many graduate programs operate on a rolling admissions cycle, having to extend offers and awards without knowing the full applicant pool. There is also often a lot of shifting around when it comes to prioritizing goals—for example, revenue might start out as the highest priority until a few months in when an option presents itself to increase quality for a small financial hit. It is difficult for institutions to make these decisions until stakeholders know that there is a decision to make, review the options, and analyze the benefits and risks. In fact, one of the most valuable things we do as your partner is lookout for evolving opportunities and tee-up options throughout the cycle. We understand that things change, and flexibility is key.
At Yellow Arrows, we talk a lot about modeling as a creative process. Like anything entrepreneurial, the “end” is unknown when you first set out. It is critical to understand how to move forward strategically even when (especially when) there is pressure and fear and you don’t know the outcomes. We see modeling as a process of curiosity, exploration, and discovery, and our clients find it truly empowering to realize that there are always options.
One of the most unique and valuable things about the ARROWS Modeling process is that our modeling tools are custom built for every client and are designed to be dynamic and change with the cycle. We don’t just take your data, plug it into our model, and see what it says you should do; we create a model for you based on your data and your institutional goals and priorities and then use it all cycle to help you shape your class. It is a mistake to come up with an initial admission and scholarship strategy in the beginning of the cycle and then wait until opening day to see if it “worked” or not—so much opportunity lies along the way if you know where to look. We want to incorporate into our strategy as much data and intel as possible as it comes in through the cycle, and our modeling process is designed to do exactly that.
As complex as enrollment management and modeling can be, we try to stay simple. We believe that you will experience your best results if the people closest to the data and to the decision-making understand how modeling works and their role in it. That is one of many reasons we continue to use Microsoft Excel as our modeling platform—as long as you understand the basics of Excel, you can follow along and learn.
What else do you get when you work with Yellow Arrows? A true partner and collaborator throughout the entire admissions cycle. Our clients see us as an integral part of their enrollment team, hiring us cycle after cycle as their modeling partner. We understand the intense pressures admissions professionals face, the stress of certain times of year, and the unpredictability. We partner with your admissions team to navigate the inevitable ups and downs. We focus on the immediate situation, while keeping the big-picture in mind and are experts at framing challenges so there are always clear options.
Ready to get started?
Contact us to schedule an initial call so we can learn about your specific challenges and needs. Based on our conversation, we will send you a proposal that outlines the objectives, methodology, timeline, and fees for the project. We look forward to working with you!