By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
If you’re reading today’s article, connecting and engaging with teenagers and other young people is probably a core part of your job. Both can definitely be a challenge.
A big reason why is the words and language that get used. Often times everything is too formal, too wordy, and possibly not authentic enough (i.e. it sounds like you’re reading off a script).
I’ve talked about each of those things at length over the last couple of years as well as the importance of asking direct, intentional questions, and avoiding certain words and phrases like, “I was just calling to…” and “I just wanted to check in and see…”
Phrases like those are too plain, don’t make you stand out, and they typically mask the real reason for your outreach – you’re usually calling, emailing, or texting because you want to know something…and students know it.
Here are two more things that a lot of college admissions and marketing professionals continue to use that don’t create any excitement, action, or engagement. Do you need to stop doing one or both of these?
The first one is…
“Dear <Student’s first name>,”
That little word “dear” to start your recruiting message is a big no-no according to our ongoing survey research with students. They say it’s old fashioned, outdated, too formal, and above all else screams this is a mass message and not something I personally wrote for you – which is what they’re looking for.
Start your email to a prospective student with either “Hi < Student’s First Name>,” “Hey <Student’s First Name>!” or from time to time you can even leave out the salutation and start with your first sentence and mix in their first name. An example of that would be, “I can talk to you all day long <Student’s First Name> about the dorms, or the food, or our clubs at <College Name> but…”
This small change will increase the chances they actually read and respond to your message because it feels more personal and relatable.
The second one is…
“If you have any questions please contact me.”
That phrase or some version of it like, “Let me know if you have any questions” is how a lot of admissions counselors continue to end their emails and texts in 2021. Is it technically wrong, no. But it’s way too general, doesn’t open the door and introduce the idea of a conversation, and doesn’t really encourage a response. Let me explain further.
You and I both know that students have things they’re wondering about and questions they need answered at every stage of the college search process. So, why don’t they ask then? The biggest reason is fear. They don’t want to ask/say what could be perceived as dumb or the wrong thing. Can they ask questions about anything or is there something specific you’re alluding to? If they’re not sure, it’s highly probable that they won’t respond to your email or text, or if you’re on the phone or video chat, they’ll just say something like, “I think I’m good.”
Students need you to lead and either give them a central idea to focus on, or have your call to action at the end be a more targeted question about a specific topic or specific aspect of their decision-making process.
Need some help with this part? Go ahead and email me and I’ll give you some quick feedback.
And remember – If you want prospective students to open, read, understand, respond, and/or engage, the words and language you use need to be clear, direct, authentic, helpful, focused, and conversational in tone.
If this article was helpful, go ahead and forward it to someone else on your campus who you think might also benefit from reading it.