by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Last week I was fortunate to have the opportunity to present at the Indiana Association for College Admission Counseling congress event. Afterwards, I had multiple admissions counselors come up to me and express their concerns about “doing enough” late in the process with this next class of recruits. It’s an important topic and one that I briefly touched on in an article a few weeks back.
Today I want to expand on that. The job of recruiting high-level students doesn’t just involve “selling” your school. A huge chunk of it, especially down the stretch, revolves around being the counselor that can get them to communicate with you more than they do with your competition. If you can do that, you’ll get rid of that degree of mystery that surrounds the later stages of the college recruitment process. It’s achievable, but it requires you to ask effective questions.
So, here are some fresh questions and ideas on topics that we’ve seen work in the difficult quest to get information from your recruits, specifically your admitted ones.
Some of these may yield very little, or they could produce vital information that will tell you how to close them at the end of their decision making process.
- Who are you leaning on to help you make a final decision? I see many counselors ask a version of this question during the early stages of the recruitment process which is great. Here’s the thing, though. We hear stories all the time of students being influenced both more and less by those same individuals down the stretch. That’s why I want you to ask it again right now because in some cases things have changed. Once your recruits tell you, ask yourself how well you’ve recruited those other individuals. If the answer is “not that well,” or “I’m not sure,” you know what you need to do later tonight.
- What are they telling you? This is a great follow-up question to the first one because if your recruit answers this, you’ll know exactly where you stand with them.
- Can you see yourself living here on campus? If they can’t verbalize that with some kind of specificity and clarity, it means they haven’t been picturing it in their mind which unfortunately is a bad sign.
- What are you and your parents talking about at home when it comes the idea of being a student here? I think we can all agree that in most cases, as the parent’s opinion of you and your institution goes as we enter the final days of their decision making process, so go your chances of them depositing to your school.
- If you were going to tell me “no” at the end of the process, what do you see being the #1 reason you’d end up doing that? I want you to get them to play “what if” with you. Science tells us their answers are almost always based in reality. If they’re going to tell you “yes” or “no,” you’ll most likely get a hint of that using hypothetical situations. We’ve also heard from counselors who ask this question that it revealed a last minute objection that they thought they’d already overcome.
- Why did we end up being one of the colleges that made your final list? It is always a good idea to get them to verbalize what they liked about your school in the first place as we enter the home stretch.
- Do you plan visit any other college campuses? Maybe they’re done visiting campuses, and maybe they’re not. If they aren’t, you need to know why. Our research finds that too often schools slow down their communications after the student is admitted. Meanwhile, the competition, some of who may have entered the conversation later on, continues to consistently tell their school’s story and create those all-important feelings that today’s student uses to make their decision.
- When do you see us being able to talk again about all this? If their answer is sometime in the next couple of weeks, that’s a good sign. If they tell you they’re not sure, but they’ll “keep in touch”, that’s a red flag. I’m not saying that the student won’t be picking your school, but would you tell your high school prom date that you’ll “keep in touch” before the big night? Probably not.
- What do you want to see us talk about next? Hopefully they give you a new topic that is central to their decision making process that they haven’t brought-up before. Again, the goal during this time of the year is to keep them talking. Your recruits need to feel free to communicate new questions or ideas to you. If you haven’t cultivated trust with them, this question probably won’t yield very much information.
- Are you feeling like you’re ready to commit to our school? If you’ve been through our 2-day On-Campus Workshop experience, you know how important it is to “ask for the sale.” I’m willing to bet that right now each of you has some admitted students that are ready to deposit…if you just ask them. Even if they aren’t ready, that’s okay. But you’ll never know unless you ask. It’s important to keep the process moving forward, and this is the best question you can ask in order to make them feel wanted.
Let me reiterate that down the stretch you need to be the counselor that can get recruits to communicate with you more than they do with your competition. It’s hard to do that if you don’t ask the right questions.
Try these questions out, and then email me and tell me how they work for you!