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 Admissions Counselor asks:
“I work at a small, private college and we don’t have the name recognition of the bigger schools around us. What advice can you give me about how we can differentiate ourselves?”
A. Thank you for your question! The first thing I would recommend you do is start developing your recruiting relationship as early as possible, especially when you’re working with underclassmen.
Smaller, lesser-known colleges should always make a point of targeting prospects as early as possible, namely because you’ll get the chance to define your school before some of your larger competitors begin their recruitment process.
Here are three other strategies that we’ve seen work for our small college clients:
- Consistency is a must. I cannot underscore enough the importance of a consistent message throughout the entire recruitment process when you’re competing with bigger name competitors. Sending regular emails and letters that are personalized prove that you are serious about them in the most tangible way possible. Over time that will make a difference in how they view your school.
- Display confidence. One of the things that most prospects are looking for from a smaller, lesser-known college is confidence. For example, can you clearly explain (and then continue to reiterate) why they should consider paying more to be a student at your school if the price difference is significant? If you aren’t confident about a topic such as cost, prospects and their parents have told us your school immediately moves down the list or in some cases off completely. However, if you confidently and somewhat aggressively lay out the reasons they should pay attention to you and your school, and then develop a plan of action for them to follow as the recruiting process begins to ramp up, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.
- Explain why being the smaller name is the smarter choice. One of the critical elements that you will need to address as an admissions counselor is explaining why you, as the smaller, lesser-known college, is going to be the smarter choice for them. That line of reasoning could be based on any number of things and involves asking the right kinds of effective questions. For example, you might ask their thoughts about being in classes taught by TAs, waiting in longer lines to eat, and having to walk longer distances between classes. The point is it needs to be something. Your prospect needs a logical reason about why they should keep you under consideration. Fail to give that to them and it’s going to be much harder to get their attention later in the process.