by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Overcoming an objection from a prospective student can be a difficult challenge. For many admissions counselors it’s one of the most frustrating parts of the job.
Late last fall during a one-on-one consultation with a counselor, the topic of recruiting a new territory was broached. To be clear this new territory was not a bordering state, but rather a region in a different geographic area of the country.
Fast forward to this past week when I got a phone call from that same counselor. Her recruitment in the aforementioned new territory had produced more applications than expected. Great news I said! “Yes and no,” she responded. The recruitment of those out-of-state prospects had gone so smoothly that she failed to inquire about an issue that had now become a critical objection from a handful of those recruits and their parents – “distance from home.”
For many institutions, recruiting students who will have to board a plane or spend most of a day in a car to get to campus can be a tough sell. Simply put, it can end the recruiting conversation before it even begins.
In a perfect world every prospect would be honest from the start and tell you that they won’t consider attending a college that’s a long way from home. The reality is, most recruits will rarely offer-up their true feelings until late in the game, as this counselor learned.
This situation provides a valuable lesson for all counselors who recruit out-of-state, region, or even the country. Determining those feelings right away is something that all recruiters can and should attempt to accomplish by probing. By asking smart questions and being persistent, you will learn when to pursue and when to move on.
Here are two effective questions you can ask early in the process that we’ve seen work, when trying to decide if you should invest your time and your school’s resources in that long distance prospect.
- As early as possible, ask the prospect why they’re choosing to look at out-of-area colleges. Answers like, “I want to see what’s out there,” or “my parents want me to consider your school because of how much mail you’ve sent me,” should be cause for concern. If the prospect cannot verbalize a specific reason, you’ll need to probe further and attempt to discover the true meaning behind those statements. Conversely, if your long distance prospect responds by saying, “Your nursing program offers the hands-on clinical experience I’m looking for,” or “I want to go somewhere with warm weather,” those both indicate a concrete reason behind their interest in learning more about your school.
- Ask the parents why they would want to see their son/daughter go “away” to college. I want you to phrase it exactly like I worded it: “So, why do you want to see your son/daughter go away to college?” If the answer is something like, “I don’t really want him/her to go away…but it’s good to keep all the options open,” proceed with caution. Our research shows that when it comes time for a decision to be made, mom or dad (or both) is going to play the emotion card and push for them to remain close to home. I’m not telling you to throw in the towel if you hear that response, however, it does mean that you really need to have the parents define why they view your school as a smart consideration for their son or daughter. Asking this question will provide you with the information that tells you how to move forward.
Let me again reiterate that critical questions such as these should be asked sooner rather than later. Starting the conversation early on is an effective way to determine what course of action you should take with a long distance prospect that you hope to enroll.
Furthermore, I encourage you not to give up at the first sign of resistance, especially if you have an out-of-area recruit that you consider to be “high potential.” Keep the communication flow consistent, but always be listening and looking for those hidden clues. Prospects have been known to change their mind as the recruiting process moves forward. Their top local college may not come through with a strong enough financial aid package, or over time your story may be more compelling and create those all-important feelings.
Want to talk to the national experts about how to recruit specific prospects? Become a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies. You’ll get access to a group of experts who can advise you on how to approach specific recruiting situations you’re facing, and a team of off-site staff members that can create recruiting messages that work and help shoulder the load of all aspects of your recruiting duties. Contact Jeremy today for all the details.