by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
This past week I had a lengthy discussion with an admissions counselor. She reached out to me for advice after a common theme started to develop with her new admits. The excitement of receiving that acceptance letter had begun to wear off. It was now being replaced by the stress of affording to pay for college.
The first thing I did was reassure this counselor that she wasn’t alone. As we all know, similar situations like this are occurring in many other admissions offices. Accepted prospects are once again being reminded that getting in to college is only half the battle. A new whirlwind of paperwork and electronic filing awaits them.
Colleges and universities are preparing for, or in many cases, are now in the thick of financial aid season. Prospects and parents alike are gathering the information needed to complete the financial aid forms, some of which are due in the coming weeks. Too often however we hear about recruits quickly becoming overwhelmed by the lingo of financial aid. That feeling of frustration can be enhanced further if they call the admissions office, only to speak with someone who is unprepared to provide guidance, and instead passes them off to a financial aid counselor who currently has a full plate and is unavailable.
As we discuss during our on-campus workshops, throughout the entire recruitment process your admissions team must always be laying out those all-important “next steps.” Through listening and effective questioning, counselors should also have uncovered and answered any objections. Having said that, here are four more things your prospects want from you when it comes to financial aid.
- They want an explanation of the aid package as early as possible. Prospects value schools that give financial aid estimates, even if they can’t spell out all of the package details yet. At a number of institutions the total package may not be known until March or possibly later. Walking a recruit through a projection early on, with specifics such as scholarship awards if possible, is a tangible way to show him or her that you care.
- They want to know your school’s value. There’s no question that a strong financial aid package will increase the chances that admits submit deposits. Research tells us though that this alone is not enough value to consistently secure commitments. Counselors must sell all of the qualities of the college above and beyond the financial assistance. This includes concrete data on your recent graduates. Knowing your school’s strengths and presenting the value proposition in the best way to connect with each individual recruit will pay dividends.
- They want transparency. If you read this newsletter each week then you understand just how important transparency is in the eyes of your prospects. If you haven’t heard that before, I strongly encourage you to write it on a post-it note and stick it somewhere visible as a daily reminder. Here’s how it applies to the financial aid process. As I mentioned earlier, clearly stating what needs to happen next in the process is a must. Make sure your prospects know when the filing deadlines are, what forms are required, what verification means, and how loans and payment plans work. Explain that to maximize their chances of getting aid via the FAFSA, submit that form as soon as possible. If they tell you their parents make too much money so they don’t need to complete it, make sure they understand that there are many different factors that go into financial aid. Ask them if they received even a few hundred dollars why they wouldn’t want that additional assistance. In the end if you can’t explain the details clearly, what are your prospects going to think?
- They want you to solve their problem. That’s right…they want you to help them figure out how to pay for college. They want you to help them find any outside scholarships and figure out what additional options they have for financing tuition and other expenses. They also want you to tell them about any financial aid seminars or workshops that your college or another local high school is hosting. Believe me when I tell you that the counselor who solves their problems will likely be the one whose school receives those deposits. Let’s be honest though, it’s unlikely that you will solve all of their problems, but if you can demonstrate that you’re trying to do so you’ll win brownie points with your prospects.
If you remember each of these four important points when you’re communicating about financial aid with your prospects, you will see greater yields.
Looking for help delivering clearer messages to your recruits? Jeremy Tiers and the staff at Tudor Collegiate Strategies work with college admissions departments around the country on a personalized basis. To discuss your situation and how the program would work with you, email Jeremy directly at firstname.lastname@example.org