By Ethan Penland, Director of Admissions Services
2 minute read
When I first started recruiting students, I thought I had the perfect lead-in into every conversation.
What was it you might be asking? Well, it went something like this, “So, what interests you about [my institution]?”
Wow, pretty arrogant and ingenuine, right? The question alludes to thinking the student has done their homework on my institution, they are actually interested in my institution, and that the student even knew that my institution existed. The question is impersonal and it made the conversation about my institution. Furthermore, the conversation was so generic, it didn’t help me tailor my follow-up questions to the student.
If any of this sounds familiar, don’t feel bad, it’s a learning experience.
After realizing my approach was not personal or helpful for the student, I tried something radically different. I asked every possible question that didn’t relate to my institution. Why such a vastly different approach?
Let me tell you!
I wanted the student to know, during the first time meeting them, it was all about establishing an understanding of who they were. If I was going to lead the conversation, the conversation was all focused on them as a person. Sure, conversations would gravitate towards my institution, but it was because I gave them the reins to do it–I didn’t. I knew that if my first conversation was focused on them and building rapport, the following questions about my institution would be easier to have. Why? Because every conversation about my institution would be tailored to the student based on knowing who they were as a person.
When you are talking with students this fall, especially for the very first time, make it about them, and ask any question that doesn’t directly pertain to your institution. Try it, seriously! A few pointers are:
- Look for context clues. If they had a cool shirt, I would compliment them, ask where they got it and why they liked it.
- Stay up on current trends. Look, I am not a TikTok kind of guy, but I will make sure I know all of the trends if I am out recruiting.
- Don’t be afraid to ask off-the-wall questions. If you know me, I value the debate of whether or not a hotdog is a sandwich (it is) or what is the color of a mirror.
This approach takes time and practice. It is also not made for every situation, i.e. busy college fairs or noisy lunchrooms, but if you have the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation, and you want to try something new, give it a shot.
If you are following up after the conversation, you are going to see a great change in how connected you are to the student because you let the first conversation be about them.