John Schnatter’s first job in high school was at a pizza place named Rocky’s. He started as a dishwasher and worked his way up to making pizzas. He quickly noticed there was something smaller pizza joints could provide that seemed to be missing from national chains – a quality pizza delivered with excellent service right to the customer’s door.
After graduating from college, John returned home to learn that his father’s business, a local lounge called “Mick’s,” was struggling. To save his dad’s small Indiana tavern he knocked down the broom closet, bought $1600 in used restaurant equipment, installed an oven and started selling pizzas out of the back of the restaurant. Papa John’s pizza was born! Despite facing tough competition from national chains such as Pizza Hut and Domino’s, “Papa John” moved his vision forward and when 2013 revenues were released earlier this year, the company announced a cool $1.4 billion.
How does this relate to College Admissions recruiting? Simply put, big name colleges find it easier to get the attention of a prospective student in the early stages. There are a handful of big name institutions that instantly command the attention of most. If your college isn’t one of those big name schools, this article is for you.
As an Admissions staff, I’m sure you’re well aware of the benefits and challenges that your school faces when it comes to convincing teenagers to join the student body. And sometimes, it’s hard to get the attention of a student that’s sought after by some schools with big names. You have two choices: Give up, or compete.
If you’re someone who wants to compete, we’re going to give you a few key points of emphasis as you develop a strategy for going after those recruits that aren’t excited about your college.
Based on years of research, Tudor Collegiate Strategies founder, author and speaker Dan Tudor has three primary points that he recommends the “smaller name schools” need to do.
- First and foremost, you’d better be consistent. I realize that for some of you who are clients or have had us on-campus for a workshop, this advice is something you’ve heard before. But let me underscore the importance of a consistent message when you are competing with a big name rival: We find in tracking the interest levels of recruits being contacted by a variety of programs – large and small, big-name and not so big-name – if a smaller, lesser known program is more consistent than their bigger rivals, that program has an excellent chance of competing for, and winning, that recruit. Consistency proves that you are serious about them in the most tangible way possible, through regular emails and written letters (really, really important in proving that you’re interested in them). Even if they don’t read your materials right from the start, they’re noticing that you are contacting them regularly. And over time, that will make a difference in how they view you.
- Act like a big dog. This one is tough for a lot of people at smaller or lesser-known schools, mainly because it involves a little bit of acting. One of the things that most prospects are looking for from a smaller, lesser-known college is confidence. If you aren’t confident on the question of why they should take you as seriously as a big name school they’re looking at, we find that this generation of recruits will sense that weakness and almost immediately relegate you to second tier status. However, if you jump in and confidently and somewhat aggressively lay out the reasons they should pay attention to you, and develop a plan of action for them to follow as the recruiting process starts, you should be pleasantly surprised at the results.
- Explain why being the smaller name is the smarter choice. One of the critical elements that you will need to address as a college recruiter is explaining to your recruit why you, as the smaller, lesser known college or program, are going to be the smarter choice for them. That line of reasoning could be based on anything that would make sense to build a case around at your college: The academic reputation at your school, the smaller class sizes and individual attention…whatever makes the most sense for you to stress to your recruit. The point is, it needs to be something. Your prospect, who is considering a bigger name school and has probably already assigned their “story” to that competing school, needs a logical reason about why they should keep you in the game. Fail to give that to them, and watch how hard it is to get their attention later in the process.
One more thing to add to the to-do list is – Start early. Smaller, lesser-known colleges should make a point of targeting prospects as early as possible for two reasons. First, recruiting is happening earlier and earlier, so you don’t want to be late to the game. And second, you’ll get the chance to define yourself before some of your larger competitors begin the process. In both instances, we’ve seen that approach work for the clients that we serve.
If you are finding yourself going head-to-head with some bigger name schools, this game plan can help.
Want to bring our team of experts alongside you and your team to help you achieve the recruiting results that you need this year? Email Director of Admissions Services, Jeremy Tiers, at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask him to explain the Admissions Recruiting Advantage and how it can work for your department. It might be the difference maker as you prepare to win this next class of recruits!