Last week I received an email with the question, “What do the best admissions counselors do so well?”
My response was something that I thought you might find helpful, so I’m going to share it with you today. I’m also going to expand on it a little because I know most admissions counselors are dealing with a long list of admitted but undecided students right now.
Successful admissions counselors are able to get prospective students (and parents) to communicate more with them than they do their competition…not just once or twice, but consistently throughout the college search process. This happens when a comfort level and trust have been created, and you consistently ask effective questions.
If you decide to wait because you’re convinced that students will ask you questions when they have them because you’ve told them something like, “I’m here to help, call or email me if you have any questions”, I think you’re going to be disappointed.
One of the key pieces of data that we’ve uncovered from our focus group research with colleges and universities around the country is that most of today’s teenagers don’t know what they’re supposed to ask a college admissions counselor or how they’re supposed to ask it. Without your help some will never take initiative, making it much harder for you to gain a true understanding of their mindset and decision-making process.
Effective questions are absolutely the core of every good recruiting effort! They get you an explanation of something, and oftentimes the student (or parent) will open up and provide you with additional insights and useful information that lead to further conversation and ultimately aid you in their recruitment.
Why is it then that so many counselors don’t ask enough effective questions? I would argue it’s because they’re either worried about being too pushy, or they’re too busy selling their school with facts and figures.
Before I provide you with some effective questions that you can use right now with admitted students who remain undecided, let me first touch on the four key parts that I believe go into asking any effective question.
- You need to figure out WHAT questions to ask. Believe it or not, bad questions do exist. If you don’t know what to ask prospective students and parents then all you’re doing is relationship building, which is very important, but it can also prevent you from helping keep the process moving forward.
- You need to define WHY you’re asking a particular question. Are you doing it to get actual, useable information or to help a student become comfortable talking to you?
- HOW do you ask a question? Some questions are better over the phone or in-person (ones that are more personal and require more detail). Others can be done in an email or via text (more conversational type questions).
- WHEN do you ask a particular question? There are definitely right times and wrong times. You need to be mindful in terms of the way you bring up topics. For example, if in the first letter or email you ask a new inquiry or prospect to start the application process or sign up for a campus visit, our research says that’s way too soon. Most students are not ready to take that big a step yet.
I want you to keep those four things in mind during your recruiting conversations with prospective students (and parents) regardless of stage.
Now, here are the aforementioned questions:
- If it comes down to us and one other school, what things will help you break that tie?
- <Student’s Name>, when do you see yourself making your college decision?
- What do you see as the next step in this process?
- What’s the most confusing part about this process right now?
- What are your parents telling you to do at this point in the process?
- Who are you going to rely on to help you make your decision? OR Besides your parents, is there anyone else you’re going to ask for help making your decision?
- How are you going to know when you’ve found the college that’s the right fit for you?
- Have you and your parents talked about the idea of paying more for a college?
- What scares you the most about making your college decision?
- If you could change one thing about our school, what would it be?
- What do you like the most about <Your College’s Name> so far?
- What can I do to make things less stressful for you and your family?
In my years of working with a lot of different admissions professionals, I’ve found that successful questioning can make all the difference in the world.
Consider asking one, two or all twelve of these questions to get your admitted but undecided students talking during this crucial period in the recruiting cycle. And don’t forget that some of these questions can and should be asked more than once during the recruitment process.