By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Fact – Every prospective student regardless of where they’re at in their college search is scared, nervous, or worried about something. For many, according to our ongoing focus group research, it’s actually multiple things. And those fears and concerns have only multiplied during the pandemic.
If you haven’t had a conversation yet with seniors around this topic (especially your apps and higher ranking inquiries), I cannot stress enough how important it is that you do it sooner rather than later.
That’s because we continue to find that when a student’s fear and worries are not addressed, it often slows down their search and/or prevents them from taking the next step. One student said, “Many of us are scared of doing the wrong thing for college. I think reaching out to us personally would be helpful as I had friends who were very shy to reach out to admissions counselors for help.”
One of the easiest ways to start a conversation is by asking a question like, “What scares you the most about your college search?” You can do that in an email, letter, during a video chat, or in-person.
If you’re wondering what kinds of responses a question like that that will produce, there’s a good chance you’ll hear one of the following:
- Scared of making the wrong decision
- Scared I won’t find a college that fits with me
- Scared I won’t be able to afford my dream college
- Scared that because we had online classes last year that my transcript won’t be strong enough to get me admitted (i.e. pass/fail grades, missing activities)
- Scared that not having test scores or not being able to retake the SAT or ACT will prevent me from getting admitted or getting a scholarship
- Scared of moving away from home/fitting in
- Scared of the unknown
Some of those fears and concerns might seem completely irrational, but that’s what you’re dealing with right now.
I can also tell you that fear of saying the wrong thing prevents students from answering the phone, and it keeps them from responding to your emails and text messages.
Once you’ve asked them a direct question about their fears, worries, and concerns, the next step after they share how they feel is to thank them and validate that it’s okay to feel that way (i.e. they’re not weird). That kind of empathy will help you develop trust and rapport faster.
The last step is figuring out how you can alleviate their fear and/or put their mind at ease. One of the most effective strategies involves filling in the blanks via storytelling. I want you to provide them with concrete examples of people who felt the exact same way, and show how they overcame (or how you or someone at your college or university helped them overcome) a similar fear or concern. You need to connect the dots for them.
If you can help calm their fears, you’ll win their trust and in turn gain a big advantage over other admissions counselors who believe this topic isn’t important, or don’t know how to address it.
Talking about fear in a way that feels personal and feels like you’re being sympathetic to their situation is always a smart strategy.
Want to talk further about how to incorporate talking about fear into your recruiting strategy? Reach out to me and we’ll start a conversation.
If this article was helpful, go ahead and forward it to someone else on your campus who could benefit from reading it.
And if you’re interested in more articles with tips and strategies that you can use right now, you can find them here in our Admissions BLOG.