by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
It’s that time of year again for college admission professionals…aka crunch time.
Everybody has their list of admitted students who have yet to deposit, and if you’re like most, you’re trying to connect with those students and figure out if your school is at or near the top of their list.
Let me start there first. If you’re burning up the phone lines trying to reach these students and you’re getting the silent treatment, click this link for your answer why, as well as some ideas on what you can do to change that.
Now, let’s talk more about your conversations with those admitted, but undecided students. What really surprises me when I talk to admissions counselors is how few of them are actively looking for signs or “buying signals” from students. Instead, they’re waiting for the student to offer up a direct statement one way or the other as to where things stand. Because of that, they often miss the signals that students create, many of which are in the form of questions and statements.
I want you to be able to pick up on those signals as early as possible which is why we’re spending time on this today.
With years of research data collected on how prospects make their final decision, Dan (Tudor) and I have identified several reliable signals that are given by a student who is either extremely interested in your school or ready to deposit/commit.
Before I share that information with you, let me reiterate the importance of being an active listener in your day-to-day conversations. Listening is such an important skill for all of us. And as it relates to this topic, the better listener you become, the easier it will be to spot these “buying signals” that I’m about to share with you. Here they are:
- The parents reveal what’s going on behind the scenes. During conversations with you they share details about other colleges they’ve been talking to or anything else related to the process of making a decision on whether or not your college is the “right fit” for their child. We’ve found that in a lot of cases the parents take an overly active role at the end of their child’s decision-making process with colleges they’re seriously considering. This is yet another reason why it’s so important to establish early and consistent contact with the parents of prospective students.
- They ask questions about cost or your school’s financial aid processes. That could be direct questions about payment processes at your school or even comments wondering how they would afford the leftover cost at a school like yours. This also includes objections or subtle arguments about cost as well. Each one of those questions and comments (by students or parents) is a serious sign that they are actively trying to figure out how they can afford your institution. If your school is no longer a serious option they won’t invest the time and energy into debating with you. Again, students who aren’t seriously considering your school will rarely, if ever, bring up cost. Students trying to picture themselves at your school will always bring up cost.
- They ask about upcoming Admitted Student Day events or other opportunities to come back to campus. When they do this, this is their way of telling you that your school made the final cut. It’s an especially strong sign if they go out of their way and ask to see specific things or talk to specific people during such an event.
- They ask the same question multiple times or in multiple ways. If they ask you to repeat something that you told them earlier, or if a subject comes up a second or third time during multiple conversations with them you should strongly consider “asking for the commitment.” This is almost always a sign that they’ve been mulling over a decision that’s in your favor.
- They ask detailed questions about a specific aspect of your school. These questions are somewhat rare, so when you get one, I would recommend you accelerate the process to whatever the next step happens to be. It might be a question like, “What percentage of your undergraduate students end up doing their Masters program at your school?” Or, it could be a “How do I” question like, “How do I know what my final cost will be?” Students rarely ask positive questions like these unless they’re already picturing themselves as a student on your campus.
- They ask if you can connect them with a current student. Typically this means they’re looking for confirmation to make them feel good about a decision.
- They give you other verbal “buying signals.” Parents in particular are really good at this. During an admitted student day, campus visit, or phone conversation, listen for comments like “Wow, I didn’t know that.” Or, “Great, that’s what I thought.” Statements like those are signs that they’re engaged mentally with what you’re saying and what they’re seeing.
- They ask you what the next step is. When a person is ready to make a decision they often won’t wait for you to tell them what the next step is. They’ll just come right out and ask you something like, “So what would I do next?”
Speaking of next steps, the next step once you get one or more of these “buying signals” is to act on them right away. That action plan could include either what I’ve referred to before as a “trial close,” or if you get a really strong signal, your next step should be to ask them if they’re ready to deposit/commit. If this part of the process is something you need help with, email, call, or text me and we can set up a time to chat.
Beyond that, if you’re struggling right now with a specific subset of students, or you’re looking for ideas/strategies on a specific admissions/EM topic, go ahead and connect with me. The advice is free! I’m here to help you if you’re willing to ask me.
P.S. If you didn’t take the 1-minute survey that I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, please do that for me right now by clicking this link. Thanks so much.