By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Too often colleges and universities don’t give prospective students and parents enough context when sharing different parts of their school’s story and value proposition.
How often have you heard something like, “We have professors that care and a welcoming community that will quickly feel like home.” Or, you have a discussion or send out information about small class sizes, experiential learning, loads of opportunities, a worldwide alumni network, or the fact that “X percent” of recent graduates are employed or continuing their education within six months of graduation.
On the surface there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Each one of those things is important.
Here’s the problem – context is missing. Without it, you’re going to sound like a lot of other colleges that are sharing similar information and having similar conversations with those same students.
When I lead a recruiting workshop I explain that prospective students often need the “why” behind what an admissions counselor, coach, or another staff member is telling them. It gives them a basis for understanding why they should care about what you’re saying.
Giving context also does four other important things:
- It gives them a reason to listen to you – helps you connect and create a relationship.
- It helps personalize the college search process.
- It accelerates their understanding of your college and why it might be a good fit for them.
- When a student or parent understands the value and/or benefit behind something, they’re more likely to take action (oftentimes faster).
Somebody has to supply context and I want it to be you. If you don’t, you’re allowing others to shape the different parts of your school’s story for you.
As you start to engage more with next class of students, consider implementing these three strategies that continue to work well for our clients:
Start off any big conversation with an explanation. That could include visiting campus/doing a virtual visit, financial aid, the FAFSA, or completing your school’s application. As an example, you could say something like, “Here’s why I want to talk with you and your family now about scholarships and paying for college…” Doing so sets up a reason for them to listen to what you’re about to say. And when you give them that explanation, make it about them as much as possible.
You should also end a big conversation with definition. After you show a prospective student or parent something, or talk to them about an important topic, define it for them by saying something simple like, “Here’s why all of this should matter to you <Name>…” Again, it’s up to you to define what they hear.
Anticipate and address potential negatives ahead of time. If you know that other colleges or universities consistently point out a negative about some aspect of your school (ex. your location, size, or outdated buildings), get ahead of it. Give the student or parent context about what they’re likely to hear, and do it in a professional, non-negative way that combats and eliminates their intentions. For example, if you know that others will are likely to mention your school’s outdated dorms, address it early on. Explain why the student shouldn’t be worried about that, and then show them through storytelling and direct quotes from current students, the culture inside your dorms and how the RA’s or RD’s do a good job of creating a fun and positive living environment.
It’s up to you to define what prospective students and parents should think about something and why that something should be important to them. Plus, using student quotes to back up any statement or value point is always a smart strategy.
Context is one of the hidden secrets of effective recruiting. Do it correctly and you’ll not only notice an immediate difference in the level of engagement you have, but it will also allow you to move a student/family through the recruitment process more efficiently.
If this article was helpful, go ahead and forward it to someone else on your campus who could benefit from reading it.
And if this article was forwarded on to you and you found it helpful, I’d love to have you sign up for my weekly newsletter where it first appeared. You can do that right here at the top of this page.