By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Last month I shared an article with a list of questions that you should ask rising seniors if you want to get them talking. One of those questions was, “Walk me through how you’re going to make your college decision.”
Ask most teenagers that question, and they’re likely to give you some version of, “I don’t know.” That’s actually okay and a good thing. I’ll explain why in just a minute.
Our ongoing focus group research at TCS continues to show that the majority of your prospective students don’t have a clear plan around how they’re going to navigate all the different parts of the college search process. Complicating things further is the fact that not every college and university has the same deadlines or requirements.
All of that uncertainty presents an opportunity for you to display empathy and help guide those students and their families. Today I’m going to explain one of the ways you can do that. It involves leading a discussion around the importance of developing checklists and timelines.
Once a prospective student has been introduced to their admissions counselor, and they demonstrate some level of interest in your school, I want you to ask them if they’ve thought about how they’re going to figure out things like which colleges they’ll visit (virtually or in person), apply to, and how they plan to make their college decision.
As I said earlier, most students won’t have a clearly defined plan or timeline for those things. That means you need to be prepared to lead a discussion around why checklists and timelines are important, and how developing them has helped other students you’ve worked with stay on track…as well as relieve some of the stress and anxiety that comes along with the college search.
When you do that, you’re going to insert some normalcy into their lives, which is extremely important and helpful right now.
To be clear, I’m referring to a checklist or a list of next steps to be completed during a defined period of time. I don’t want you to send a list of twenty different bullet points that encompasses the entire year. Do that, and you run the risk of overwhelming them.
Instead, your goal should be to schedule time to have a one-on-one conversation with the student/family during which you help them create a mutually agreed upon checklist and timeline for the next couple of months. I cannot emphasize enough the words “mutually agreed upon.” The student/family needs to feel like they were a partner in the process.
Each checklist should highlight the really important things students should be thinking about and doing to keep the college search process moving forward based on whatever stage they’re at. Try and limit the checklist to four to six things. And be prepared to help them come up with a time frame for completing various items or the entire list.
Our ongoing survey research says that students crave a checklist/timeline for what to do next, and when. It offers them comfort and helps take away some of their fear of the unknown.
Furthermore, offering to help create checklists and timelines will establish you as the person that will be guiding them through the college search. This will help you to stand out from other colleges, build relationships faster, and make the entire process feel more personalized.
As you’re communicating with students and families throughout the year and talking about checklists and timelines, it’s crucial that you log your conversations in your CRM. Referencing the most recent checklist and timeline during conversations has also proven to be an effective strategy for our clients. Plus this strategy will help admissions counselors have a better feel for what different students are thinking, where they’re at in their college search process, and what they need help with next before they can/will complete the next step.
I encourage you to incorporate checklists and timelines into your recruiting communications and conversations this summer and beyond. Need some help with that or have questions? Feel free to connect with me.
If this article was helpful, go ahead and forward it to someone else on your campus who could benefit from reading it.
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