By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
I’m often asked what the most successful college admissions counselors do differently.
One thing that doesn’t get mentioned a lot is the ability to pinpoint signs of strong interest after a student has been admitted. As you might imagine, asking the right kinds of direct, intentional questions and then practicing active listening is key.
With years of data collected on how students make their college decision, Tudor Collegiate Strategies has identified several reliable signs/signals that often indicate your school is at the top of a student’s short list. Recognizing these earlier will help you figure out if it’s time to ask the student to take the final step and commit or submit their deposit.
- The parents or other family members share what’s going on behind the scenes. That includes details about other schools they’ve been talking to, recent visits or virtual events they’ve participated in, or anything else related to the process of making a decision on whether or not your school is the best fit for the student. We continue to find that in a lot of cases the parents in particular take an overly active role at the end of the decision-making process with colleges that are being seriously considered.
- They bring up money and financial aid. That could be direct questions about scholarships (institutional and outside), loans, payment options, the costs of books and other incidentals, etc. If they’re asking about anything that relates to how much they will be paying (or not paying) to attend your school, this is a sign of interest. The same is true when they push back and have subtle arguments with you about those topics. If your school is no longer a serious option, they won’t invest the time and energy into debating money and financial aid with you.
- They ask “How do I…” or “How does..” questions. “How does finding a roommate work?” Or, “How do I know what my final bill will be?” Any kind of question that starts with “How do I” of “How does” is important. This is a sign that the student is actively figuring out the process of being a student on your campus.
- They come back to campus a second time or they sign up for another one of your virtual events. It’s an especially strong sign if they ask to see specific things on campus or talk to specific people – including a current student in their major.
- They ask questions about students who graduated in their major – internships they did, jobs they have, the percentage that go on to do their Master’s degree, etc. Students rarely ask specific academic questions like those or any questions about the student journey unless they’re already picturing themselves being on your campus.
- They initiate communication with you. Whenever a prospective student at any stage emails, texts, or calls you on their own, that’s a major indicator of interest.
- They ask you what the next step is. When a student is ready to make their decision they often won’t wait for you to tell them what the next step is. They’ll just come right out and ask you something like, “So what would I do next?
Speaking of next steps, the next step once an admissions counselor gets one or more of these signs/signals is to act on them right away.
If the student reveals you’re one of their top choices (or even that you’re #1), it’s time to get clarification. I would recommend the counselor ask if that means they’re ‘ready to make their decision’. If the answer is “yes” it’s time to ask for their commitment/deposit. If the answer is “no” then your goal should be to find out what’s preventing them from making their decision. And, what (if anything) needs to happen next, in their mind. That’s valuable information that I continue to find most counselors never probe deep enough to uncover for fear of being pushy.
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