By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
The past couple of years we’re continuing to find that more high school seniors are open to the idea and adventure of going “away” from home for college.
Earlier this spring I shared data from our partner survey with Niche where we got feedback from over 7,100 high school juniors (now high school seniors).
20% said they would consider going more than 4 hours away for college, while another 44% said they cared more about fit than distance. Only 13% said they preferred to stay within an hour of home.
The reasons vary greatly, from perceived academic and job opportunities in particular parts of the country, to wanting a different type of climate, to wanting to get away from their high school classmates or family. The point is, they’re often willing to listen.
Having said all that, you and I both know that young people change their mind all the time. Something sounds good at the moment, and then it doesn’t. Plus, we know that it’s not uncommon for family members (namely parents) to pull on those heart strings in the eleventh hour and encourage the student to stay closer to home.
“Too far away” remains one of the bigger objections that admissions counselors find themselves dealing with each year.
It would be great if a student or family was completely upfront when they start to have a change of heart. But unfortunately, they rarely offer up their true feelings and tell you what’s changed.
So, here’s what I want to make sure you’re prepared to do. It’s extremely important that you intentionally ask direct questions related to this topic sooner rather than later.
Getting context and determining those feelings right away is something that the best recruiters are able to do. Here are two proven ways you can do that:
- Ask the student why they want to look at colleges far away from home. You could say, “What are you excited about most when you think about going to college in <Your school’s state/city>?” There are two things to pay close attention to. Does their answer center around a specific reason that they can verbalize (i.e. do they have a well thought out reason)? If you hear things like, “I just want to see what’s out there”, that should be a red flag which causes you to dig deeper with one or more follow-up questions. Also pay close attention to the tone of their voice or the language they use if it’s an email reply. If they sound hesitant or just not very excited, that’s usually a hint that they’re giving you the answer they think you want to hear.
- Focus on the parent(s) as soon as possible. Are they aware of their child’s desire to go farther away? How does it make them feel when they think about that? Parents remain the biggest outside influencer in a student’s college search process. You need to ask one or both of them, “Why do you want to see <Student’s First Name> go away to college?” Or, “Why do you feel that <Student’s First Name> going to college X hours away from home is going to be beneficial?” Again, pay close attention to what they say and how they say it when they respond. Like I said earlier, our research shows that when push comes to shove, mom or dad (or both) is going to play the emotion card and push for them to stay close to home.
To be clear, a negative response from the student or parent(s) doesn’t mean you give up. However, it does mean that you really need to have one or all of them define why they see your school being potentially the best fit.
The last piece of advice related to this topic I want to give you centers around storytelling. We’ve talked before about how powerful a tool it is.
Sharing stories of other students who made the decision to attend your college or university even though it was far away from home is critical. How did they feel during their college search? What got them past any fears or worries they had? How has their experience been so far, and why would they make the same decision all over again?
If you can tell stories that the student and their parent(s) can relate to, it’s more likely they’ll be willing to consider the distance. And if you can get your students or recent alums to share it firsthand, even better.
Want to talk more about something I said? Just hit reply or connect with me here.
And if you found this article helpful, forward it to someone else in your campus community who could also benefit from reading it.