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What's Working in Graduate Recruitment
Author: Cindy Skaruppa
Posted: March 6, 2013

Experience has taught me that whether we work for a large research university, or a small graduate program which serves its local community, the job is still the same. Recruiting graduate students is a challenge for all institutions, not just small ones.

I’m often asked the question: Why are some recruiting programs so successful and why do other graduate schools fail? One of the major keys to recruiting success partly lies in the ability to ask the right questions – especially in today’s highly competitive and rapidly changing world of recruiting graduate students. 

Graduate enrollment has long been an important component of many institutions’ overall enrollment picture. However, in recent years, I have seen institutions giving even greater attention to their graduate recruitment and enrollment practices, especially in the many areas of the country where the high school graduate pool is shrinking and undergraduate enrollment is challenged.

A few major highlights related to graduate student recruitment include:

  • Not surprisingly, financial strategies—including offers of assistantships—are among the “top 10” most effective recruitment practices.  For both public and private doctorate-granting institutions, assistantships (either with or without a work obligation) and offering financial aid at the time of admission are rated as the top two practices. 
  • Beyond funding, the Web is an important and emerging tool for graduate recruitment and marketing. The practice of maintaining graduate program Web pages to attract the interest of inquiries is included in the top 10 practices.
  • Perhaps a little surprising is the strong endorsement of campus visits for graduate recruitment. In addition, “open houses and visit days to generate inquiries” appear on the “best practices” list. While the campus visit has long been a recognized tool for undergraduate recruitment, graduate recruiters should incorporate visit opportunities into their recruitment as well.
  • At the application stage, the practice of following up by e-mail with students whose applications are incomplete is highly encouraged.  In fact, it is a nearly universal practice, used by graduate schools across the country
  • To recruit international master’s students, maintaining Web pages to attract student interest and building relationships with influencers in embassies, governments, and international agencies is considered a key practice.
  • To recruit adult students, partnerships with businesses is an effective practice.