by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Christmas time is here.
You’ve managed to get through a crazy fall that was full of school visits, fairs, campus visits, phone calls, emails, reading applications, and so much more.
How are you feeling right now about this next class of students? Are you excited…nervous…frustrated…or secretly freaking out a little on the inside?
Regardless of how you’re feeling today, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to come up with one wish for Santa. Other than more time or a bigger budget, what’s one student recruitment problem or professional skill that you could really use help with right now?
Got it? Okay, on to the fun part. Start a new email to me by clicking this link. In the subject line put “admissions wish”. Write down your wish and click send…and then come back and read the rest of this article. If you do click send, you’ll get a helpful response from me before Christmas day. That’s right, free help for the holidays!
If you skipped over that part and didn’t just send me an email, that’s okay. I’ve been keeping a wish list all year long based on my conversations with VP’s, Directors, Assistant Directors, Counselors, and other admissions professionals. Maybe your “admissions wish” is on this list.
Here are 5 common wishes along with my recommendations for creating a winning solution to each:
- Figuring out how to best communicate with prospects/parents. What’s the most effective method of communication according to your prospects – phone calls, email, text messaging, social media, or direct mail? Our ongoing research still ranks email as a student’s preferred method of communicating with you, but you always should ask your prospect which one they prefer most. Keep in mind that each form of communication has its place in the recruitment process. Ultimately what you need to do throughout the entire cycle is create a good mix and have a consistent flow. This generation of prospects will react favorably to a good combination of all the above. If you choose to believe that direct mail has no value for prospects any more or that a separate comm. flow for parents isn’t necessary, you’re leaving the door open for a competitor (especially if they’re a client of ours) that will employ all of their communication resources.
- The perception of your school at the beginning of the process. It’s a proven fact that today’s prospect and their parents start the college search process with biases against most schools. If you refuse to accept that notion, or you don’t think you need to address those biases, you’ll be fighting a major uphill battle. Your prospect’s mind is like a whiteboard. Whatever goes up there first is what they usually believe even if it’s not 100% accurate. You need to tell your prospects as early as possible what to think about various aspects of your school.
- Turning those admits into deposits. When we talk to prospects about their final decision, there’s usually a common thread. The school they chose constantly asked questions about their wants and their needs and was able to connect all the dots throughout the recruitment process not only for them, but also their parents. If you missed my article last week about getting “little yeses”, then click that link because you need to gain agreement at different points in the process before you can realistically think that it’s time to ask your admits if they’re ready to submit their deposit. As far as your communication plan goes, you should NOT significantly decrease the information that you send a student after they’re admitted. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that they have all the information they need to make an informed decision at this stage. And don’t use the excuse that you’ve got nothing left to talk with them about. One more thing – what’s your school doing to connect admitted students with current students and recent graduates? Organizing networking events for admitted students to interact with those two groups offers a ton of value…and don’t forget about the parents!
- Truly differentiating your school from your direct competition. Aside from the actual dollar amount, what makes your school different and better than school B and C when it comes to fulfilling your prospect’s wants and needs? This generation craves a reason to choose a college based on the unique selling proposition it offers them. Are you helping create a logical and emotional connection for them? In my article a few weeks back I gave you all kinds of ideas on how to truly stand out. Click that link if you missed it, or if you need to read it again.
- Talking about price and demonstrating value. If you don’t think that a large majority of families are willing to pay more for that “right fit”, you’d be wrong. In fact, I’m willing to bet you’ve done the same for something at least once in your life…coffee, your car, your house, a dinner out…I could go on and on. When it comes to talking about price, you need to do it early, be 100% transparent about your school’s entire financial aid process (and how it compares to other colleges they’re considering), figure out what kinds of challenges this process creates for them, and work hard to be their guide. A big part of demonstrating your value is creating a connection and cultivating trust. You do this by constantly asking questions so that you can understand what they’re looking for and how you can best meet that need. When you create and nurture that connection, you separate yourself and your school by delivering the most memorable customer experience. Proof of that continues to pop up in recruiting surveys that we conduct when we partner with a college. Students will state their college wasn’t the cheapest option, but they chose it because they felt a sense of community and belonging on campus, and their admissions counselor was such a fantastic go-to person throughout. You do those things by providing valuable content that helps them navigate the college search process smoothly, while also explaining what makes your student experience so incredible. You explain how your students learn, the relationships they have with faculty and others on campus, the opportunities your campus offers them to grow, and what your institution does to prepare them for success upon graduating. Don’t just tell them about the R.O.I. they can expect, show them recent results and explain what that means in terms of their investment. Value can be communicated logically and emotionally, and you need to do both.
Happy Holidays, and thank you for your attention.