by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
When an admissions department brings us to campus to lead one of our training workshops, part of what we do is conduct extensive focus group research with their student body. The questions we ask produce honest, valuable feedback on a number of different parts of the recruitment process. In a nutshell, the institution we’re working with discovers how this generation of student wants to be recruited.
In addition to our focus group research with colleges and universities nationwide, I regularly interact with prospective students at college fairs, local high school sporting events, restaurants, and yes, even airports when I travel.
My goal is always the same: I want to hear what your “typical recruit” wants from you as they’re being recruited.
Today, in no particular order, I’m going to pass along to you the 20 most popular things that thousands of teenagers have told us over the past year as it relates to the college recruitment process. I encourage you to use some or all of this information to help you communicate more effectively with this current class of prospects.
- Your prospects still don’t think many schools do a good enough job of explaining why they’re the “right fit” for them. Most of the stuff schools send is really general and doesn’t spell out why that particular student should want to spend the next four years as a member of their student body.
- The average number of colleges/universities that prospects “seriously consider” is three.
- If possible, sneak on the back of one of your admissions tours to see if the tour guide actually connects with the students and shares his or her personal experiences. If your school tells its tour guides to avoid these types of discussions, just understand that you’re taking away the opportunity to answer a want/need that your prospect has.
- The “preferred method” for admissions counselors to contact prospects is email (almost 70%). Having said that, there is no substitute for the impact that a handwritten letter, hand addressed envelope, or both makes on your prospects.
- Corny messages stick with prospects the most. Remember, all good things in moderation.
- Making fun of yourself and your school from time to time is actually a good thing.
- When marketing your institution, statements from the president or a dean do not have as much value as those from an actual student or alum.
- If you’re not sending prospects a consistent track of messaging every 6 to 9 days, many of them believe that means they don’t matter as much to you.
- Even though your prospects are okay with cell phone texts and direct messages on social media, they still expect you to ask what they’re comfortable with first, and they would prefer you limit your content to “reminders.” The, “Hey how’s it going,” texts get really old, really fast.
- Stop using pictures from last year or five years ago in your brochures, letters, emails and on social media. Also, not everyone smiles all the time. Try to use real, unstaged images wherever possible.
- 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.
- If you’re going to talk about pop culture, make sure you know what you’re talking about.
- During the college search process, “thinking/talking about paying for college” is significantly more stressful on your prospects than filling out applications or waiting for decision letters. Over 70% said it was the most stressful thing they dealt with.
- 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 “more affordable than other schools.”
- The least important factors were consistently “history of the school,” “sitting in on a class,” and “what my high school counselors and teachers thought of the school.”
- When asked if the campus visit helped move the school that the prospect ultimately chose up on their list of college choices, here are a few quotes that contain common themes:
“Yes. Seeing the beautiful environment and seeing the close knit community up close made me feel like I could fit in and enjoy my time going to college here.”
“Yes, within half the visit I knew this was the school for me. Everyone was very welcoming and the visit was organized very well providing me with the information that I wanted.”
“Yes! I stepped foot on campus and turned to my mother and said I am coming here. There was a lot of information during the visit but it was presented to me from the eyes of a student.”
- When asked what admissions counselors need to understand about the way this generation of students wants to be recruited, here are a few quotes that contain common themes:
“I don’t think they should assume we know all of the college-level terms they use when describing the way college works.”
“Personally I absolutely hated getting endless calls and letters. And when they did call, they talked endlessly about their particular school. I understand the recruitment process, but at some points, that is exactly what drew me away from a school.”
“Be different. Be the package in the mail that a student gets excited about.”
“Students want to be wanted, to be understood individually and feel that the college thinks they would be a contribution to campus.”
- You can’t fake authenticity.
- Always tell your prospects what to do next. Schools have too much generalized contact and not enough direction. Your prospects want you to outline a plan and keep them updated on what’s coming next.
- It’s not about your wants and your needs as a counselor. It’s about their wants and their needs from start to finish.
Hopefully these 20 things can give you some additional direction during this recruiting cycle.
Are there one or two areas in your approach that need some tweaking and adjusting? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org OR stop by booth 114 this week at NACAC and we’ll discuss what we can do to fix the mistakes that might be hurting you or your admissions’ team in their recruiting efforts.