By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Soon after today’s high school student begins to explore their college options or takes a standardized test, that student and his or her parents/family are inundated by information from colleges and universities – Letters, emails, postcards, and brochures.
Initially some of the attention is exciting. After all, this is why they’ve worked so hard. Plus it’s always fun to be “wanted.”
Unfortunately it doesn’t take long for information overload to occur. As they get deeper into their college search, our research shows that today’s student reads less and less of what colleges continue to send them. Is it because they get tired of reading? Some believe that that to be true. However, this generation actually reads more than previous ones…all the texting and social media attention, as well as easier ways to access books through technology.
The problem is much of the information that colleges communicate ends up confusing more than it helps. There are way too many facts, statistics, and complicated language. Instead of being compelled to take action because they understand how one college (or an aspect of that school) is truly different or better than other colleges they’re considering, uncertainty and fear slow everything down. That’s actually a big reason why students are delaying visiting campus, taking longer to apply/finish their app, and taking longer to make their final decision.
Whenever you communicate (emails, letters, phone calls, text messages, social media, school visits, information sessions during the campus visit), you need to tell a more compelling story than your competition. And within that story there needs to be an explanation of how your school is different and why your school is better.
Those stories need to be shorter, more personalized, use more conversational language, connect the dots so that they can understand the benefit of what you’re discussing, and have a call to action that asks for their feedback versus always pushing them to do something they may or may not be ready to do.
So, as you’re trying to convince students to choose your school over their other options, I want you to make sure you’re consistently doing the following things I’m about to outline. These are methodologies and strategies that we continue to see work well for our clients across the country:
- It’s incredibly important for you to tell them what to think about your college/university. You need to offer a clear, simple definition of who you are as an institution. If you’re looking for ideas, ask your current students what three or four words best describe your school.
- Consistently explain why you’re better. This is particularly important once a student has been admitted. That’s because once they’ve collected information from a number of schools, many tend to slip into analysis paralysis. They need you to explain why whatever it is you’re talking to them about (academic program, professors, resources, amenities, community, location, etc) is better at your school than others still under consideration. Not just good, but better.
- Tell them they’re important to you. Sounds simple and you might think they already know this, but as their decision-making process nears the end they need to be reminded.
- Focus on feelings more than facts. Most of your admitted students will make their college decision based on the way they feel. It’s vital that the stories you tell help to generate positive emotions and feelings.
- Tell them you’re ready to hear them say yes. Even when they feel like you’re college or university is the right choice and they might be ready to commit/deposit, it’s incredibly hard for most students to take the initiative to get in touch with you and voice it themselves. Telling them “I’m ready” makes it easier to reply with their intentions.
- Repeat everything you’re telling these different groups of students to their parents. Ignoring the parents and not involving them deeply in the conversation until the end of the process doesn’t generally work out well. They don’t have to be on the same call, email, or text exchange that you have with their son or daughter, but they do need to be brought up to speed as to what you’re discussing with them.
Is there somebody else in your office that could benefit from reading this article? If so I encourage you to forward it on to them.
Have a great week and don’t be afraid to reach out to me at any time.