By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
Last year during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament it was 101-year-old nun Sister Jean from Loyola University Chicago who reminded us that the people behind a college’s ‘brand’ play an important role in new student recruitment.
The torch was passed this year to Doug Edert (Mr. Mustache), Coach Holloway, and the rest of 15-seed Saint Peter’s University. Even if you’re not a college basketball fan, chances are you got caught up following the Peacocks during their unforgettable run to the Elite 8.
According to Saint Peter’s President Eugene Cornacchia, admission applications to the New Jersey school were up 56% during the weeks the Peacocks were in the tournament compared to last year.
The reason is simple – People connect with, are influenced by, and take action because of other people and experiences, not taglines or facts and figures.
Your current students (including student-athletes), your faculty, other staff who work throughout your campus, as well as your alumni all have influence.
So, what’s your “people strategy?”
If you want to yield a higher number of admitted students, you need to tell more stories that create more connections. Pull back the curtain and humanize your brand.
Showcasing different people from your college or university can help you cultivate better and deeper relationships with students who are debating taking next steps like visiting, applying, or picking your school over their other choices. It can also help prospective students overcome different fears, including fear of the unknown.
I encourage you to think about taking the following actions this spring:
- Who can you highlight right now in your email and social media campaigns as a way to help, for example, admitted but undecided students understand why your current freshmen were so confident about their decision last year. Or, how some of those freshmen got past going far away from home, staying close to home, deciding it was okay to pay more for college, or why the campus visit was so impactful in their decision. And what about the different people at your school who help new students with the all-important social and academic transitions during those first few weeks.
- Current student panels as part of an admitted student day event are great, but why not try to involve one or more admitted students who have made their decision and submitted their deposit. If they’re registered and plan to attend anyways, have them speak for a few minutes about how they made their decision.
- Parent panels during your events can also be extremely impactful. Have the parents of a few current first year students talk about what gave them the confidence that your school would be a good fit for their son or daughter. Or, how they were able to let go when the big day arrived. Or, how a staff member helped them develop a financial plan to pay for their child’s education.
- Reach out to recent alums and get them to share feedback about one person on your campus who was instrumental in helping them get to graduation day or to achieve some of the goals they set.
- Get rid of your viewbook and create a storybook that highlights one person per page and shares something about their student journey, their story, or if it’s a staff member, their role in helping students.
A big key as you tell each person’s story (or when they speak during an event) is to be authentic. Worry less about coming up with a script or having a perfectly produced video or email, and focus more on being human, genuine, and helpful.
When you do those three things it creates emotions that are key in a person’s decision-making process.
If you’d like to talk more about something I said in this article, let’s do it. Simply reply 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.