Effective Recruitment Strategies to Increase Access to Higher Education

In the current competitive landscape of higher education, fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion has become paramount. The importance of widening pathways across higher education lies in the duty to include applicants who have the potential to succeed in-program and in their future careers.

This week on the Holistic Success Show, we welcomed Dr. Kelly Dore, Co-Founder and VP, Science and Innovation at Acuity Insights, and adjunct professor at McMaster University. Dr. Dore will discuss effective recruitment strategies that can assist schools in creating a wider applicant pool and focus on holistic success.

Why is widening pathways important in higher education?

People who have had access to higher education earn more over the course of their lifetime than those without access. Therefore, it is crucial to transparently consider who is eligible and can thrive in higher education. Diversifying student experiences and backgrounds leads to a richer program experience for all stakeholders, including faculty, students, and alumni. 

Traditionally recruitment practices have often overlooked students with potential to succeed in their chosen program and career field, strictly based on academic performance and their ability to score well on standardized tests. Widening pathways, or expanding access to higher education, focuses on identifying and nurturing potential in all individuals. 

Moreover, widening pathways aims to ensure educational institutions reflect the broader population, promoting equity and inclusivity.

What challenges do recruitment teams face in enabling access?

Recruitment teams encounter many challenges in their efforts to widen access to education. Legal shifts, such as the recent Supreme Court of the United States decision to overturn affirmative action, have prompted a reevaluation of admissions processes. Demographic changes, including the enrolment and demand cliffs, have led to a shrinking pool of applicants. In addition, schools now face increased pressure to prove the value of education amidst evolving societal and economic landscapes.

What effective strategies can schools use in recruitment?

To navigate these challenges effectively, Dr. Dore suggests aligning recruitment efforts with institutional mission and leveraging unique strengths. Consistent messaging across various platforms, from websites to recruitment activities, is crucial for building trust and credibility. 

In addition, schools should innovate their admissions processes to consider non-academic metrics like resilience, motivation, and communication skills, which are often better indicators of success than traditional academic measures.

Examples of successful recruitment strategies

Several institutions are leading by example in implementing effective recruitment strategies. For instance, the UT Tyler School of Medicine prioritizes mission alignment and geography in admissions. Driven by a mission to empower local students, the school looks to innovative admissions and curriculum approaches, offering additional support to applicants from underrepresented regions. 

Similarly, UC Davis and the Texas Medical and Dental School Application Services consider socioeconomic factors to ensure equitable access to education. Northeastern University‘s emphasis on internships and co-ops enhances students’ career prospects by providing real-world experiences. Additionally, innovative programs in the UK, such as apprenticeship models for healthcare professions, widen access to traditionally exclusive fields.

In closing, Dr. Dore underscores the importance of community engagement and partnerships in recruitment efforts. Schools must view the community as a holistic ecosystem, offering opportunities for students and collaborating with businesses to provide valuable experiences. 

By aligning recruitment with institutional mission and embracing innovative strategies, schools can foster diversity, equity, and success for all. Ultimately, effective recruitment is not just about bringing students in; it’s about setting them up for lifelong success and impact.

Watch the full episode on effective student recruitment!