This is an opportunity for readers of this newsletter to anonymously ask me a question about any aspect of student recruitment, leadership, and professional or personal development. Each week I’ll post my answer for everyone to read.
Q. An Assistant Director of Admissions asks:
“Our office is working to build our prospect pool. We’ve purchased about 12,000 names from ACT/SAT and we’re working on a campaign to turn them from cold “suspects” to interested prospects. How do you suggest we cut through the noise to get a cold contact (who may have never heard of us) to notice our school?”
A. Thank you for your question! The first and most important thing that you have to figure out is how you’re going to get the attention of these 12,000 students. That sounds easy enough, but I think you know it’s not. Just sending out your standard intro letter or email with a viewbook that encourages them to go to your website or visit campus isn’t going to produce the results that I think you’re looking for.
If you really want to cut through the noise, you’re going to have to be different. I’m assuming that these new names are for students who will be high school seniors this fall. If that’s not the case then send me another email here because I would advise you a little differently on how to initially get the attention of juniors, sophomores, and freshmen.
The first thing I would recommend you create and send to get their attention is something Dan (Tudor) and I call a “First Contact Letter.” If you consistently read my articles you know why I’m telling you to send a letter first versus sending an email or making a phone call. Bottom line, a letter is what I call a safe interaction, and it’s tangible. Both of these things are important when you’re trying to get the attention of a scared and nervous teenager who knows little to nothing about your school.
In terms of the content of that letter, I would tell you to take the same approach that we have every single client of ours use. Have the letter come from an admissions counselor and not your Director or VPEM. Students tell us that’s much more believable when you’re trying to create a personalized piece of content. In terms of the body of your letter, start by having the admission counselors introduce themselves in a more conversational and relaxed tone. Then have them talk about why they’re reaching out and how they can help the student/family navigate the college search process. Then include two or three bullet points that highlight things that make your school unique. From there, end your letter with a different call to action than every other school does. Have the counselor ask the student a single question. Make it something different, but important, that shows the student that the counselor is making this about them and trying to help. Encourage the student to reply with their answer to the counselor via email.
This approach will help you get the ball rolling with many of these cold “suspects.” I do however want to make it clear that this letter is only the beginning. Getting their attention, no matter how you do it, is step one. Step two is figuring out how you’re going to keep their attention and eventually get them to do things like visit campus and apply.