Olin College of Engineering

Leveraging the Right Strategic Partner:

Alma Benefits Throughout the Funnel with Full-Service Investment


alma college at a glance

  • Founded in 1886
  • Private liberal arts and sciences college
  • Committed to preparing students for success beyond graduation by providing them with experiences and structures that support a personalized education

2019-2020 PARTNERSHIP HIGHLIGHTSCampaign Highlights

  • 78% total engagement rate – over three-fourths of all students in the Whiteboard campaign engaged
  • 69% of all matched applicants were engaged and 71% of matched enrolling students engaged in the campaign throughout the funnel
  • Increased enrollment and improved academic composition
  • Implemented successful financial aid strategy that enabled the addition of a new scholarship competition
  • Alma achieved greater than 13x ROI on their senior search
One of the things that [Whiteboard] truly helps us with is telling the Alma story at the top end of the funnel so we can take it and run with it the second we get an application.” 
Amanda Zielinski Slenski, Vice President for Admissions and Special Assistant to the President
Over the past decade, Alma College alumna Amanda Zielinski Slenski has held multiple leadership roles at her alma mater. Upon her return to the enrollment department in 2018 as Vice President for Admissions, she quickly realized their strategic enrollment partner was no longer a good fit. While there were certainly positive aspects to the relationship, Slenski felt there was a disconnect. “The set-it-and-forget-it model, the mass communication aspect, the less personalized nature… I was thinking about what I most needed out of my budget dollars for the long term, and that wasn’t it.” Slenski knew the college would benefit from partnering with an organization that could match its enrollment strategy more closely. This meant focusing on quality — rather than quantity — for student search, increasing ROI in a shrinking market, and providing both a regional and national perspective. Another priority was to find a provider who would be receptive to real-time course corrections. “I wanted an organization that felt like they were listening and responding to what we needed,” says Slenski, “and I really wanted it to feel like an extension of our office.” The switch to working with Whiteboard immediately felt like the right choice. “There was this balance of … being realistic about what was being offered and what their services were,” Slenski points out. “It also gave us the full suite that we wanted.”
Having access to Whiteboard’s full suite of services has allowed the team at Alma to think strategically about what works (and what doesn’t) over time. Slenski appreciated that Whiteboard’s Vice President of Analytics and Insights Rob Bielby helped her figure out which services she actually needed without insisting on a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles. “[Whiteboard] gets that we value what they’re doing, but we also have limitations on what we’re able to do and what we need,” she says. “We’ve been able to say we want to invest more here, so let’s pull it from there. And they’ve really worked with us to make that balance look different each year.”
“There is expertise on the Whiteboard team that I would never be able to hire at a small private college.”
Amanda Zielinski Slenski, Vice President for Admissions and Special Assistant to the President
“We are deeply focused on listening and building our service model and analysis around who an institution is and what its goals are,” Bielby explains. “Working so closely with Amanda and her team gave us tremendous perspective. It allowed us to deliver insights that would truly help them realize success.” Whiteboard’s updated financial aid strategy has also proven rewarding. It provided a framework with the flexibility to do things that were more creative while still ensuring Alma maximized the use of its financial aid funds. This enabled the college to fund an additional scholarship competition and recruit more 4.0 GPA students in 2019 than ever before.
Results by the Numbers*
4.6% Increased admission rate
1.4% Increased yield
Increased retention by 4 points
Increased the number of 4.0 GPA students recruited
*Changes from 2019 to 2020
One of the most significant aspects of Alma’s recruitment strategy is that it is intensely personalized. Exceeding expectations, building relationships, and supporting people along the way is at the core of everything they do. “We really try to make sure that we’re a member of each student’s support network and team,” Slenski explains. “And that’s part of why the Whiteboard relationship has worked really well. They treat their clients the same way we treat our students.” Whiteboard’s Senior Vice President of Enrollment Strategies Jonathan Epstein provides further insight on what makes for a successful partnership. “Alma is an excellent example of how to best leverage the insights we deliver through our enrollment services,” he says. “Our search campaign engagement framework, coupled with front-end analytics, helps smaller schools like Alma deliver on their brand promise: to engage proactively and build authentic relationships.” Whiteboard’s student search services made it easier for the admissions team to stay true to its mission. Not only is working with a more fitting and intentional applicant population authentic to the Alma brand — it also helped increase retention rates by four points this year. “We’re able to do the work we’re best at,” Slenski states, “and find our students the right connections to help them be successful the whole time that they’re at Alma.”

Are you ready to talk about your enrollment strategies?