By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
In last week’s article I gave you the following reminder – The majority of students become increasingly tired of the college search process the longer it goes on. They get tired of the emails, phone calls, and text messages from colleges and universities, as well as the questions from family members and their friends.
They’re busy, overwhelmed, unsure how they’re going to make their decision, afraid of making the wrong decision, and in some cases, afraid to tell you they’ve chosen a different college. All of that leads them to go silent.
Today I’m going to give you a specific email strategy that will get some (maybe even a lot) of them talking.
Last week one admissions counselor implemented this strategy on her own during a break in my workshop and within an hour had 25 responses. Plus, a new client of ours just sent out a similar email that we created for them following the same blueprint, and it generated responses for every counselor…one actually got more than 120 replies!
This ad hoc email can target any group of students who haven’t responded to multiple outreach attempts, and/or haven’t taken the action that you’ve been encouraging. There’s also value in creating multiple versions if you’re targeting multiple groups (i.e. inquiries, incomplete apps, admits), and/or pushing multiple action items (i.e. generating new apps, encouraging them to sign up for your event, or encouraging them to submit their deposit).
Here are the other foundational pieces to this message:
- This email should come from their admissions counselor.
- The subject line will be critical. Be creative and focus on standing out. Examples that have worked well for our clients include “Don’t leave me hanging!” (targeting cold inquires); “Is it a yes or no?” (targeting incomplete apps); and “Just can’t decide” (targeting undecided, admitted students).
- The body of your email should be short, direct, authentic, written in a conversational tone, and have one clear call to action.
- Do not use “Dear <Name>” at the beginning. Use “Hi <Name>,” or just <Name>.
- Start your email by acknowledging that you’ve tried contacting the student multiple times in multiple ways, haven’t heard back, and you’re wondering if that means they’ve found the college that’s right for them and it’s not your school. (Or that they don’t plan to apply, complete their application, or come to your event).
- Then tell the student you’re just not sure what their lack of communication means, so you want their feedback (i.e. what are they thinking and feeling). Your call to action shouldn’t be just another push to take immediate action on something. Instead it should be a question that’s relatable, easy to answer, and one that gets you context around something important like their interest level, their decision-making process, or why they haven’t taken action or completed the next step. There’s even value in encouraging cold inquiries to just tell you if they’re not interested anymore and you’ll stop communicating with them.
- Finish your email by acknowledging that the college search process is hard, and remind the student that your goal is to help them find the college that’s right for them.
After you hit send, be prepared to continue the conversation in a timely manner with students who reply back. Keep in mind you don’t have to write long, detailed follow-up responses, you just have to keep the conversation going.
In addition to getting engagement, as I said earlier, your goal with this email should be to figure out what they’re thinking/how they’re feeling about things, what their plan is, and what (if anything) you can do to help them figure out why they should choose your college or choose to take the next step.
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