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. I will pick one question to answer each week and post my response in the following week’s newsletter for everyone to read.
Q. An Assistant Director of Admissions asks:
“Are telephone calls/calling campaigns still worth the effort? Many students in this generation do not pick up the phone. Are call nights still worth it? Should admissions staff still follow this traditional recruitment strategy?”
A. Thank you for your question! The short answer is yes. I believe phone calls are absolutely still worth the effort, and I think they can deliver a big ROI.
In the ongoing research we do with students, the overwhelming majority still consistently tell us that they want colleges to contact them on the phone once per month during the recruitment process. Last year we even went so far as to start asking students what they thought about “more texting, less phone calls.” Here are some direct quotes that hit on common themes:
“Phone calls are better, it’s more personalized and makes you feel wanted.”
“Phone calls are more authentic and it’s easier to ask questions when you can actually talk to someone.”
“When I was able to literally talk to a counselor I felt more comfortable and I was able to grasp the intonation and expression of the counselor. If I only communicated with them in text it would feel like I was just a number in a copy-pasted text, like the “insert name” mail I receive from other colleges.”
“Phone calls seem more personable, and you can understand the tone of the other person’s voice, rather than just guessing or not being sure about what a text message actually means.”
As far as why students don’t answer their phone, they tell us they’re nervous, they don’t know you, they don’t recognize the number, and they don’t want to commit the time to a call where you do most of the talking and just blast out information about your school.
Making a phone call should not be your first point of contact with a student for all of the reasons I just mentioned. You have to build to that point in the natural communication flow. Once you start to cultivate your recruiting relationship and build trust with a student through letters and email, then I would tell you to add in phone calls. And if you want to increase your chances of reaching a student, you should always set up the call with the student and make it clear to them why you’ll be calling and how you’re going to help them.
Whether it’s you calling or you’re having a student make that phone call, if you want them to answer and you want it to be a productive conversation, you need to build up value first and demonstrate to the student why answering will not be a waste of their time. Without doing that, it’s going to be hit or miss.
Phone calls done the right way build trust and can lead the student to feeling more connected with you and your school. It’s those relationships and emotional connections that help students make a final decision.