by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
“Cautiously optimistic.” That’s the phrase I keep hearing not only from our clients, but also during my conversations with other admissions leaders across the country. Applications, admit numbers, and even deposits in many cases are up.
All of that is fine and good, and you should be excited! At the end of the day, though, it’s all about conversion. So, what’s your school’s plan this year? More specifically, how are you going to make sure your admitted student day events pay off?
Many of these events have become so well organized that accepted students are shuffled from spot to spot and end up only seeing and hearing what the admissions office wants them to. It’s not that the information presented isn’t valuable. The problem is that prospective students tell us all the time that they never got the chance during an admitted student day event to get a real “FEEL” for what being a student would be truly be like.
I’ll ask the same question again then because I think it’s that important – What’s your plan to make sure that your college’s admitted student day event doesn’t mirror everybody else’s? This generation wants and needs to see, hear and feel something different. There is no alternative if you want to consistently win your recruiting battles and increase enrollment.
Before we discuss some strategies to improve your admitted student days, I have another vital question I need to ask each of you. Have you clearly and consistently stated why your recruits should visit campus again or in some cases visit for the first time? There needs to be a “because.” Our ongoing focus group research on campuses big and small, public and private, continues to back this up. Giving your admits a reason, like there’s something important you want to talk with them about, is step number one.
Here are some other proven strategies that, when implemented as part of your admitted student day programs, will put your school in the best possible position to receive positive enrollment decisions.
- Work to gain agreement along the way. I started with this bullet point because not enough admissions counselors do this, yet it’s such a crucial piece of the puzzle if your admitted student day event is going to seal the deal. It’s imperative that throughout the recruitment process you get your prospects to verbalize that they like what they’re seeing as well as the stories that they’re hearing about your institution. If you read this newsletter regularly or you’ve had me on campus to lead a training workshop, you know I call these the “little yeses.”
- Make your invite look different. Stop trying to cram a ton of information and visuals onto a single page or piece of paper. That’s what your competition does. I want you to be more creative. The goal of your invite should be to get their attention. Personalization is one way to achieve that. Try using a big, bold P.S. message. Employing something that seems out of place is one effective strategy. Your recruit will probably read the P.S. before they scan through the actual email or post card.
- Not just weekends but weekdays. Everyone has Saturday admitted student day events. How many students and families do you think you’re missing an opportunity with because that doesn’t fit their schedule? Consider Monday through Thursday offerings. It won’t appeal to everyone, but if I told you that making this option would result in another 10, 20 or 50 students enrolling, what would you say?
- Solve your biggest problem. Building on the last bullet point, have you ever asked yourself what the most annoying part of your admitted student day event is for your admits and their families? Maybe it’s your parking situation, or lack thereof. Maybe your campus is hard to navigate. Whatever “it” is, become a problem solver on behalf of your audience. It won’t go unnoticed.
- Give them more than just the same old information sessions. Academic information sessions and learning how to register for classes are important. I’m not arguing that point. However, when you have admitted students that still don’t know if they fit into your campus community along with parents who are still trying to figure out how all the bills will get paid, I strongly encourage you to give them a little more in those areas. When it comes to those academic sessions, what kind of true engagement are you creating between your admits and your faculty? Developing a level of comfort with somebody who will actually be teaching them at some point is a big positive. I’ve got one more for you. We all know how confusing financial aid can be. It would be great if every school reading this had the personnel to offer one-on-one financial aid meetings…obviously that’s not the case. How then are you going to help walk your recruits and their families through what’s typically the biggest “objection” on almost every campus in America? You need to come up with an effective strategy.
- Make sure you’ve answered all their objections. One of the biggest reasons counselors fail when it comes to recruiting is they fail to overcome all of their recruit’s objections. Very few prospects are going to say “yes” when you have failed to answer all of their concerns or those of their parents. Throughout the entire recruitment cycle, always be listening and processing the information you’re being given. Once an objection is clarified, it’s up to you to be a problem solver. If prior to an admitted student day you discover there’s a last minute critical objection, then be prepared to answer it during the visit.
- Separate the student and their parent(s). I’ve talked before about the importance of doing this during the campus visit, and it’s no different for an admitted student day. You need to create an unforgettable experience for everybody. One of the biggest things that every single one of your admits wants is a “feeling” of fitting in. It’s hard to make that happen if the only student they really interact with is their tour guide. The more current students they meet (student led panels, etc.), the greater the chance that they’ll connect on a personal level. Like it or not, today’s generation of students wants real and raw. Being able to ask questions of current students without mom, dad or an admission staffer around can give them that. I’ll even go so far as to tell you to allocate some time during your event where your admitted students literally do nothing but “hang out” with your current students. Trust me, it works! On the parent side, if you’re not already doing a parent led panel session, why not?
- Create An Emotional Moment. Emotions impact our decision making plain and simple. Are you creating an atmosphere that makes an emotional moment possible? Here are two quick examples that I’ve seen work on multiple campuses. The school President has the students and families over to his or her house to play games and socialize not only with him or her but other people in the community such as influential business leaders. All of the admits and their family members assemble on the school’s football field for a picture. They form the school’s letters or the outline of the school mascot.
- Tell them you want them, and ask them if they want to commit. Never assume anything. Unfortunately, a lot of counselors assume that once their prospects have been admitted, it’s obvious their school wants them. I’m here to tell you that isn’t always the case. They need to hear it again…now more than ever, actually. If by this point you haven’t verbalized those words yet, do it before they leave campus. Say something like, “Are you feeling like you’d be ready to be a part of our student body?” Don’t be scared to “ask for the sale.”
Admitted student days are a key component of the college recruitment cycle. Try using one or more of these ideas, and watch what happens!
Want us to help you turn an average admitted student day event into an awesome one? We can do that! Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org