By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
4 minute read
Here’s an increasing trend that we’ve noticed at Tudor Collegiate Strategies.
Young people don’t like to be put on the spot and told to make a decision – about a lot of things.
Believe it or not, that oftentimes adds more pressure and anxiety.
Instead, I encourage you to find ways during the college search process to give prospective students choices, especially during the earlier stages. We continue to find that providing choices is an effective strategy that can actually increase engagement and cause a student to move faster.
Choices are important in any decision making process. Author and Sales Trainer Jeffrey Lipsius offers the following insights that I think are important for admissions counselors and leaders to understand when it comes to the psychology behind how students make various decisions:
The reason why choice is such a powerful tool for salespeople is because choice is what makes us uniquely human. Choice and free will are gifts that the human race has been uniquely endowed with. This is why customers will ask salespeople questions without requiring a salesperson’s prompting. These customers are engaging in the natural decision-making process. Salespeople may find it annoying when customers think they need more information than the salesperson provided. Salespeople shouldn’t take this personally. When customers raise objections and want to do more research—they’re not trying to give salespeople a hard time. It’s so they can feel good about the decisions they’re making.
Salespeople add value by providing choice because it improves the quality of their customer’s decisions. For example, a parent could bribe a teenager with money in order to get him to attend church, but this cultivates a lower quality decision than if the teenager’s motivation to attend church was due to his own personal beliefs. It’s a lower quality decision because the teenager will stop attending church as soon as the parent stops paying him to go. Offering a bribe involves external motivation. Following one’s beliefs involves internal motivation.
Salespeople must appreciate the difference between internal motivation and external motivation in order to fully utilize the power of “choice.” This is because a customer’s decision process itself is internal. Customers don’t buy so they can make their salespeople happy, customers buy because they think having the product will make them happy.
Here are a few examples of common scenarios that arise during a normal recruitment cycle where providing choices is a highly effective way of guiding their decision making process.
- Providing choice when it comes to what information you initially send a student who is a new inquiry or prospect. Instead of overloading the student with a bunch of bullet points, numbers, stats, and hyperlinks, let them know that you’d like to get them information on the topic they care about or are wondering about most. Tudor Collegiate Strategies data continues to show that besides a college/university having the academic major or program that a student is interested in, the next three highest topics of interest are financial aid, careers related to the major/program they’re interested in, and student life and activities. Give the student a choice and ask them which one they’d like to chat about first. If you work with transfer students, you can apply the same idea, but instead ask them which of these things they want to talk about first – how their credits will transfer, financial aid and cost, or how long it will take them to graduate.
- Providing choice when it comes to the primary way you communicate with them. For example, a good way to engage at the beginning might involve asking the student, “I want to communicate with you regularly, so what’s the best way to do that?” Sidenote – Don’t be shocked when the answer is email; it’s the clear cut choice for most. But, also don’t be shocked when some prefer text messaging. Taking this one step further, ask the student, “<First/Preferred Name>, if I have something important to talk with you about like scholarships and financial aid, are you okay with scheduling a phone call, or should we text or email back and forth?” In both scenarios their answer commits them to the conversation, and you’ve given them a choice in how that happens.
- Providing choice when it comes to inviting them to visit campus. Instead of a yes/no choice when it comes to visiting campus, ask the student and their parents, “Would visiting during the week or on the weekend of the <Insert date> or <Insert date> work better for you and your family?” Or, “Would coming to our <Insert event name> on the <Insert date>, or joining us for our virtual <Insert event name> on the <Insert date> work better for you and your family?” Let them pick a date and the type of visit that works best. You’ve successfully moved the decision from a “yes” or a “no” to “which date is best?” Doing this also takes the choice of not coming out of the equation.
I’ll end with one important caveat – Asking for a decision does have its place in the world of student recruitment, specifically when it’s time to ask an admitted student if they’re feeling ready to submit their deposit. You want, and need, them to make a decision at the end of the process once they make it clear there’s nothing left to do.
If you’d like to talk more about something I said in this article, let’s do it. You can reply back, or email me here.
And if you found this article helpful, forward it to someone else on your campus who could also benefit from reading it.