By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
That 4-word phrase, or a version of it, seems to be a popular response right now among undecided students. It’s definitely one of, it not the biggest, topics I’ve been asked for advice on over the past few weeks.
A rise in post May 1 decisions means instead of focusing efforts on “summer melt,” more and more schools are still building their next class.
Hearing “I’m still not sure” or “I still need to think about it” seems reasonable enough though, doesn’t it? This is the biggest decision to date for that student. Some might even argue it could be a life altering decision.
I would argue that in many cases it’s not reasonable, and here’s why:
- In research that Tudor Collegiate Strategies completed to help our clients craft a more coherent recruiting strategy down the stretch, we found that about 8 out of 10 prospects spend “little” to “no time” actually thinking about your school after they tell you that’s what they need to go and do.
- We know from experience, and getting feedback from live student focus groups during our On-Campus Training Workshops at colleges around the country that most students have defined a college within 10-15 minutes of completing a campus visit there.
So, unless you’re willing to increase your discount rate, my recommendation is you eliminate the option of “I’m still not sure” or “I still need to think about it” from your prospect’s vocabulary. Here are 3 proven strategies that Dan (Tudor) and I recommend:
- Since we know that a lot of prospects are spending little to no time actually “thinking about it” right now, go ahead and call them on it. There are a number of ways you can do this. One of the most effective ways to respond when you hear that phrase is by asking, “Tell me what you’ll be thinking about” or “Tell me what you’re still not sure about.” One of two scenarios will play out – Either they will be unable to define anything for you (aka “stall”), or they’ll list out objections and insider conversations that are going on at home as they try to reach a decision. Regardless of which one happens you’ll have a much better feel for your next move.
- Get ahead of it after the campus visit. Since we know that a lot of students have largely defined you after their campus visit, reach out for their opinion within two to three days after. In that phone call, email, or text message (which one you use should depend on the student’s preference) tell them how much you enjoyed having them on campus and then ask them what one or two big obstacles they (and their parents) think might prevent them from picking your school. Counselors that take this approach are surprised how much it eliminates “I’m still not sure” or “I want to think about it.” That’s because you’re getting them to define it for you earlier in the process, and you can subsequently shift or alter your strategy.
- Make finding out what the parents think a priority. I’ve been hammering home this point in article after article the past 12 months. It still takes way too long for most admissions counselors to begin communicating with parents. When you do connect with the parent(s), you need to find out what they think could prevent their son or daughter from choosing your school. Focus on what they don’t like or have big questions or fears about. In some cases our clients are finding that when they engage the parent(s) early, they come away with more usable information than when they talk to the student. If you make this part of your recruiting communication strategy, you’ll find that you will insulate yourself against future “stalling” by the student.
One final point – I’ve used the word “stall” a couple of times because that’s exactly what your prospect is doing when they use a phrase like, “I’m still not sure.” They’re stalling for time.
They don’t like making a final decision, and, in some cases, they’re worried about how you’ll respond if they tell you your school is no longer under consideration.
Do you have a question about this article or some other aspect of student recruitment, leadership, or professional/personal development? I’m happy to HELP YOU if you’ll let me. You can anonymously ask me a question right here in our Reader Q & A. Or you can email me your question directly.
Have a great week!