By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Storytelling is one of the first topics I discuss when I lead a training workshop for an admissions staff or a group of tour guides.
Everyone has a story, and everything can be a story.
Stories persuade people and they can also help you achieve emotional engagement, which is a critical component in any decision-making process.
Young people in particular are more receptive to stories than they are to data or hard facts. It’s why just rattling off a bunch of numbers and the history of your college rarely makes an impact during a high school visit, college fair, or college information session. Those things don’t allow your prospects to empathize and visualize. Stories do.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had multiple conversations via email and on social media with admissions counselors about how to use storytelling to create stronger connections with prospective students.
Anytime you’re talking about your college and telling a story, the first thing I want you to ask yourself is who is my audience and why will they care about the story I’m telling?
Too often admissions counselors and tour guides take the blanket approach (same stories told the same way to everyone). Put simply, you have to figure out how to make it personal.
When you speak in general terms, it makes it a lot harder for your listeners to make the connection and say, “That’s someone like me who went through the same stuff I’m going through and they’re having fun and doing well…so you know what, that college could be the right fit for me too.”
This generation of students continues to make it clear that when a college representative can help them make that connection via concrete examples of recent graduates from their high school or community college, it’s extremely beneficial.
A senior assistant director whom I emailed with last week had a great example of how this strategy can work. As she was finishing up a high school visit with a group of juniors she could tell there were some students who were interested but didn’t want to be the only ones showing interest. She proceeded to ask the class how many of them knew a certain former student from their school. After half the class raised their hands, she told them how she recruited that student to her college and how great a time he was having. The end result was half the class wanting to fill out inquiry cards. The driver of their action was that connection the counselor was able to help make.
And if you happen to be speaking with a student from a school that hasn’t had someone matriculate to your college before, look for a different kind of connection. You could use someone from the same town or area that went to a neighboring school. Or if they’re a first generation student then use a current student with a similar background when you tell your story.
Again, make it your goal to give your listener a story that’s relatable, authentic, and easy to understand. When you do that, it will create an emotional connection that makes it easier for them to take that next step…whatever it may be.
P.S. I’m heading to Montana (a.k.a. Big Sky Country) later this week to lead an admissions workshop. You can follow my journey on Instagram right here. It will be my first time in that state which, fun fact, leaves only 3 states I’ve never been to in some capacity – Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Washington.