by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Over the holiday break I ran into a former neighbor of mine that I hadn’t seen in almost a year. While catching up I found myself trying to figure out what was different about him.
People are programmed to notice what’s different.
We consistently stress to our clients the importance of taking a creative approach and standing out when it comes to recruiting. For some of you that may be a scary proposition. Sure, it’s far easier to use the same tried and true approach. Don’t be surprised though when it produces mixed results. More than ever, this generation of students wants and needs to see, hear and feel something different if you’re going to separate your school from the competition and successfully enroll them.
Once you’ve accepted the fact that it’s okay to be different, I encourage you to also keep in mind that not every prospective student is one in the same. That means a great recruiting idea that generates results with one student might not be effective for another. Your admissions team must always remember who a prospect is and why a particular message is important to them.
There are many instances when differentiating yourself or your school can be beneficial. Here are four aspects of the recruiting process where we’ve seen schools take a different approach and subsequently make a considerable impact with their prospects.
- Your letters, particularly the early ones. Too often counselors start by sending lengthy form letters that talk about the school’s name and reputation, while also listing a plethora of facts, figures and rankings. If you’re trying to create a reaction from the recruit, which you absolutely should be, this isn’t the way to do it. Want to be different? As you start to tell stories you need to find ways to connect with your prospect. Incorporating personal details about him or her, as well as their likes into your story-telling is an effective way to start creating those all important “feelings.”
- Your campus visits. We covered this topic in detail in a previous post, but let me give you a couple of new ideas. If possible with your high-level recruits, create the opportunity to spend 5 minutes visiting with your school’s President. That kind of personal attention is hard to match. Or, how about providing solid information regarding recent graduate incomes from the specific major your recruit is considering. Many students struggle to understand the value of a particular degree, so here’s a chance for you to provide valuable information and stand out.
- Your phone conversations. At the end of every phone call with a prospective student you should be asking yourself a question – “Are they looking forward to the next time I call?” If you have any doubts, start by reading this. Now, let’s expand a little on how you can make your phone calls even more memorable. If you’re expecting a list of cool and exceptional ideas that have worked for our clients with this one, sorry but that’s not the goal. Rather, the key point I want you to take away is to be original. Once you have gathered personal details about your recruit, at the appropriate time during your conversation, try throwing out something unexpected. If you have a hard time coming up with something, think about some non-traditional ideas that will separate your conversation from the other counselor phone calls the recruit is receiving. Being innovative will take some extra time, but it will produce results.
- How you recruit others around the prospect. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself who’s recruiting your prospects for you when you’re not? It’s an important question. Our research shows that parents are the most important outside influence your recruit will utilize when it comes to making their decision. But you already know that. So, let me start by reminding you to cultivate your relationship with mom and dad, and don’t forget that separate messaging to them is a must. Now let’s discuss everybody else that matters in your recruit’s life. These may include their siblings, best friend, girlfriend/boyfriend, high school counselor and possibly another mentor at school or in the community. If you want to be different, it’s time you started connecting on various levels with each of these influencers, so they too understand why your school is the best option. It may not make sense, but the research shows that prospects will often go against their own gut and side with some of these highly influential outside decision makers.
When recruits believe that their college choices all offer the same thing, they naturally must see the people selling them as different to make a choice. How different are you? It’s crucial to come up with ways throughout the recruitment cycle to differentiate both your institution and yourself, without becoming too weird of course. When you’re consistently different and take an alternative approach, it will get noticed, and you will generate positive outcomes.
After the holidays comes New Years, and with New Years comes resolutions! If you are focused on developing a more research-based, strategic approach to the recruiting process, talk to Jeremy Tiers and the Tudor Collegiate Strategies team. To get an overview of how the process works, and what they do when they work with an admissions staff as clients, click here. Or, contact Jeremy directly at firstname.lastname@example.org