By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Last week I was in North Carolina on the campus of Duke University for our National Collegiate Recruiting Conference.
I stood before the room of just under 90 college coaches and admission professionals and told them the same thing I’m going to tell you today – During the student recruitment process you need to start paying more attention to the other 4-letter “F” word.
Do you know what it is?
After a few incorrect guesses from conference attendees someone finally shouted out, “FEAR.”
Next I asked everyone in the room to raise their hand if they consistently bring up or have conversations with prospects and parents about fear…one hand went up. Would you have been able to raise yours if you were there?
Some people are scared to give a speech or presentation. Others have a fear of heights, spiders, and insects. Each one of us has fears, including the students and families that you work with each year.
If you’ve had me on your campus to lead a workshop, you know that the biggest fear this generation of students has is the fear of making the wrong decision. In fact, all of the ongoing focus group research that Dan (Tudor) and I do with students continues to validate that fear is driving almost everything that a prospect does during the recruitment process.
And because very few college admission professionals have a discussion about fear it ends up slowing down the recruitment process for many of their students.
Here are seven other things many of your prospects tell us they’re fearful about:
- They get scared to talk to you on the phone or return your call/email
- They get scared to give you honest feedback (ex. The campus visit)
- They’re scared they won’t be able to afford the leftover cost of your school
- They’re scared they won’t “feel comfortable” and “fit in”
- They’re scared of taking on more responsibilities
- They get scared when they don’t know what to do next in the process
- They’re scared to tell you “No”
Your job, if you want to become a better recruiter, is to find out what scares your prospect, as well as his or her parents, and then address it.
With that in mind, here are a few strategies we see working well for our clients when it comes to handling their prospect’s fear:
- Focus on their feeling of being fearful. It’s not actual facts that your prospect is scared about, it’s the feeling of being scared that they’re trying to avoid. You need to answer the question of why they’re feeling scared about something – leaving home, visiting campus, or returning your phone call. Focus on the feeling that’s creating the fear.
- Ask them what scares them most about the whole recruiting process. Logically, if they have a fear (rational or otherwise), you need to be the one to lead that conversation. It starts by asking an effective question like this one. Not asking questions like this makes recruiting harder, plain and simple.
- Tell them what you think they’re thinking. Tell your prospect what you see them being scared about and see if they agree with you or not. It’s easier for them to react to a statement about what you think they’re thinking than it is for them to tell you what they’re thinking. Is it confusing? Yes. Regardless, it’s what we find to be true, so use it to your advantage.
- Help them create a long-term plan. People worry and over analyze situations when they don’t have detailed, well thought out plans. I want you to help your prospect and their family set clear goals and a clear timeline to help them achieve those goals.
If you can help calm their fears (which is one of the biggest things your prospects really want you to do), you will win their trust and in turn gain a major advantage on your competition who doesn’t believe this topic is important or doesn’t know how to address it.
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.
I’ll leave you with this picture from last night as my plane was making its descent into Boston over the water. Have a great week!