by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Are you ready to tackle the Class of 2021?
Yes, I know…you’re still working on this current group of students which is why each of my articles over the past six weeks has focused on conversion and yield. So, if you’re wondering what kinds of questions you should be asking down the stretch or what the silent treatment from recruits might mean, click those links because I’m here to help.
Having said that, I also know that many of the admissions counselors reading this either just started spring travel, or are about to. My goal today is to make sure you get started on the right foot with this next class of prospective students.
Spring college fairs and high school visits with juniors, or other underclassmen, should never be undervalued. Often times counselors tell me they find themselves going through the motions during these events and visits because all they can think about is converting seniors and hitting their numbers. I hope that doesn’t sound like you, but if it does, email me. I’m happy to listen and offer advice.
Your follow-up communication in the weeks after spring travel is extremely important. Early in the process many prospective students are looking to see which schools maintain consistent contact. In their minds, it’s an indicator of just how serious your school is about them.
Determining those early talking points can be a challenge for many counselors. In fact it’s one of the biggest reasons that admissions departments start working with us. They’re tired of sending the same first letter and viewbook and not generating any back and forth conversation.
It starts by defining what gets them to keep talking to you after you make that first contact. Our research shows that when a prospect and his or her parents are comfortable engaging in conversation with an admissions counselor, that school immediately moves up the list.
Here are six things that current high school juniors want and need to know from your initial messages:
- If possible, remind them where you met. This is a great example of the obvious getting overlooked. Most counselors don’t even think to mention where they first met a prospective student. And yet, recruits tell us it’s one of the easiest ways for them to determine that your school is serious about them initially. It gives them context for why you are reaching out to them and more importantly why they should take the time to reply back to you.
- Tell them what you like about them. This generation of students wants to know what you like about them. Why? Believe it or not, some of your prospects aren’t sure they’re good enough to be considered by a school such as yours. Pointing out two or three specific things a student mentioned to you, or you saw from their information, is another important way to tell them they “have what it takes” to be considered for admission to your school. If you include these first two points in your initial letters and emails, you will see an increase in replies versus a more generic, non-specific message.
- Create curiosity. If you’re a frequent reader of my newsletter you understand that the worst thing you can do early on is cram tons of information about your college into a letter or an email. If you want a response from your prospect that is. By being short and to the point, you will leave room for their curiosity to take over. It’s also important to craft messages that after being read by your prospects leave questions unanswered. Are you doing that now?
- Share the positives and the negatives. Counselors that talk only about the positives associated with their school are missing the boat. This generation of students (and their parents) is looking for colleges that are demonstrating honesty during the recruitment process. Remember, students and parents are coming into the conversation with biases for and/or against your school. If you paint a “perfect” picture in everything you show them and tell them, you run the risk of making them question whether they’re getting the real story from you. It’s best to show your “cracks” before they show up in unexpected places or at unexpected times.
- Engage the parents. Our research finds that many parents are anxious as you begin contact with their child. They want to play a part in the recruitment process, and naturally they too have questions they want answered. While a majority of your competition will ignore the parents for as long as possible, I encourage you to do the exact opposite. Begin contact with them early and work to establish that same emotional connection. If you do, you’ll find that they’ll be more than willing to contribute useful, usable information during the process.
- Have a call to action. This is essential if you want them to respond to you. I’m not talking about asking them to visit campus or fill out your application. There’s a time and a place for those, and it’s not always right out of the gate. Instead, try asking your prospect at the end of your email if what you’re saying matches up with their list of priorities and “must-haves.” Not only will this demonstrate that you understand the process is about their wants and needs, but you’ll also be making them feel more comfortable engaging with you.
Early communication with a prospect is about getting a response. Your goal should be to get a back-and-forth conversation going, and let the relationship (and their interest) build from there.
Is your admissions team stressed about converting those admits or preventing summer melt? They don’t have to be. Bring me to campus to lead one of our famous two-day training workshops. Your team will leave with more confidence and better tools that they can use immediately with recruits. The next step is to send me an email.