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Wouldn’t it be great if there were some way to determine whether that prospective student you’ve been courting would actually enroll? A way to weed out the disinterested parties from the blossoms that might truly bloom at your school? There is! When you use lead scoring for higher education, you give the admissions team prospects that are more likely to convert. Those maybes who might become yeses.

What Is Lead Scoring?

In its simplest form, lead scoring assigns a numerical value to each potential student derived from the past behaviors of enrolled students. Usually based on a scale of 100, lead scoring uses a variety of factors to determine how likely prospects are to become students. The higher the number, the more likely. But lead scoring is far from an exact science. Each institution, even each program, can and should have different criteria for what’s important. And while the magic number for one school might be 95, another university might hit admit at 78.

What Are the Benefits of Lead Scoring for Higher Education?

The work your admissions team does to help students make the right choice about your institution is incredibly valuable. So is there time. The better the leads you provide to them, the more productive use they can make of their time. But lead scoring has other benefits.

  • Higher Productivity: When your team is more efficient and productive, it also means that it doesn’t need to be as large. You have finite resources; allot them strategically.
  • Higher Conversion Rates: If the leads that make it through to admissions’ attention are more qualified, they’re more likely to convert to students—more quickly.
  • Shortened Enrollment Cycle: The more quickly you have an answer to that all-important question: will they enroll? the better you’ll be able to plan for everything else that comes in its wake. Programs, courses, staffing, even plans for potential expansion can all be more effectively considered once you know your likely enrollment numbers.
  • Enrollment Forecasting: You may not be able to replicate the success of this semester for the next but lead scoring can help you get closer to that kind of long-term planning. Moreover, if you continually tweak the lead scoring formula, always adding the data that point to success, you can make an all-out effort to stay ahead of the curve and predict the future with some level of clarity.
  • Marketing and Admissions Alignment: An oft-expressed complaint from admissions teams is that marketing sends them unqualified leads. Marketing personnel complain that admissions doesn’t share relevant information that could help them find those qualified leads. When everyone agrees on realistic lead scoring, your team will work together to help you improve your enrollment yield goals.

How to Lead Score

Start with your CRM and your current student body. If you’ve kept track—of course you have—of action and results through your CRM, you have a trove of data points from which to pull. What’s the demographic makeup of your student body? What kinds of emails to which students yield positive results? What kind of student hits unsubscribe? Gather as much information as you can to create student personas that are the best match to your institution.

Next, consider the minimum criteria for entry to your program. Often that revolves around some basic demographics. For example, if you want to enroll an MBA program, your candidates will need to be a certain age and have a bachelor’s degree. Geography will also be a consideration. Sure, you may enroll west coasters and international students, but if 80 percent of your student body is from New England, those New Englander leads are going to have a higher score than the guy from Bangladesh. And who will be able to afford the cost of tuition? These are all lead scoring factors.

The numbers you assign and the weight they’re given will depend on how many factors you consider to be important. And it’s okay if the numbers seem imprecise; not every potential student will fill every blank. However, you’ll want consensus about the scale that works. Make sure to have marketing, sales, and the higher-ups agree on how you’ll score individual leads. Also, include negative numbers. If someone stops opening emails, engaging with admissions, or following you on Facebook, they’re sending you a message; listen.

Here’s an example of one candidate’s lead score for an on-campus MBA program:


Job title manager or above +10
More than 10 years’ work experience +15
Lives outside 25-mile radius of campus -15
Opened email +5
Downloaded whitepaper +15
Visited application page +10
Failed to open 3 consecutive emails -10
Followed on Facebook +20
Attend admissions event +30
Total Score +80

With a score of +80, the admissions team might consider this prospect to be a likely applicant; they might also address a pain point, like living far from campus, head-on. Do you offer housing for grad students? Excellent. Offer that as the selling point it is.

Effective lead scoring for higher education can be an important marketing and admissions tool. If you’d like to learn more about how to incorporate lead scoring into an integrated marketing strategy, we’d love to work with you. Give us a call.


~Linda Emma