By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
It happened again, this time during a staff training workshop that I led for a college in Illinois yesterday.
During a break, one of the admissions counselors came up and asked me if his peers at other schools are also dealing with students making completely illogical college decisions. The short answer I gave him was, “of course.”
Choosing a college based on whether or not they have a football team might seem completely illogical to you and the wrong way to break a tie between schools, but it happens from time to time. And some students in 2018 are also still picking colleges based on where their high school friends are or are not going…that includes a boyfriend or girlfriend as well. One student even said in a recent survey we conducted for a school that the deciding factor that led them to pick their college was, “I thought it would be easier to change my major here than at other schools.”
Over the past couple of years I’ve seen and heard more examples of irrational, emotional decisions than ever before in our ongoing work with college admission departments.
Here are five important constants I see with this generation of students that I want you to keep in mind as you start to communicate with this next class:
- They’re deciding based on their emotions. Emotion often outweighs logic and facts, including when it comes to deciding which colleges to visit and apply to.
- They’re thinking short term, not long term, when it comes to their college experience. What feels right at that moment is often more important versus over four years.
- They’re looking to see which colleges truly personalize the process and really take an interest in them. Are you a resource or salesperson? Are you consistently staying in touch and asking them for their feedback and opinions on things? Do you feel like someone they can trust?
- They’re relying on others to help them make their decisions. Namely parents, peers, and other family and friends in their inner circle/community.
- They’ll often turn to irrelevant statistics to justify their actions. You might develop a great relationship with a student and offer them a competitive financial aid package, but in the end, they pick the school with the larger, newer residence halls or the one where their boyfriend, girlfriend, or group of friends is going.
The bottom line is this generation is a tough group to recruit. They often change their minds multiple times daily, and they do things that leave people like yourself scratching your head.
Let me share with you some additional ideas/thoughts that might help you moving forward:
- Search out information as early as possible about how they’re going to make their college decision. Ask questions about tiebreakers and other things that matter most as they look at different schools…no matter how silly you might think they are.
- If the early emails and letters you send are focused solely on the logical argument that your school and your academic programs are the best choice, you may be making a huge mistake. It’s not that your prospect doesn’t need that, it just may not be the right time yet.
- Over the past two years in both this newsletter and during NACAC affiliate conferences I’ve spoken at, I’ve really tried to drive home just how much this generation of students are driven by fear. How are you, your colleagues, and your recruiting communications helping to alleviate that fear?
- Find ways to feed their emotions and make a personal connection rather than a logical case. If you take that approach, you’ll set yourself up for having them listen to your logical case more intently once you have that emotional connection.
- Make your case with more passion than your competition. I continue to see/hear plenty of stories where the emotional connections that the admissions staff, tour guides, etc. helped build end up being a significant reason why the student chose their school. Emotions sell because emotions are real. And remember, passion has nothing to do with your budget.
- Always include/engage the parents. When you clue them in early on to your conversations with their son/daughter, and when you ask them for their feedback on things, you gain allies who feel like a valued partner.
I hope you enjoy the rest of your week!
As always, if you have questions about this article or any other aspect of student recruitment, leadership, or professional development, I’m ready to listen and help. Reply back, and we’ll start a conversation.