by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
This time of year admission departments are either really happy with how their recruiting efforts are going, or they’re frantically looking for ideas on how to re-kindle interest from students who at some point this cycle demonstrated serious interest in their school. I’m referring to students who visited campus but never applied, as well as students who started but didn’t finish your school’s application.
There are a few reasons I think it’s smart to come up with a strategy to go after these two groups of students:
- They’re already familiar with your school.
- At one point it’s safe to assume that most probably felt there was a chance that your school might be that “right fit.”
- Assuming they haven’t deposited to another school, they’re probably feeling a little anxious about their college plans for this fall.
So, how do you proceed with these students, get their attention again, and rekindle communication and interest in your school?
The easy answer is to communicate that your school will offer an extremely generous financial aid package if they complete their application by a certain date.
A lot of schools, however, aren’t in a position to do that, or they’d rather pursue a strategy that doesn’t include getting crazy with their discount rate.
Here are three basic ideas I’ve seen produce positive results that you should consider:
- Apologize for the lack of (or poor) communication. I know…it’s probably partly (or mostly) the student’s fault for not communicating with you. But as the person who is initiating the contact, and as the “authority figure” in this relationship, you need to be the one to apologize. It will take the pressure off of them and open the door for ongoing communication. I’ve found that this simple strategy works well for admissions counselors because it gives them a defined reason to make phone calls to these students.
- Call with lots of urgency. At this point, like it or not, phone calls are going to be the best way to offer personalized communication and have a serious conversation with these students. Assuming they answer the phone or choose to call you back (make sure your voicemail gives them a reason to), tell them that you’ve been waiting to hear back from them, but haven’t, so you wanted to be a little forward and push the process forward considering the time of year. Tell them that they’re a high priority right now and that your school believes they’re a great fit (be ready to offer some proof behind why you’re saying that). Make the next steps clear, and tell each student that the sooner they complete your school’s application and apply for financial aid, the better the financial aid package you’ll be able to offer them. I’ve worked with multiple admissions counselors who have found that creating a lot of urgency at this late juncture is enough to get the student (if they’re still undecided) to finally take things a little more seriously. Combine that with defined next steps and a counselor who’s willing to help, and what some might see as “pushy” ends up providing a sense of relief for the student…and a reason to finally end the process.
- Call with the assumption that they’ve deposited somewhere else, and offer your congratulations. If they’ve ended the process and chosen another school, you’ll come off as caring and thoughtful. Make sure you take the time to ask two or three questions about why the student choose the other school…this is extremely important and that information will be useful in future recruiting situations. If the student still hasn’t made a final decision, they’ll tell you, and the door may be re-opened. If you do get a second chance with these students, make sure your staff has a clear plan of how to take full advantage of it.
Oftentimes persistence pays off in recruiting. Try one or more of these ideas and you might be pleasantly surprised at the end result.
Good luck, and I’ll see you back here next Tuesday!