by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
What’s your answer to that question?
I’m asking because what you do during the next month or two will in large part determine whether or not many of your undecided admits select your school.
If you’re wondering if “caring” more than your competition can actually impact a student’s final decision, look no further than our ongoing focus group research on college campuses nationwide. Students continue to consistently tell us that how the admissions staff treats them throughout the college search process influences their decision more than factors like affordability, location, and the prestige of the name of the school.
“I loved how my admissions counselor (counselor’s name) made a point to communicate with me and get to know me personally. It really feels like he cares about me and my concerns. And I feel like he made a point to not only know me, but also remember me from the first time he met me.”
I see quotes like that one all the time from students when we administer our recruiting survey as a part of our on-campus workshop with a college/university.
Your teenage prospects and their parents are trying to figure out if, and how much, you care. And it’s not that different for the growing population of transfer students. They’ve been through the process once before, and in most cases, they’re now paying extra close attention to your customer service.
Best selling author and business marketing guru Seth Godin makes the same point when it comes to what we look for as adults:
“We’re hyper alert to the appearance of caring. We want to do business with people who appear to care, who appear to bring care and passion and dedication to their work. If the work expresses caring, if you consistently and professionally deliver on that expression, we’re sold.
The truth is that it’s what we perceive that matters, not what you bring to the table. If you care but your work doesn’t show it, you’ve failed. If you care so much that you’re unable to bring quality, efficiency and discernment to your work, we’ll walk away from it.”
So, how can you show your admits, or any other prospects in your pool, that you care more than the competition? Here are five basic strategies that have consistently worked for our clients:
- Stay consistent and keep them updated. A lot of admissions counselors make the mistake of not communicating regularly with their admits during this nerve-racking time of year. I’ve had counselors tell me that they can’t think of anything new to talk to the student about, or they don’t have anything of substance to say to the student until the financial aid package is completed. That’s fine, but you need to consistently give them an update on what’s going on. Even if your latest update goes something like, “nothing new to report, but I’m calling over to the financial aid office every day and I’ll keep you updated.” I can’t stress this key point enough. When your admits (and their parents) see ongoing, regular contact from you, they make the judgment that your school has a greater interest in them and values them more.
- Give them examples of how you’re working behind the scenes to help get them the best possible financial aid package. The more that you can use this time to demonstrate how you and everyone else at your school are doing some heavy-lifting behind the scenes for that student goes a long way towards getting them to perceive that you care more. Remember, what we perceive is even more important than what we’re doing in many instances (actually caring and working hard behind the scenes is important too, of course!)
- Ask them what objections or questions they need answered. Just because you’ve been consistently communicating back-and-forth with your admits doesn’t mean they’re close to saying “yes”. Take this time to ask them these two questions: “Can you give me one or two big questions about our school that you’re still trying to figure out?” and “What do you see as the next step in this process?” Those two questions might just open up a new conversation and even reveal an objection or question that they’re struggling with.
- Connect them with your current students. “Your students made me feel like they wanted me more than all of the other colleges combined” and “The more I talked to students the more it became clear that everybody is just one big community that looks out for each other.” Those two quotes hammer home a theme that I see often when we ask students what the deciding factor was that led them to pick their current college. Your current students, specifically your freshmen, just went through the same tough choices and dealt with the same sorts of feelings that many of your undecided students are dealing with right now. You need to create opportunities to help them understand how they will “fit in” on your campus.
- Use this time to get to know the parents (if you haven’t already). Yep, here I go again. Parents, parents, parents. All this month I continue to hear from, and have talked to, admissions counselors who tell me that they have admitted students whose parents they have yet to connect with. You cannot and should not expect a student to commit to your school if you haven’t spoken with their parents at least once…and honestly it needs to be multiple conversations. Not sure what to ask them? Click this link and email me right now. I will help you. Spending time with the parents is critical to setting yourself apart from other counselors who don’t have a deep relationship with family members.
If you have any questions about this article or the strategies that I’ve recommended, I’m happy to have a discussion with you. The next step is to send me an email.
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