by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
When an admissions department brings us to campus to lead one of our popular training workshops, part of what we do is conduct extensive focus group research with their student body, specifically their freshmen. The questions we ask produce honest, valuable feedback on a number of different parts of the student recruitment process. Students have no problem singling out a specific counselor on a job well done, nor do they mince words about specific things their school’s admissions team needs to improve/change.
Throughout the workshop I reference the survey results and compare them to what students at other colleges and universities nationwide tell us.
In a nutshell, the college or university we’re working with discovers how this generation of student wants to be recruited and what matters to them most/least when it comes time to make that BIG decision.
Along with that focus group research, I regularly interact with teenagers and those in their early 20’s at college fairs, community events, restaurants, the mall, and yes, even in airports when I travel.
My goal is always the same: I want to hear what your “typical recruit” wants from you during the college search/transfer process…because then I can share this with you (if you’re a client of ours, or if you reach out to me and ask) and you can use that information to become a more efficient, more confident recruiter.
In honor of today being September 13th, I’m going to give you 13 things/themes that thousands of students have told us over the past year as it relates to the college recruitment process. I encourage you to share this information with your fellow counselors and others on your campus:
- The majority of prospects still only “seriously consider” two or three colleges.
- Most colleges and universities have gaps in their communication plans and students notice. They want more consistent communication specifically between the time they deposit/commit to when they arrive on campus. I would add that conversation should shift from why they should want to pick your school to why they’ve made such a great decision and what they should expect to see when they arrive on campus.
- Too many schools exaggerate or “lie” (yes students believe colleges “lie”) when they initially discuss things like cost and the overall “student experience” on their campus.
- “More texting, less phone calls.” When asked if they agree or disagree with this statement when it comes to college admissions counselors communicating with prospective students, here are some quotes that contain common themes:
“I think that texting can be useful for students when they are busy. Most seniors in high school are trying to figure out college apps, trying to finish schoolwork, and most likely running around to all the other things they do. Texts can be a much easier way to quickly get a message across. However, I think texting only goes so far. It’s great for scheduling phone calls and such, but having conversations about the school and whatever should be done on the phone. The conversation will flow easier and the prospective student will be able to ask questions as they come to mind.”
“I think phone calls are more important because it is much easier to ask questions however, I think if asked we would say text more often because this way we do not have to respond or feel dumb. Most of us are afraid of the phone call but it does force more communication something that is important in this process even if we do not know we need it.”
“Depends on what the student is comfortable with. Some kids HATE talking on the phone and are much more comfortable talking over text. However, sometimes it can be unclear and it is definitely not as personal. I think it depends entirely on the student.”
“Disagree. Phone calls show u are willing to take time for me as a student and not shoot me an automated txt.”
“I disagree with this statement — phone calls seem more personable, and you can understand the tone of the other person’s voice, rather than just guessing VIA text message. Plus, text messages seem so informal.”
“No, because it is hard to communicate certain things by text message. Things may get lost in translation and you have to wait periods of time before getting a response.”
- When given the choices of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, students consistently told us that the best social media platform for admissions counselors to use if they want to connect with this next class of prospects is Facebook.
- Be up on pop culture, but if you don’t know about people like DJ Khaled, don’t pretend to.
- Out of a list of fifteen, the top two factors that were “very important” in terms of how they influenced a student to choose that school over other colleges were the “feel” of the campus,” and “perception of the college as a whole”. The “feel” of the campus was also number one a year ago. “More affordable than some other schools”, which was number two a year ago, has dropped down the list to number five.
- During campus walking tours, colleges still spend way too much time talking about the history of the school and various buildings. In that same list of fifteen factors that students use to make a final decision “the history of the school” ranks second to last.
- Overall colleges are doing a better job of explaining the financial aid process…BUT only 51.7% of students believe colleges are doing an “awesome” job of it. Instead it’s “okay”, “poor” or “very poor”. Would your school’s President be happy with 51.7%?
- Colleges don’t utilize their current students nearly enough during the student recruitment process. Your prospects would love to connect more with them on an individual basis versus you communicating something they said secondhand.
- Personal, handwritten notes make a huge positive impression on your prospects…who value the time you commit to doing so versus posting on social media or sending an email. And if you’re wondering when a good time is for such a note, how about right after you talk to them on the phone for the first time or in the first couple of days after the campus visit.
- If your school doesn’t communicate with parents consistently throughout the recruitment process (especially during on-campus events), you’re making it twice as hard to get that prospect to deposit to your school. Not impossible, just much harder.
- It’s not about your wants and your needs as a counselor. It’s about their wants and their needs from start to finish.
How can I help you grow and win? Seriously, I want to know. Email me and tell me please.