by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
‘Tis the season to be jolly, Fa la la la la, la la la la. Happy Holidays to each of you and your families.
My five year-old daughter Olivia has been counting down the days until Santa arrives. Not down the chimney though, because as she points out we have a gas fireplace. Instead, St. Nick will leave the presents on our front porch, so she says.
This is the first Christmas that Olivia wrote out a wish list and mailed it to the North Pole. After writing and re-writing her list, she settled on three big things. Here’s a hint – they’re all related to a recent Disney movie.
This year the competition among colleges and universities to attract those “best fit” students is at an all time high. That being said, in my conversations with admissions professionals across the country, there are a number of common issues for which your offices continue to seek answers.
Without further adieu, here are five of the most popular problems along with my recommendations for creating a winning solution to each:
- Figuring out the best recruiting practices. When I conduct one of our On-Campus Workshops this topic almost always enters the discussion. Phone calls, email, text, social messaging or direct mail. Which is the most effective method of communication with your prospective students? Our research shows that each form of communication has its place in the recruiting process. What you need to do is create a good mix and have a regular flow. This generation of prospects will react to a good combination of all these facets of recruiting. If you choose to utilize only one or two of these methods you’re leaving the door open for a competing school, that will employ all of their communication resources.
- The perception of your school at the beginning of the process. It’s a proven fact that today’s prospect doesn’t start the college search process without biases against most schools. If you refuse to accept that notion you’ll be fighting a major uphill battle. Ask yourself, “What biases do we typically hear against our institution?” Then be prepared to answer them. Your prospects mind is like a whiteboard. Whatever goes up there first is what they usually believe. In most cases it doesn’t matter if it’s fact or fiction. You need to tell your recruits early in the process why they’d be crazy not to consider your school. As you begin to tell your story remember that it must be compelling, because your goal is to create that “feeling,” the one that all recruits use to make their decision.
- Turning admits into deposits. When we talk to prospects about their final decision there’s usually a common thread. The institution they chose was able to connect all the dots throughout the recruitment process not only for the prospect, but also their parents. Listing all the great things about your school is only beneficial if you explain how those things will impact the recruit. Your messaging needs to be specific, and it needs to be tied together with facts. Taking this one step further, your prospect always needs to know what’s next, especially after they’ve been admitted. Trust me when I tell you they want to know, and they expect you to deliver that information. Be transparent. Don’t ever assume your prospect knows what to do next. Lastly let me challenge you to evaluate the content of your school’s acceptance packet. What separates yours from the five to ten others that the recruit will receive?
- Creating amazing campus visits every time. It bears repeating that our ongoing focus group research on campuses around the country rates the face-to-face communication you have with a prospect as a “very important” and “important” factor in determining which school they attend. Despite everything schools know about how critical the campus visit is to successful recruiting, some colleges still don’t take it seriously enough. In most cases schools need to shorten the length of the campus tour, and focus more on highlighting why certain things around campus are important to that specific recruit. More personalization and less same old, same old. That also means do not fill their day jam packed with meetings. Make sure your office leaves some time for self-exploration.
- Understanding the changing landscape of social media and how to use it. Social media has changed the recruiting landscape forever. Gone are the days when a college could survive online with just a Facebook page. When mom, dad, grandma and grandpa joined the website, your prospects carved out new online territory over at Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Snapchat and Flickr. That’s just the beginning. LinkedIn’s “University Finder” has quickly become a tool that students are using to gather information on colleges. Google Hangouts are also gaining popularity in admissions offices as a way to connect with out-of-state and international students. Start by creating a strategy. Figure out what your office wants to accomplish from social media and choose your networks wisely. Your content needs to be original and it needs to be updated on a regular basis. Our research shows that prospects really like pictures and videos. Make sure your counselors are spreading the word about your offices’ pages and profiles to recruits during school visits and college fairs. Regardless of which method of social media you use, remember that prospects want a personal, behind-the-scenes glimpse of your school and all it has to offer.
Questions about any of this? Email Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org and get a personal reply. Our team at Tudor Collegiate Strategies is here to help!