by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Remember the easy button? You know, that big red button that Staples used to feature in their television commercials. All you had to do was press it and your frustrating situation became simpler. Imagine if your admissions office had one that you could press right now and instantly figure out where your school stands in the minds of your prospects.
Okay back to reality. We all know there’s no easy button for college admissions. Trying to decode the mind of a teenager is a formidable challenge. Unfortunately that’s the reality for admissions teams across America. You’ve been working hard trying to convince your senior prospects that your school is the “right fit.” Phone calls, hand-written letters, emails and maybe even a visit to their high school. You’ve done it all. Let me ask you then, “Is it a done deal?” I’m guessing that many of you just paused for a second before answering. Don’t worry you’re not alone.
One of the biggest parts of a recruiter’s job is to ask questions of prospective students and their parents. The better the questions, the greater the chance you have of connecting with that prospect. There’s a problem though, even for many veteran counselors. You hold yourself back from asking the right questions at the right time because you’re worried about being too pushy. I’m going to encourage you to change that mindset. It’s been proven time and time again as we’ve worked with colleges around the country, that asking great questions will result in prospects opening up and revealing their wishes and fears to you. You will then be able to connect their desires with what your school can offer.
Let’s discuss a few ideas that might be suitable for your admissions team to employ during the latter stages of the recruitment process. Doing these will help reveal what your prospects are thinking.
- If you think they might be concealing an objection, it’s time to do more probing. Try asking questions like, “Do you and your parents agree on which college you should attend?” Or, “Sometimes prospects that I talk to have a question about (objection). Is that something that’s on your mind?” If you’ve been transparent and honest up to this point you’ve likely gained their trust. Getting them to reveal that critical objection allows you to address it and continue to move the process forward.
- Test out their willingness to engage with you by doing what we refer to as “trial close” offers. For example, are they willing to tell you that when admitted they plan to immediately send in a housing deposit? Getting an affirmative answer is a good sign that more than likely they will eventually act on that statement. Make sure you conduct small “tests” such as this first before you ask for the big commitment.
- Utilize mom and dad. I cannot overemphasize just how big a role your prospects’ parents will play in their child’s decision-making process. Our research continues to confirm it. If you still haven’t accepted that fact than your competition already has a leg up on you. For those of you who have cultivated that relationship through separate messaging and communications, next time you have a scheduled call with mom or dad probe them for additional information. Parents will generally tell you more when their child isn’t around.
- Make your commitment to them clear. It’s both simple and obvious, yet many counselors neglect to do it. Your prospect has probably applied to six or seven different colleges and needs ways to differentiate between them. Reminding him or her through consistent messaging will reiterate how much of a priority they remain to you and your institution. This is something they want, need and will thank you for. Inconsistency on the other hand, particularly with your letters and emails, is likely to cause a recruit to question your school’s interest, as well as slow down their communication with you at a critical juncture in the process.
Gathering information via effective questioning will allow you to understand how your recruit’s feelings and emotions will play into their final decision. When handled with precision, these are the types of conversations that remind prospects you’re trying to understand them as a person. They also reveal any late game changes that you may need to incorporate into your recruiting game plan.
Do you get the feeling that your recruiting should be doing better at this point in the year? Our team of experts can help. We work with large and small colleges around the country, and are helping them produce some of their best recruiting classes ever. Our systematic, research-based approach works. Want more information? Email Jeremy Tiers directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for a complete overview of our Admissions Recruiting Advantage program.