By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
“Apps are up” is something I’m hearing a lot this fall as I talk with college admission leaders. Our conversation then quickly turns to how their staff will manage a busier than usual application load.
When a student applies to your school they’re demonstrating a level of interest. They’re also giving you what I referred to in a recent article as a “little yes.” Accumulating those “little yeses” each time you communicate with a prospective student or parent is important because it will make asking for the big yes down the road (their commitment/deposit to your school) much easier and less stressful because they’ve already given you a bunch of agreements along the way.
While positive interactions are valuable and important, negative feedback can also be extremely helpful. That may sound a little confusing but stick with me here because this is a strategy that will help you keep things moving forward with a lot of your students who have applied.
It’s been proven that young people are driven by fear. And that means in many cases they continue to have very little apprehension when it comes to not exactly telling admissions counselors the whole truth during their college search process.
Because of this it’s extremely important for admissions counselors to continue to ask effective, targeted questions after a student applies. Sitting back and waiting because you either don’t want to come across as pushy or you’re convinced they know everything they want/need to know, is not a smart strategy at this stage. Do either and it’s likely you’ll lose more students later on than you anticipated because some were never telling you the whole truth to begin with.
Instead, here’s what I want you to do next. Put together and/or print a current list of all of your apps.
Now, if I asked you to tell me what the one thing is that may prevent each of those students on your list from matriculating after being admitted, do you know what the answer is? It might even be more than one thing. And please don’t assume “cost” if you aren’t sure. If a student hasn’t told you something specific, it’s time to search out that answer.
Go ahead and ask a question like, “If you were going to tell me no at the end of this process and choose another school, what do you think would be the #1 reason why you’d do that?”
If cost or financial aid is their answer, I want you to immediately ask a follow-up question like, “Help me understand that better.” You need to get them to explain the why behind that answer because I continue to find that a lot of students just default to saying cost or financial aid because it’s the easy way out.
Once you have that answer, it’s now time come up with a strategy to help the student or parent(s) overcome their objection or fear.
The sooner you can gather this information and help them overcome their objection or alleviate their fear, the greater the chance they’ll take the next step in their process.
Let me also add that depending on the size of your school, you may have to sort your list of apps further based on other measures of demonstrated interest. Start with the highest ranking students or those who have shown the most demonstrated interest to this point and then work your way backwards. This will help you manage your time effectively.
One more thing – It’s very rare for a student or parent(s) not to have an objection (big or small) or fear about every single college that’s under serious consideration. Whether they choose to tell you about it or not depends on the recruiting relationship that you have or have not created and cultivated up to this point.
If you have a question about this article or you’d like my advice on a specific situation you’re dealing with, reply back and we’ll talk.
Have a great rest of your week!