By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
Despite your reminders, there’s a good chance you’ve still got a decent number of students who have incomplete applications or missing materials.
Something’s wrong, right? Maybe, or maybe not.
For some it’s a simple case of being busy and overwhelmed. They might also be dealing with COVID situations within their family, and/or readjusting to online or hybrid learning.
Here are a few other common reasons for a student’s lack of action:
- They’re stuck on something and afraid to ask you (or someone else) for help.
- They don’t understand what the rush is, and they’re feeling like you or your school haven’t given them a good enough reason to take action or even reply back.
- They’ve started to question if your school is really a good fit for them.
- They’ve lost interest altogether and they’re avoiding telling you.
The only way to know for sure is to get their attention and encourage a response. And let me be clear, sending another reminder email or text is not the answer.
Instead, I want you to craft an email that’s short, to the point, and feels personal. There’s no need to include a bunch of fluff or all the great things about your school. You just need to give them a reason to respond and fill you in on their current situation/mindset.
Your message could be as simple and direct as, “Jeremy, I haven’t heard back from you. Is everything going okay?” Or, “Hi Jeremy, our application deadline is only two weeks away. Should I be watching for your app (or whatever materials they’re missing), or do you need help with something first? Which one is it?”
If you’re looking to give them another strong reason to reply besides a deadline that’s approaching, you could mention that as time goes on, there may not be as much financial aid, certain scholarships, or things like priority housing or first choice of classes available for them…not just at your school, but at other colleges as well.
A final strategy that also continues to work well for a lot of counselors is to tell the student that you’re assuming they aren’t interested any longer, but you wanted to make sure before you took them off your list. You might say, “Hi Jeremy, I’ve been sending you emails and texts, and I’ve even tried calling you once. I’m kind of assuming you don’t think <College Name> is a good fit and you’re not planning to finish your application (or submit whatever materials they’re missing). Have I got that right?” Or, if you’re think that distance from home (too far away or too close), or cost is what’s keeping the student from getting everything done, consider saying, “Hi Jeremy, I was talking with my Director and we’re assuming you’ve decided <College Name> is too far away from home/too close to home/too expensive. Is that right?”
Each of those examples combines short and to-the-point with something easy to respond to. There’s also the added motivation of not wanting to miss the deadline, not missing out on more financial aid, or correcting something that you’ve stated as your assumption of the truth. If it’s not true, a lot of students will likely want to jump in and correct you. If it is true, you either won’t hear back or the student will confirm that you’re right. Either way, you get an answer to your question.
Here are two other things to keep in mind:
- Your subject line is critical. How will you make it stand out? It needs to feel personal, create curiosity, ask a question, or make a bold statement. Whatever you come up with, before you hit send, ask yourself, “If I were the student and received this email I’m about to send, would I open it? And if I did, why would I care, and, what in it would make me respond?” Put yourself in their shoes. I’d even encourage you to show your email to a student worker in your office and ask for their two cents.
- Consider scheduling a text message to go out to the students who received your email about 30 minutes after you send it. Be short and to-the-point with your text – simply alert them to the email and make it clear that you’re really wanting them to reply back (or text you back) with their answer.
If you’d like to talk more about something I said, I’d love to hear from you. Simply reply or email me here.
And if you found this article helpful, forward it to someone else on your campus who could also benefit from reading it.