By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
During a recent training workshop we were talking about college decision-making factors – what students say is very important and what’s not that important. One of the counselors went on to ask me what will be different for this year’s group of high school seniors because of COVID-19.
Prior to the pandemic, our ongoing survey research revealed that the most important college decision-making factor for students was the “feel” of campus. That ranked ahead of a school’s academic reputation, affordability, and student outcomes. The “feel” of campus has actually been the number one cumulative factor for all seven and a half years we’ve been conducting surveys, including this year’s current group of college and university freshmen students, many of whom made their choice after COVID was upon us.
Do I think a lot of students in this year’s class are thinking about staying closer to home or choosing a less expensive school? Absolutely. This isn’t new though, and the keyword is thinking. A few months ago, when we asked over 31,000 seniors how far away they planned to go to college, over 40% said distance didn’t really matter, they cared more about fit. And, another 10.5% said they planned to go more than 4 hours from their home.
Do I also think there are students that will choose another school for a completely irrational reason like the weather is better there or the buildings are newer? Absolutely. Unfortunately, you can do little to nothing about those things.
Now back to the “feel” of campus. Because of COVID, in-person recruiting activities with this next class have been minimal, and a lot of students haven’t been able to (or felt comfortable enough to) experience campus in person.
Still, I would argue that the majority of your admitted students this year will make their decision based on feelings.
Even if they haven’t been able to get a true in-person “feel” for your campus, every time you send them an email, letter, text, you call them, you have a video chat, or you hold a virtual event, it makes them feel a certain way. They’re either more excited and moving closer to seeing themselves as a member of your student body. Or, they’re feeling less comfortable about fitting in and doing well as a student because they feel like just another number.
At the end of the day, most students will remember those feelings (positive or negative), and they will significantly impact their final decision.
The good news is, you have complete control over what I just outlined. You can absolutely create more positive feelings than your competition does.
Besides personalization, which is essential to creating positive feelings, let me give you two other quick ways you can do that:
- Tell your admitted students how much you want them. Every chance you get, I want you and every single one of your colleagues to verbalize to your admitted students, “We really want you here!” The same thing goes for their parents/family. They need to hear it from you too…just don’t forget to explain why you think the student is such a good fit.
- Communicate with the most consistency. It’s one of the most effective ways that you can prove just how much you want a student. And, a lot of colleges continue to slow down their communication after students have been admitted. You need to continue to have meaningful and not purely transactional conversations. Plus, consistency will create/cultivate trust and rapport. If you’re wondering what kind of frequency this generation of students is comfortable with during their college search, scroll back up and click this link once you’re done reading the rest of this article.
When your admitted students sit down and try to figure out how they’ll make their college decision, besides weighing your academics and your cost, they’ll also heavily weigh how you’ve made them feel throughout the process.
Further proof of this comes from the fact that another top three cumulative decision-making factor on our surveys for seven and a half years has been how the admissions staff treated them throughout the process.
As I said earlier, there are things that are out of your control as you work to enroll students. I want you to control what you can control, which includes how you make them feel from start to finish.
Got a question or comment about this article? Just hit reply or click here and ask me.
And if this article was helpful, go ahead and forward it to someone else on your campus who you think might also benefit from reading it.