By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
Every prospective student regardless of stage or grade is scared, nervous, or worried about something during college search. For most it’s actually multiple things according to our survey research.
If you’re looking for a way to build trust and increase engagement with your senior inquiries, I want you to ask them about their fears, worries, and concerns.
We continue to find that when these things are not discussed and addressed, it often slows down a student’s search, and/or prevents them from taking the next step (i.e. visiting campus or filling out their application).
One student said, “Just be understanding…it’s a terrifying process and we just really need support and to feel like we’re a priority to you.”
I see similar quotes like that literally in every single survey we do.
The easiest way to discover what a student is scared, nervous, or worried about is by asking them a direct, intentional question like, “What scares or worries you the most about your college search?” You can do that as the call to action in an email, or during a phone call, video chat, or in-person as part of the conversation during a high school visit or campus visit.
If you’re wondering what kinds of responses a question like that that will produce, there’s a good chance you’ll hear one of these six things:
- They’re scared of making the wrong decision
- They’re scared they won’t be able to afford college
- They’re scared their grades, test scores, and activities won’t be good enough to get admitted
- They’re scared of moving away from home/fitting in
- They’re scared of not being emotionally and/or socially prepared for college
- They’re scared of the unknown
The first two – Making the wrong decision and affording college have been the top two over the past five years when we average out all the data.
There’s one more in particular I want you to be very mindful of during your conversations and outreach this fall. More students than you might think are scared to ask what could be perceived as a “dumb” question. Because of that, you need to be prepared to lead the conversation.
I continue to find that a lot of admissions counselors don’t ask or talk about fear because they think it’s either a) too intrusive, or b) they don’t know when/how to bring it up. If you’re reading this and either of those is something you’ve thought about, hopefully this article will help.
Once you’ve asked them a direct question about their fears, worries, and concerns, the next step after they share how they feel is to thank them and validate that it’s okay to feel that way (i.e. they’re not weird). In a lot of cases they need to hear that from you.
The final piece is helping alleviate their fear and/or putting their mind at ease. Storytelling continues to be one of the most effective ways to do that. I want you to provide them with one or more concrete examples of people who felt the same way (maybe you during your college search?), and show how they overcame (or how you or someone at your college or university helped them overcome) a similar fear or concern…connect the dots for them.
When you help calm or alleviate their fears, worries, or concerns, you’ll gain a big advantage over other admissions counselors who believe this topic isn’t important, or don’t know how to address it.
And prospective students also continue to tell us that incorporating this topic into your conversation shows empathy in a way that feels very personal.
Want to talk more about something I said? Just hit reply or connect with me here.
And if you found this article helpful, forward it to someone else in your campus community who could also benefit from reading it.
P.S. Parents have fears, worries, and concerns too. I strongly encourage you to take the same approach during your conversations with this group, particularly the parents of your admitted students.