By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
When you ask the right kinds of questions the right way, there’s a good chance you’ll quickly discover what motivates a prospective student, as well as their likes, dislikes, wants, needs, fears, and concerns. Having that information makes it a lot easier to get, and keep, a back-and-forth conversation going.
I’m often asked what “the right kinds of questions the right way” means, so let me explain. It’s about being direct, intentional, and often times probing so you can get context and a more complete understanding.
In the process of doing those things, there will be times when it’s helpful to ask what could be perceived as a tough, hard, or negative sounding question…like why they started filling out your app but haven’t come back to finish it yet. What’s holding things up?
I’m continuing to find that too many admissions counselors avoid these kinds of questions because they’re afraid of making a student (or parent) ‘mad’ or a little uncomfortable. And some are worried they’re not going to like the feedback they receive.
Is there a risk when you ask a tough, direct question? Absolutely. But if your intent is good, you show some empathy, and you frame it first as wanting to help them (but to do that you need to understand what’s preventing action or why they feel a certain way about something), oftentimes that kind of questioning will result in movement – sometimes positive and sometimes negative.
If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can ask for permission first. Simply say, “I have a tough but important question I want to ask you. Is that okay?” Or if you’re asking in an email, say, “I know this is a hard question, but I really want your feedback on it.”
Here are a couple more examples for you:
- Asking prospects and inquiries – “What’s really keeping you from applying to <College Name>?” Or, “Are you afraid to tell me that you don’t think <College Name> is a good fit for you?”
- Asking out of state students – “Can you tell me why you’re scared to look at colleges that are farther away from home?”
- Asking, “What’s the biggest negative you see with <College Name>?”
- Asking them to explain why they signed up for your virtual open house or info session and then didn’t show up.
- Asking them if having to pay more is what’s preventing them from picking <College Name>.
Questions like those will help you uncover not just how the student (or parent) feels but also their motivation and commitment. Don’t be afraid to ask them.
If this article was helpful, I encourage you to forward it to someone else on your campus who you think might also benefit from reading it.
And, if you’re interested in more articles like this with tips and strategies you can use right now, you can find them here in our Admissions BLOG.