By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Words matter. Words compel us to do things, and they also bore us to the point where we stop paying attention or listening. This is especially true for every prospective student that you’re trying to enroll right now…traditional undergrad or non-traditional.
Considering how hard it is to get and keep the attention of anybody these days, it’s important to know which words and phrases to avoid.
Over the past few years I’ve identified three words that a lot of admissions counselors and student callers use that provide little to no benefit for them.
They use these words to start a new email. And they use them quite often at the beginning of a phone call or when they send a text message.
The problem is, when you say these three words together, you risk slowing down the recruiting process, or worse, stopping it altogether.
Those three words are, “I was just…”
Think about it for a minute. Have you ever said, “I was just calling to see if…” or, “I was just checking in” or, “I was just making sure that…”
So what is it about “I was just” that makes it so bad in a recruiting situation? When you use that phrase, students all know what you want: You want information, or you want an update. You need to find out if the student is close to completing their application, finishing the FAFSA, picking a time to visit campus, or making a decision.
And, since you don’t want to pressure that 16 to 24 year old, you slide into the conversation by saying, “I was just…”
When you use those three words together, what you’re doing in a lot of cases is giving that student (or parent) the unintended message that they don’t need to take action right now. And, depending on the topic of the discussion, you might be telling them (believe it or not) that they aren’t all that important to your school.
“I was just” can be paralyzing because:
- It’s not the truth. You weren’t just “checking in” when you called or emailed that last student, were you? You were trying to extract some concrete information or a progress report so that you could figure out what to do next.
- It conveys weakness. There isn’t much energy behind the phrase, and that gives off the wrong impression to the student.
- It gives them permission to put you off. If you say something like, “I was just calling to see if you’ve finished your application?” They might respond, “Not yet, I’ve just been so busy with school and stuff.” And since it sounds like there’s no urgency on your part, they figure they’ve got more time, and it’s no big deal.
Instead of using that phrase I want you to use language like this:
- “The deadline for that paperwork is coming up soon <Student name> and I want to make sure that you don’t miss it because…”
- “I want your feedback on…”
- “I want you to come visit campus next month because…”
- “A lot of students tell me they’re scared and overwhelmed at this point, and I want to know if you’re feeling that way?”
Each of those phrases is strong, and they’re going to prompt action. But even more importantly, they’re going to demand a reply.
Moving forward, I encourage you to really focus on how you start out your sentences when you begin conversations with prospective students, and parents for that matter. Same thing goes if your school utilizes student callers at any stage.
This is a small thing that will produce a big ROI.
Was today’s article helpful for you? I’d love your two cents. And if it was helpful, then forward it on to a colleague that you think might benefit from it as well.