By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
As we hit mid-October, a lot of admissions leaders and counselors are struggling with two big problems as they work with this next class of students – a decrease in applications year/year, and low turnout for virtual events, college fairs, and information sessions.
The reasons for both vary, but we have been able to identify some of the biggest contributing factors:
- Seniors are trying to figure out if they should bother applying to colleges they haven’t been able to visit yet. And, more are scared they won’t be able to build a solid list of schools without those in-person visits.
- Fear of the unknown, including whether or not classes be in-person or online next fall. In many cases there’s less urgency because it feels riskier for them to attend college with the added unknowns.
- Confusion around test-optional and what it really means. According to new survey research we’re conducting, over 55% of seniors have taken or will take the SAT or ACT, and they plan to submit their scores. Meaning, why start or submit an application without those scores or ones they’re happy with.
- Less pushing and help from high school counselors and teachers.
- There’s a growing dislike for virtual events and info sessions that last way too long, feel completely scripted, throw a ton of information at students (a lot of which is on topics they either don’t care about yet or aren’t ready for yet), and don’t incorporate the current student point of view enough.
Continuing to email, text, and cold call these inquiries and prospects and telling them to sign up, show up, or start their application is not going to be effective in most cases. Plus it’s not helpful either. In fact, most students are telling us that when you do this it just adds to their anxiety level, annoys them, and further pushes them away.
Now let’s talk about what you can do that will help you help them move forward.
Create a short, very direct, personalized email with a unique subject line that not only empathizes with their situation, but focuses on figuring out where they’re at in their college search process, and what they’re worried/anxious about or struggling with.
Consider using a subject line like “Don’t freak out”, “Gotta ask you this”, or “Not another annoying college email.”
Here are some additional guidelines that I recommend you follow when crafting that email:
- The email should come from the admissions counselor. If your school has been sending information from a general account and you haven’t introduced the counselor as their go-to person yet, do it now.
- Avoid using fancy headers, hyperlinks, and bolded text.
- No sales pitch whatsoever.
- The tone should be conversational and the language should be relatable and to the point. As an example, you could affirm that making a college list during a pandemic is super challenging, or that getting tons of messages about virtual events that all sound the same is annoying…especially because you understand that virtual anything doesn’t feel the same as being there in-person. But it can still be helpful and here’s how.
- Make it clear that all you’re trying to do is help make things easier for them, not push them to take immediate action. But to do that, you need to understand where they’re at in their college search, or why they don’t want to sign up for a virtual event, or why they signed up but didn’t show up.
- Your call to action should be a question that encourages them to reply back or send you a quick text and share that information with you.
- Schedule this email to be sent sometime between 3pm-9pm during the week.
For those students who engage, be prepared to explain things like how your virtual event will be informative and fun and how participating will help them with their college search…especially if they haven’t been able to do any campus visits. Or, how to figure out which colleges they should apply to if that’s something they’re struggling with. Or, why they don’t need to stress out over SAT and ACT scores.
For those who don’t respond within a day or two, follow the email with a short, direct text message that alerts them to your email and encourages them to check it out.
If you want me to offer some quick feedback on your email before you send it, all you have to do is ask.
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.