by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately on how to get prospective students to open up and why it’s such a challenge.
Let me start by giving you the good news – If you take the information I’m about to give you today and apply it consistently, it’s no longer going to be such a monumental challenge!
There are three big reasons why students in this next recruiting class either haven’t engaged with you yet or are giving you those standard one and two word answers.
- Your content is boring and looks and sounds like every other college/university
- They don’t know you yet (not your school, I mean you personally), so a connection and comfort level hasn’t been established, and oh by the way, they’re scared of saying something wrong
- You’re not asking the right questions
I’ve given you strategies and ideas on how to make your content more appealing and how to address fear and create a level of comfort with your prospects before. If you missed those articles or need a refresher, I encourage you to connect with me after you finish reading the rest of this article.
Bullet point number three is what I want to focus on with you today.
A huge part of successful recruiting revolves around being the admissions counselor that can get your prospects to communicate more with you than they do your competition…not just one time but consistently throughout the recruitment process. That only happens when a comfort level has been created, and you consistently ask effective questions.
If you’re just sitting back convinced that your prospects will ask you questions when they have them because you’ve told them something like, “I’m here to help, call or email me if you have any questions”, I think you’re going to be disappointed.
One of the key pieces of data that we’ve uncovered from our focus group research with colleges and universities across the nation is that most of today’s teenage recruits don’t know what they’re supposed to ask you or how they’re supposed to ask it. Without your help they may never take initiative and talk to you and really get a feel for whether your school is the “right fit” for them.
Effective questions are the core of every good recruiting effort! They get you an explanation of something, and your prospect will open up and provide you with more insights and useful information that leads to further conversation and aids you in their recruitment.
So if that’s the case, why don’t many of you ask effective questions? I think it’s because you’re either worried about being too pushy, or you’re too busy selling your school with facts and figures.
If you want me to help you grow immediately in this area, there are 4 things I need you to self evaluate first:
- You need to figure out WHAT questions to ask. Believe it or not, there are bad questions you can ask. If you don’t know what to ask prospects and parents then all you’re doing is relationship building, which is very important, but it can also prevent you from helping keep the process moving forward.
- You need to define WHY you’re asking a particular question. Are you doing it to get actual, useable information, or to help your prospect become comfortable talking to you?
- HOW do you ask a question? Some are better over the phone or in-person (ones that are more personal and require more detail). Others can be done in an email, on social media or via text (more conversational type questions).
- WHEN do you ask a particular question? There are definitely right times and wrong times. You need to be intelligent in terms of the way you bring up topics. For example, if in the first couple of letters or emails you ask a new prospect to start the application process or sign up for a campus visit, our research says that’s way too soon. Most students are not ready to take that big a step yet.
Always keep those 4 things in mind when you develop a question.
Now, I’m guessing you might be interested in some effective questions that you can use in the early stages of the recruitment process. Below is a handful that we’ve developed that our clients continue to tell us work really well.
But first let me add one more thing. Your initial questions if you’re trying to establish trust and a level of comfort with your prospect should be 100% about them. The questions shouldn’t be too broad and need to be easy enough for the student to answer to get them comfortable talking to you. We’ve found those questions should not be about declaring who their top school is, or anything that pressures them to give you early information about what they’re thinking. Instead, ask questions about their approach to the college search process, what their perfect college looks like, and other questions that focus on them. You might even try to make them laugh (or at least smile). Humor is a great icebreaker.
- What prompted you to start looking at our school? OR if you’re reaching out to the student first you could ask, “What would you need to see from us to become seriously interested in our school?”
- What are your deal-breakers or things that your college has to have?
- Walk me through how you’re going to be making your college decision.
- How do you see yourself using your parents to help you figure out which college is right for you?
- What’s the most confusing part about this process right now?
- What scares you the most about the college search process?
- As we begin to talk more, will you be okay with telling me no if our school doesn’t seem like the right fit?
- Is there something I need to answer for you before you’ll consider coming to campus for a visit? OR start filling out our application?
If you want a further explanation about one or more of these questions, simply click this link and email me (unless you’ll be at NACAC this week, in which case you should just stop by Booth 853 and we can talk in person).
Remember, the better the questions, the greater the chance you have of connecting with a prospect, getting a back-and-forth conversation started, understanding his or her mindset, and ultimately coming up with a strategy to successfully recruit them. Make those questions thought provoking and make them original.
Good luck, have fun with it, and make it a great recruiting week!