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Creating a Better Student Experience

To enable the next wave of growth, Shorelight and Cantina developed a strategy to expand opportunities for student engagement and conversion.

Graduation hats thrown into the air

The Challenge

Shorelight helps ambitious international students study at top US universities. Since its founding in 2013, Shorelight relied on a differentiated student experience—one that supports students from application to graduation— along with agency partnerships throughout the world to drive impressive company growth.

Yet, continued hyper-growth was not assured. Shorelight collaborated with Cantina to look both inside and outside the organization to scale student and agency partner engagement and increase revenue.

Cantina was amazing to work with, and their findings and recommendations are already having an impact on Shorelight at the highest levels; we are actively changing our corporate strategy based on their work.

Journey map mockup.
Student Experience Map.

Research & Insights

The Shape of the Organization

Students do not shop for education every day. It can be a confusing, complex process for domestic students, let alone for international students. And the challenge goes beyond the functional. Education is one of the largest purchases people make in life. The decision is both rational and emotional, so it has to feel right.

We learned that Shorelight had expanded with such speed that its internal processes and workflows hadn’t kept pace with its otherwise well-defined experience strategy. There were too many hard hand-offs between teams and no common experience metrics. In effect, internal structures were unintentionally exposed to students in the communication and interactions they received. The shape of the organization was an impediment to Shorelight’s student engagement and growth strategy.

Journey map mockup.
Student Experience Map.


Organize for Engagement

We recommended improvements in four key areas to drive growth:

Student Engagement

Use student journey management to attract and engage students with extended consideration periods to enlarge the pool of potential customers. Design key engagement points, such as an online to offline webinar, to speed student choice. Shape the organization to deliver the content and experiences needed to sustain the desired student journey.

Experience Metrics

Look beyond conversion metrics to measure experience across the student journey. Hold teams accountable to shared experience metrics to ensure students are not just functionally managed, but actively engaged and nurtured.

Fragmented Silos

Designate a concierge to act as a buffer between functional silos and the student to ensure delivery of a cohesive student experience across the entire journey. Adopt a case management model to coordinate workflows across silos.

Agency Partners

Recognize that agency partners also rely on student engagement to succeed. Leverage student engagement content and strategies to help agencies thrive, thereby growing the number of committed agency partners.



A Powerful Experience Strategy

Cantina’s recommendations have found their way fully into Shorelight’s student engagement strategy and practices. Despite a challenging international student recruitment environment, Shorelight continues to build on this work and innovate ways to engage international students and agency partners.

Specifically, three projects directly flowed from Cantina recommendations:

Journey Management: Concierge

Shorelight is transitioning from a siloed direct-to-student and agency partner enrollment service to a full end-to-end concierge service. By merging several teams into a single organization, including Inside Sales and Admissions & Enrollment Services, Shorelight is poised to deliver a cohesive student experience from application through enrollment.

Engagement Design: Offline to Online Webinars

Shorelight has tested offline to online webinars at two stages of the customer journey—research/select and pre-arrival—to increase student engagement. Based on these tests, Shorelight is looking to expand and develop offline to online webinars as an enterprise service.

Self-Service & Productivity: Agent Experience

Shorelight is developing a more robust channel engagement strategy focused on the agent experience. The goal is to drive productivity by enabling digital self-service for agents. Shorelight has revised and merged the Partner Hubsite and Partner Portal and has introduced a Rewards and Training program.


If you are interested in learning more about this engagement or how Cantina can help you with a project contact us today. We'd love to help.

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