By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
As you might imagine, fall ‘travel season’ has been a highly requested training topic over the past month.
One thing I’ve noticed when talking through various common situations with admissions teams all across the country is most counselors are attempting to start their conversations at college fairs the exact same way.
Considering how hard it is to get and keep the attention of a young person, plus the fact that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, my advice is to find a way to differentiate yourself and be memorable.
Think about this for a second. When students leave and text or DM their friends, or they get home and parents and family members ask about their day, are they going to remember your name?
They’re more likely to if you humanize, empathize, and personalize your conversation.
Step one to being memorable and creating positive feelings involves getting their attention. That becomes harder if the first thing you ask is, “What do you want to major in?”, or, “How’s everything going?” I also encourage you not to immediately hand them travel materials and start reciting that information.
Instead, make eye contact, smile, and be sure your body language is saying you’re approachable.
After you say hi and get their first or preferred name, ask a direct question that allows you to learn something about the student. Keep in mind it needs to be something that’s easy for them to answer (i.e. they don’t have to think about it for too long). Three questions that continue to work well are:
“<First or Preferred Name>, how are you feeling about your college search?”
“When you picture your future college, <First or Preferred Name>, what are one or two things you know you definitely want?”
“<First or Preferred Name>, what challenges or concerns do you have about starting college?”
While the student is responding, be sure to keep eye contact and practice active listening. Once they’re finished, thank them for sharing, then take the feedback you receive and keep the conversation going. You can do that by asking a follow-up question based on their response or by sharing some quick information about your school that ties in with their feedback.
If the student responds with a one or two word answer (Ex. “I’m feeling overwhelmed”), your follow up question might be, “Can you help me understand what is it specifically that has you feeling overwhelmed? I’d like to find a way to help.”
If the student seems a little nervous and doesn’t respond to your question, consider telling them what you typically hear from other students when you ask the same thing – then ask the student for their thoughts.
Ultimately at college fairs, you need to be prepared to ask a variety of effective questions that show you want to learn more about who the student is, the kind of college experience they think they want (or don’t want), why they’re interested in a certain major/program, how they’re feeling about things like filling out applications, taking campus visits, the cost of college, etc.
Focus on getting engagement first and giving information second. A lot of admissions counselors are doing the opposite.
And if you’re worried about not covering “everything” about your school in one conversation, don’t be. There’s no expectation from students that you do that. Remember, they don’t know what you’re going to say or talk about….but they definitely don’t want to listen to word vomit.
The strategy and approach I just outlined will feel more personal for students and the information you share will feel more relevant. That combination will result in a more memorable experience and a more positive set of feelings about you and your school.
One last thing – As you’re building relationships and learning about students, be sure and have a plan for how you’re going to keep track of all that information, and ultimately transfer it into your CRM.
If you’d like to talk more about anything related to college fairs I’m happy to connect. Simply reply back, or email me here.
And if you found this article helpful, forward it to someone else on your campus who could also benefit from reading it.