By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
In my Inbox among a bunch of “can you help me” emails and workshop contest entries last week was a note from a Senior Admissions Counselor. I led a workshop for the university he worked at a couple of years ago…he’s since moved on to another school.
Emails like his are the reason I put so much time and energy into this weekly newsletter. Hearing from admission professionals who have successfully executed strategies I recommended means the world to me.
This article I wrote about three words to avoid, and this article about questions to ask undecided students really helped this counselor “explode in terms of contacts and deposits.” In fact, his numbers and yield rates this year are the strongest in his office.
I’m sharing this story with you because it’s further proof that making small changes to the way you communicate with prospective students can net you a big ROI…and a lot less stress in the weeks leading up to May 1.
So, as you begin to shift your attention this spring/summer to the next class of prospective students, here are ten additional ideas (small changes) that I encourage you to consider implementing, either individually or throughout your entire admissions office.
- Have one consistent voice in your recruiting communications (emails, letters, phone calls, text messages). Instead of sending random pieces from the Director of Admissions, the admissions counselor, a current student, faculty, etc., establish a point person right now so that prospective students know who they can turn to for help and advice during their college search. That person, whom I recommend is the admissions counselor, should be doing the bulk of the communicating with a student/family. That doesn’t mean you can’t send additional ad hoc pieces from other people on campus. When you do that, though, have the established “go-to person” set it up first. Our data continues to show that schools who take this approach and stay consistent, yield more students.
- Use keywords/phrases in your recruiting communications. If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know how much this generation of students wants to be valued and have their wants and needs viewed as important. Why not tell them exactly that? Say things like, “I appreciate you,” “You’re important to us,” or “I believe in you.” Phrases like those contain powerful words that your prospects will respond to. Word choice also matters, and I would encourage you to use more verbs. Verbs are action, while adjectives are descriptive. Verbs give your prospects a positive feeling and do a much better job of answering the “why.” Lastly, make it a priority to ask them about their biggest fear(s) and how they “feel” about certain things. Doing so will yield important information, build trust, and encourage open discussion.
- Be easy to talk to. It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s something that many admission professionals just don’t pay attention to. The text and sentence structure that you use in your letters, emails, social media campaigns and text messages matters. You need to make it easy for your prospects, most of whom are already scared to have a conversation with you in the first place, to actually reply to you. As one student said in a survey we conducted, “Be more friendly and use English that everybody speaks every day.”
- Establish a timeline with each student/family early on. As I explain when I lead a staff training workshop, establishing a timeline that your prospect or their parents have set in their mind for making that final decision is critical for you to effectively manage the entire recruiting process (and all those names that a counselor has in their territory). It also gives your prospects a checklist to follow from the beginning, which will alleviate some of the stress they’re feeling during the early stages of their college search.
- Keep your notes up to date in the CRM. Straightforward and simple. Make it a priority, especially during fall travel season. It will benefit you and everyone else in your office.
- Start a conversation about paying for college/financial aid long before you send out your award letter/package. That means now for your soon-to-be seniors. And remember, that initial conversation should be with the parent(s) and/or the parent(s) and their child together…not with just the student.
- Explain how your school is different and why your school is better early on. I can’t emphasize enough how vital this point is. If you don’t do it early on, you can expect most students to slip in to “analysis paralysis.” So, instead of just saying you have “professors who care,” start providing concrete, detailed examples of how they care. And if you have a “friendly, welcoming community,” then provide context that allows your prospect to connect the dots and understand why that kind of atmosphere is important and how it will make their experience at your school more enjoyable and worthwhile.
- Phone calls are important and valuable. Get used to making a lot of them. This is something I’ve been hammering home over the past year. Despite how digital and social this current generation of students has become, phone calls still need to be a core piece of your recruiting communications plan. They’re not going away anytime soon, and the majority of high school juniors who are on your radar right now value them when they’re done correctly (i.e. the way students want). If you still don’t believe me and need more proof, click this link and read some or all of these articles about phone calls that I’ve written. And as a leader, if you’re not evaluating the phone calls that are made by counselors, student workers, etc., I would strongly urge you to start doing so.
- Explain the WHY more often. Not enough attention is given to context and why it’s beneficial for the other person. Throughout the college search process colleges ask students and parents to take action on a multitude of things. They want to understand the WHY or the “because.” Why should they visit your campus? Why should they apply right now? Why is it in their best interest to fill out the FAFSA now instead of waiting until January or February? Why should the student answer the phone when you call? Take the time to clearly explain why you’re asking them to do whatever it is and how it will benefit them or make their life easier.
- Repeat just about everything you’re telling prospective students to their parents. Ignoring the parents and not involving them deeply in the conversation from the beginning will result in a loss the majority of the time. They don’t have to be on the same call, email, or text exchange that you have with their son or daughter, but they do need to be brought up to speed as to what you’re discussing with them. Always make it clear to the parents just how much you value their input and assistance.
If you want to talk in greater detail about one or more of these ideas, you don’t have to bring me to your campus for us to do that. All you have to do is reply back to this email and start a conversation with me. I’m here to listen and help if you’re willing to take the time to reach out and ask for it.
Enjoy the rest of your week!