by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
It’s October and that means high school fall break weeks are fast approaching.
From seniors who are getting a late start to juniors who want to stay on track because of changes to the FAFSA timeline, many of your prospects are trying to decide right now which college visits to pencil in. Is your school going to be one of the lucky few?
I say few because the ongoing focus group research we do with colleges and universities (big, small, public and private) nationwide continues to produce the same results. Over the past year, 65.2% of freshmen students have told us that during the college search process they only visited between 1 and 3 schools.
Now you might be thinking something like, “Jeremy, we’ve consistently sent personalized communications, I’ve been to their school and I’ve talked to them on the phone. Why wouldn’t they want to come and visit?”
Even though a campus visit would seem to be the next logical step in the process for those prospects, I’m here to tell you that in many cases it’s far from a sure thing. Being consistent with your messaging, building the relationship over time, and inviting them to a campus visit event won’t always be enough to persuade prospects and their families to take time out of their busy schedules and invest a day at your institution.
We continue to find that many of your prospects want and need to understand why you want them to become a part of your campus community and how your school will help them “fit in” so easily. Statements about a school being the “right fit” for a student get thrown around all the time. If you haven’t had detailed discussions yet about these subjects with your prospects, it’s going to be a lot harder for them to justify why they should spend their time and money traveling to your campus instead of the competition.
Now, on to that important campus visit question that you need to answer – Have you given your prospects a reason to visit your campus? Other than you being interested in them and having a campus that you think is awesome and they’d be crazy not to want to visit, what have you really given them?
Again, your prospects will rarely visit a campus without a good reason that is solidified in their mind – either one that they came up with on their own or a picture that you and your school have painted for them over a period of time.
If you’re in agreement with me, here’s another question you might need to ask yourself along with one vital point I want you to remember as you make efforts to get this next group of prospects to visit campus.
Next question – Have you laid the foundation for the visit? As I touched on earlier, consistent messaging that tells stories, gets them to visualize, and creates anticipation is extremely helpful. The same can be said for building trust and cultivating the recruiting relationship over time. From the scenarios we’ve tracked involving clients that we’re helping to deal with this situation, asking for a visit to soon in the college search process is something that isn’t recommended. You have to be patient, let that recruiting relationship build, and then ask. Otherwise you run the risk of that conversation being unnerving and overwhelming for your prospect. You need to give them glimpses of what different parts of your campus and the surrounding areas are like. Those are some of the key elements our research has uncovered as to what triggers that anticipation in the minds of your prospects when it comes to committing to a campus visit. And in case you’re wondering, getting to that point doesn’t have to take months if you’re doing it the way that we’ve discussed before.
Vital point to remember – You need to have a “because.” A big motivating factor in many prospect’s decision to visit campus was the idea that there was something important to talk about, or they were going to experience something big and unique during their visit. I want you to really focus on the idea of selling a personalized experience where both they and their parents will have the opportunity to sit down face to face with people that can help walk them through why your school is the “right fit” and how coming there will help prepare them for the next phase of their life. Bottom line – What your prospects need is what we all need to prompt action from time to time: A “because”. Do you consistently have one?
When the visit date finally arrives, make sure you and your admissions team avoid making any of the common mistakes that many colleges fall victim to during the all-important campus visit.
Last thing: If you’re struggling to consistently get prospects on your campus and you want more even more help, all you have to do is ask. Email me and I’ll send you an important question to ask your prospects.