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About That College Information SessionTuesday, September 26th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

If I asked you to rate the information session that your college offers as a part of your campus visit on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 is amazing and 1 is not very good), what number would you tell me?

During my travels this summer, I asked that question to various admission counselors, directors, and campus visit coordinators. What I found interesting was that most of the numbers the directors and campus visit coordinators gave me were between 7 and 8.5. Counselors, on the other hand, the ones who often lead these sessions, generally rated it between a 6 and a 7.

The bigger question is, what do prospective students and parents think of these information sessions?

I’ve read more critical feedback the past 6 to 12 months than ever before. Too many colleges are failing to differentiate themselves with these sessions that have been described as “immensely boring,” “extremely repetitive” and “the Power Point presentation of doom.” Those are direct quotes made by parents and students that I pulled from recent newspaper and blog articles.

Add it all up, and it’s clear that more attention and discussion about the topic is needed on a lot of campuses…especially considering what we know about the campus visit and the role it plays in a student’s final decision.

Today, I’m going to share some ideas on how these information sessions can provide more value to students and parents.

  • Shorten it. Some information sessions last as long or even longer than the college’s walking tour of campus. If this is the first thing a prospective student and their parent(s) do when they arrive on your campus, what kind of first impression and excitement is it creating? Keeping people in a room or your gymnasium with a bunch of strangers and no bathroom breaks for an extended period of time is a bad idea.
  • Spend the first few minutes creating rapport. Remember, most if not all of the people in the room don’t know each other and probably don’t know the counselor of whoever is giving the presentation. Spend the first few minutes calming their nerves by outlining the agenda and touching on the college search process as a whole (and how it’s hard, confusing, and at times scary). Validate those things and let them know that the goal of everyone on your campus today is to help each family walk away with a clearer picture of not just your college, but also the college search process as a whole.
  • Incorporate social media into your presentation. According to the latest Pew Research Center statistics, 95% of Americans own a cell phone of some kind, and for 77% of them, it’s a Smartphone. The numbers are even higher when just looking at young people. If just about every single visitor to your campus has a phone and can’t put it down for an extended duration of time, why not incorporate some audience participation into your presentation…turn it into a unique contest with prizes. Keep in mind that what a student finds interesting and what a parent feels is helpful aren’t necessarily one in the same.
  • Update your topics. Thanks to the internet and social media, less and less students and parents are coming to your campus for the first time knowing little to nothing about some of the “basics” of your college – academic majors, location, financial aid and the application process. When you repeat some or all of this information verbatim from Power Point slides it quickly becomes boring and offers no explanation of what really makes your college unique and different from your competitors. If you want to get and keep the attention of your visitors, namely the students, give them more information about things you know they’re thinking about but don’t want to say. Consider talking about fear and how your school helps new students adjust both academically and socially. Explain how to go about finding external scholarships to help offset the cost of college. Have a current freshman speak about what it means to live with a roommate. Have an upperclassmen talk about how your college is helping prepare him/her for a successful career after graduation. Have a parent of a current student touch on how the financial aid and admissions staff at your college helped make the entire process less stressful for their family. There’s no reason to wait until an admitted student day to have these discussions and create these interactions. Furthermore, I would argue there’s value in splitting up prospects and their parents for a short time and speaking on different topics with both groups…and then you reconvene.
  • More storytelling by your speakers. The reason students and parents tell us they feel information sessions are completely scripted is because they usually are. Most counselors, tour guides, and other guest speakers need to be taught how to become better storytellers. Encouraging them to contribute personal examples is great, but not everyone knows how to turn an event or situation into an impactful story. Explaining the importance of visualization, especially when it comes to things the student or parent is about to see and do during your walking tour throughout campus is also important.
  • Create 1-on-1 opportunities for families to ask questions specific to them. Believe me when I say every single student and family has questions. Many just don’t feel comfortable putting things out there in front of another family or group of families also visiting your college. Create individual situations for those questions to be answered by an admissions counselor or tour guide during the visit versus asking if anyone has questions towards the end of the information session like every other college does.
  • Give them a quick break. Incorporate about 10 minutes in between the end of the information session and the beginning of the walking tour around campus. Offer your visitors a snack, a beverage, and the chance to use the restroom. It’s something little that has paid big dividends for our clients who have implemented it.

Are you already doing one or more of the 7 things I just recommended? Has it been beneficial? Whether the answer is yes or no, I’d love to hear about it if you’re willing to share. Drop me a quick email by clicking this link: jeremy@dantudor.com

Enjoy the rest of your day!

It’s So Important I Tell You ThisTuesday, September 19th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Thank you. It’s important I start with that because while I know many of you will read this article from start to finish, I also know that there are some who will stop after the first paragraph or part way through. Either way, I want you to know how grateful I am.

Your emails, phone calls, tweets, the anonymous questions you ask in the Reader Q & A, and the success stories that you share with me throughout the year after using a strategy I recommend are what fuel me…pushing me to do even more for you, and some days causing me to get a little emotional (eyes watering) like in Boston this past week at the NACAC National Conference.

On Saturday morning, a reader of this newsletter who I had never met before stopped by my booth with a colleague of his to say thank you. With a big smile on his face, he thanked me for the knowledge and strategies that I share each Tuesday, and he also touched on the discussions that have resulted in his office after sharing articles of mine.

There were a lot of amazing moments in Boston for me, but that conversation was the most memorable.

As you interact with prospective students and parents in the coming days, weeks, and months, always be mindful that your college is just one of many reaching out to them through the many different available channels.

For you to successfully engage with these families, you need to understand how to influence them on a personal level. That means taking the time to really get to know who they are – their wants, needs, motivations, and their fears. If you don’t take this approach you go from being someone who they’re excited to learn more from, to just another college representative delivering a sales pitch…no matter how much they like your college on the surface.

Much like I never forget those of you who connect with me and thank me for helping you, your prospects and their parents will never forget you when you truly make this process about them. Caring, being thoughtful, and just being plain relatable never go unnoticed, even if they don’t verbalize that to you…because less and less people are like that.

Once they “know you” and it’s clear you’re consistently trying to help guide them through what is a confusing and complicated college search process, they’ll listen and they’ll engage as you tell your school’s story and explain why your college is a good fit for them.

But it has to be about them. The students have to be at the center of everything you’re doing.

The people who understand that and communicate with prospective students and parents the way they want to be communicated with will win, and in some cases, win big.

Before I sign off until next Tuesday, I have one quick request. Will you please forward this article to one person (or more) in higher education you think would benefit from reading it? It could be an admissions colleague, a peer at another institution, or a friend.

Thanks again, and as always you can reach me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

Admissions Newsletter – Reader Q & A: September 19, 2017Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

This is an opportunity for readers of this newsletter to anonymously ask me a question about any aspect of student recruitment, leadership, and professional or personal development.  Each week I’ll post my answer for everyone to read.

 Q.  An Admissions Counselor asks:

“I’m new and struggling with a lot of things right now but what’s the biggest thing you think new admissions counselors struggle with?”

A.  Thank you for your question! I could go a bunch of different directions here, but I’m going to choose self-awareness.

I think it’s hard for a person to improve any skill if they’re not self-aware. I’ve seen friends, leaders, and others in numerous professions fall short because they don’t know, that they don’t know.

When was the last time you asked yourself who you are and what you’re good (and not good) at? Do you truly understand your skill set and your DNA? What would those around you say if I asked them those same questions? And just to be clear, I’m not talking about just your skills as an admissions counselor, but also as a human being.

When you’re self-aware and you know what you’re good at you can use those skills to advance. And when you come to grips with what you’re not as good at, and are willing to ask for help with, that also allows you move forward much faster.

Self-awareness isn’t easy, but I believe it’s a game changer once you figure it out.

How to Figure Out If All Those New Names Are Really InterestedTuesday, September 12th, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

During my travels the past few weeks, two clients posed the same question that’s probably on the mind of a lot of admissions counselors and directors as they comb through a new list of names for this next recruiting cycle:

“How do I find out if this student is seriously interested in our school?”

It’s a legitimate question, and one that needs to be answered if an admissions counselor is going to effectively manage their territory in the early stages.

The good news is I’m confident you can quickly gauge the interest of a prospective student if you use one or both of the strategies I’m going to give to you today.

Using these strategies will help you:

a) Gain valuable information that allows you to develop a stronger recruiting relationship with a student and keep the process moving forward.

Or

b) Eliminate or move a student down your list much faster.

Here they are:

  1. Use a call to action that asks for their opinion on something. Either in your first letter or email, or sometime during your first conversation with a student, ask them a question about the college search process in general (not something specific to your school). For example, you could ask them about fear, must-haves, or what the “best college” looks like in their mind. Let me add that the reason this strategy consistently works for our clients is because the question is asked in a conversational tone by an admissions counselor after the counselor establishes that they’re here to help make the college search process easier.
  2. Ask them for, or help them develop, (if they don’t have one) a timeline for the whole process. And within that, give them a soft deadline to come visit campus (if they haven’t done so already).  There’s no “perfect time” to ask for a campus visit nor is there a certain timeline that works for every single student. Recruiting is 100% situational…always remember that. The point is, when you mutually agree on a timeline it indicates serious interest, and we’ve found it will prompt them to take action sooner. That action could be a campus visit or something else like completing your school’s application. This strategy has also helped our clients determine that their school is the student’s “back-up” school…which is actually a good thing because you may have just saved yourself months of hard work recruiting a student that had little to no intention of ever seriously considering your college.

I encourage you to test out one or both of these strategies right now with some of the new names you recently obtained. And then let me know how it goes!

This Week in Tech – September 12, 2017Monday, September 11th, 2017

Every week, Ken Whittaker, Director of Engineering, and Neal Cook, Director of Support at Front Rush, review recent tech news, offering analysis and banter about changes in tech.

Neal: Hey Ken! It feels like fall today, so I have a joke for you. What is the cutest season?

Ken: Fall?

Neal: Awwwwwtumn.

Ken: Hahaha. You know I love a corny joke. How have you been?

Neal: Stop, you’re making me hungry! Live is amazing, let’s get started!

So another company was hacked this week. Big surprise? This was a big one as Equifax, one of the three main credit reporting agencies, announced they were hacked back in late July. Up to 143 million customers (mostly Americans) were hacked. Which is a big number considering the population of the USA is 323.1 million-ish.

Names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and some driver license numbers were accessed. About 209,000 people also had their credit card numbers leaked. It’s ironic we trust these companies with our trusted information, and they lose it. How do you feel about this?

Ken: Not good – but I guess it comes with the territory. As you mentioned, Equifax is one of three main credit reporting agencies. As prestigious as that is, there also comes a lot of responsibility. The big change here is the sensitivity of all the information that was leaked. One thing you’re typically taught when you’re very young is that your social security number is extremely sensitive and that you should be cautious with where or how you share it. The ironic part here is that – one of the companies responsible for that information was the target of this information. Cyber security is extremely important, and a hack of this scale just drives that point home even more.

Neal: Hacking has been so commonplace (Verizon, Gmail, Blue Cross, Chipotle, Brooks Brothers, Xbox all have reported hacks so-far in 2017), that I almost don’t fault Equifax. The hackers, in my mind, are just too good to be stopped…..but that doesn’t mean companies who store our data are off the hook.

To find out if you were affected you can head to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and Equifax will tell you if they think you were impacted. If you were, you’d be given a date where you can come back to the website to start your one year free of credit monitoring.

One year of credit monitoring? Heck, you lose my credit, you watch my digital self for life.

Ken: This is just the beginning. Although it took over a month to make the announcement, at least it was done in a way that so far seems organized. But, you bring up a good point. Even setting this discussion up, it’s no longer a question of “can a hack happen?” but rather “who got hacked?” – and it’s almost commonplace. While there is definitely a need to beef up cyber security efforts, there’s always something new – or a different vulnerability that is exploited. Something else I think about is – why are our passwords more secure than our social security numbers? Think about it, a small set of numbers is basically a huge piece of the puzzle protecting our identity. But, if I sign in to Gmail, I have a complex password that meets requirements, and two factor authentication. I’m not allowed in unless I verify myself at least two ways. Perhaps it’s time we start looking at Social Security Numbers as more than just a number. While yes, in theory it could still be hacked, it still makes me wonder.

Neal: 9 numeric digits is all a Social Security Number is. I was surprised when I learned that social security numbers weren’t given out until 1936 and they were only created for the sole purpose of tracking our wages and determining Social Security benefits.

It’s evolved into so much more now as it’s the primary identifier we use in our daily lives to confirm we are who we claim we are. Knowing that, the security of our Social Security should definitely be reexamined.

Ken: Well, if there’s any benefit to this – maybe this is the kind of event that will spark some type of advanced discussion. Hopefully, we can get something sorted out, but that comes with own set of challenges. That’s about all I have for this week. As always, it was good chatting with you!

Neal: We’ll change the world one day, that’s for sure, Ken.

Let’s leave with an E-A-G-L-E-S chant. Peace!

This is How You Can Improve Your Customer ServiceTuesday, September 5th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

At some point this summer I’m sure you’ve experienced poor customer service. You know, the kind that frustrates you to no end, and you proceed to tell your family, friends and neighbors all about it.

Customer service, specifically that of your admissions staff, is a critical component to growing the enrollment on your campus. When everybody puts the wants and needs of prospective students and parents first, it’s noticeable, good things happen, and word spreads. The same thing is true about a bad experience. If you or one of your colleagues comes across as unpleasant, can’t be bothered, or is down right rude, many complaints these days get aired through one of the oh-so-public social media platforms.

All of this begs the question – Can superior treatment by a college’s admissions staff really influence a prospect’s final decision? I continue to argue absolutely, and here’s why.

Each time we begin work with a college, we conduct focus group research with their incoming or current freshmen. One of the survey questions we ask those freshmen is to rate the importance of 16 different factors in terms of how they influenced them to choose their college over the competition. Factors include affordability, location, the “feel” of campus, the history of the school, the perception of the college as a whole, and how the admissions staff treated them throughout the process.

Taking nearly three years of data into account, this generation of students continues to tell us that the treatment they receive from a college’s admissions staff is one of the top three factors in their final decision (consistently ranking ahead of things like affordability and location). In fact, it ranked #1 at a private university in Georgia and a private college in New Jersey that I worked with last week. And it’s also number one for a private college in South Dakota that I’ll be leading a workshop at the next two days.

So, when was the last time you evaluated your office’s customer service? I’m talking about anyone that a typical student or parent interacts with on your campus during the college search process.

Today I’m going to give you 9 strategies that will help you and your colleagues deliver exceptional customer service…the kind that results in a student quote like this one which came from a recent survey we conducted:

“My counselor was amazing in that she not only remembered my name, but she remembered other aspects from when we spoke over the phone. She continually kept in touch through email and she even wrote some hand written cards, which really meant a lot because it meant that she took the time to write it instead of say, an automatic email. She even kept in touch after I finished the application process and enrolled at (college name)! I think the little things like that really go a long way when kids are trying to pick a school.”

  1. Listen more than you talk. Being a good listener is one of the key principles I stress with our clients. Doing so is often the difference between developing a superior relationship with a prospect/family and being just another college on their list. When you do most of the talking, you make it nearly impossible to discover what’s really motivating your prospect to consider your college. You‘re also cheating yourself out of valuable information that you can discover from the comments a student or parent gives when they feel like you’re making the conversation about them.
  2. Talk about deadlines far in advance. Most prospective students don’t have a clear picture in their mind of how they’re going to get from A to Z in the college search process. Helping them build out a timeline benefits both them and you. Reiterate when they need to submit specific paperwork, and explain the differences between deadlines and timelines depending on the other colleges they’re considering. Deadlines help to keep everyone focused on the task at hand.
  3. Continually look for ways to engage. If you’re sending long, wordy mailings or always asking yes/no type questions in person and on the phone, are you really gaining their interest? It’s hard enough for this generation of students to respond to your communication because of fear, so what are you consistently doing to create an environment where they’re comfortable sharing their wants and needs?
  4. Become their “go-to-person.” I use this phrase all the time when I lead a staff-training workshop. The more you do for them, the more they’ll look at your school as the logical choice. As that “go-to person”, some of you will even find that prospects and parents will call you when they have questions about other schools they’re considering. Another tip on how to do this – When it comes to your recruiting communications, why not have all your emails and letters come from each individual admissions counselor? It’s the strategy we use with our clients and it’s yet another way to deliver exceptional customer service.
  5. Always tell them what’s next.  There’s always a next step throughout the college search process. I think part of your job is to explain it clearly at each point along the way. And narrow it down to one thing, not two or three. By doing this, you’ll increase the comfort levels of your prospects and their parents and minimize what can otherwise easily become a stressful time in their lives.
  6. Ask the parents how they’re coping with the college search process. And do it long before you deliver their child’s financial aid award letter. You need to understand how this process is affecting them and what obstacles it creates when it comes to considering your school.
  7. Gain agreement along the way. I call them “little yeses.” I want you to gain agreement throughout the process that they like what they’re hearing about your college and that they understand why it would be a “good fit” for them. Agreement along the way makes that next phone call or communication and that next step much easier…especially when it comes time to “close.”
  8. Be where your customers are. Most of this generation thinks colleges have no idea how to effectively use social media during the student recruitment process. It’s one of their biggest complaints on our surveys. In addition to being on the platforms that your prospects use the most, what kind of content are you generating, and is it “real and raw?” That’s what this next class wants. Developing a social media strategy that provides content that’s native to each platform and gives them a “behind the scenes” look at daily life on your campus will results in a massive ROI.
  9. If your prospect chooses another school. Sometimes no matter how great your customer service is your prospect will choose to go elsewhere. The reasons rarely make sense, but that’s the reality. When this happens, send them a personal note wishing them well. Tell them you’re even excited for them. That kind of customer service will pay dividends down the road when others around them inquire about your college and the overall experience that they received from you.

If you want to talk about any of these 9 points in greater detail and you’re going to be in Boston next week for NACAC, stop by Booth 311 and we’ll have a conversation. Or you can always email me directly at: jeremy@dantudor.com

Admissions Newsletter – Reader Q & A: September 5, 2017Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

This is an opportunity for readers of this newsletter to anonymously ask me a question about any aspect of student recruitment, leadership, and professional or personal development.  Each week I’ll post my answer for everyone to read.

Q.  An Admissions Counselor asks:

“I’m planning out my fall travel right now and wanted to know if you have any tips on how to stand out?”

A.  Thank you for your question! Here are 3 easy, and effective, strategies to consider:

  1. Sit alongside prospective students, not across the table from them.  When you’re visiting a high school or a community college, trying sitting next to the student (or next to one of the students) instead of across from them or at the other end of the table. Creating an atmosphere of trust starts with your body position.
  2. Do something different with your information session. More and more students are saying these all look and sound the same. Instead of reciting your usual script, start your session off with a conversation about something that you know just about every single student wonders about. For example, what does it mean to live with a roommate or how does your school help make the transition easier (academically and socially) for new students.
  3. Make the conversation all about them and nothing about your school. Instead of throwing out every single fact and figure about your campus and its programs, try this. Spend those first couple of conversations when you meet a student talking about things like fear, and how they plan to actually navigate the college search process. When you take this approach not only are you personalizing the process more for them, but you’re also creating an environment that promotes trust and allows them to become comfortable enough to have future conversations with you. And what will inevitably happen as a natural bi-product of doing this is the student will ask questions about your college…but you’ve allowed them to take the lead and talk about things that matter to them, versus you giving them a massive amount of information that they either don’t care about or aren’t ready for just yet.

Good luck!

This Week in Tech – September 5, 2017Monday, September 4th, 2017

Every week, Ken Whittaker, Director of Engineering, and Neal Cook, Director of Support at Front Rush, review recent tech news, offering analysis and banter about changes in tech.

Ken: Hey Neal! Another week, another piping hot, fresh blog post to write. How have you been?

Neal: Hey Ken! It was my birthday week so it was extra spectacular. Hope your week was just as groovy!

Ken: Well Happy Birthday to you! As we know, the biggest story of the week has been surrounding Hurricane Harvey which affected Texas and Louisiana early in the week. If you’ve seen any of the images coming out of there, it’s truly a devastating scene. Watching the constructed effort by first responders to rescue affected people and pets has been remarkable. However, another fascinating thing to see was the power of social media during this natural disaster.

Neal: Thanks for the birthday love!

What happened in Texas and Louisiana is gut-wrenching. Looking at the pictures of the men and women crying, outside of their demolished homes, was a tough thing to do. Major love and respect to those brave individuals and rescuers who did their part to save those who may have died. The power of social media may have very well saved the lives of 18 people and one cat after Tim and Kim McIntosh tweeted a photo of the nursing home that their mother runs in Dickinson, which is close to Houston. The now viral image showed residents of the nursing home in waist deep water. After the tweet went viral, the National Guard and the Galveston City emergency crew were able to rescue all of the residents and someone’s cat.

Ken: Remarkable. The power and instantaneous nature of social media is hard to match. While many times it gets a bad reputation for the way some people use it to criticize others, we can’t forget the profound effect it has on society. Within seconds, this photo was made visible to millions of people. There’s no fault of having a phone hotline to report incidents, however, as the family stated – they were unable to get through to have this situation addressed. Social media gave them the power to get their message heard.

In a time where people get their news on their phones more than they read it in a paper, it’s important to understand how powerful social media is. It’s no wonder why so many athletes, celebrities, and political figures take to social media to deliver powerful news – rather than having traditional press conferences. The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is also important here. When looking at the photo of the nursing home, there was no mistaking how bad the situation was or who was affected. Someone with access to the correct resources was able to see it and take action.

Neal: You are spot on. Social media, and Twitter specifically, has always taken heat for promoting ‘fake news’ or for allowing users to disrespect and troll one another. It’s a refreshing change of scenery to see it be used to save the lives of others. Not surprisingly, USA TODAY reported that there are some who questioned the authenticity of the photo, showing us what we already know: Some people do not have social media etiquette.

The Verge wrote an interesting article about the flight controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, which is outside of Houston. The flight controllers here actually control all of the movements of the International Space Station (it was surprising for me to hear this – I thought it would be the astronauts themselves).  A lot of the work the controllers do can be done remotely, like our team at Front Rush, But the #1 important task of the flight controllers (sending commands to the orbiting lab) has to be done on site at this space center. The leadership at NASA had to consider evacuating the station and moving to a backup space station (which was also in Texas and most likely going to be hit as well), or, would they ride out the storm and bunker down in the station? NASA also made sure to reach out to the astronauts families who are in the Houston area to make sure they were OK. Another example of humans doing what humans were made to do: love and look out for one another.

Ken: I was surprised too – but after reading the article, now I understand that the International Space Station has a heavy ground operation that is closely monitored by a whole team of people. Ironically, they are all working “remotely” if you think about it, but semantics aside, this article was still interesting. While everyone in harm’s way should heed the warning of officials to evacuate, this was a unique situation where it was actually more beneficial for the operators to shelter in place. Who would have thought a hurricane near the Gulf of Mexico could have such a profound impact on the research done in outer space? In any case, I’m glad to hear that the situation in the area is improving and now the focus can be shifted to recovering and rebuilding.

Neal: Mother Nature can pack a punch, that’s for sure. Let’s hope that the recovery is quicker than anticipated. I read up a little bit more on the International Space Station and it actually orbits low enough in space that you can see it with the naked eye! That’s freaking awesome! You can put your location in on this site and it will tell you approximately what time the station will pass over you if you want to take a peek.

Ken: Haha, cool! I’ll have to check that out. That’s all we’ve got for this week. I look forward to catching up with you next week!

Neal: If you want to have a space station viewing party, I’m in!

Have a great extended weekend, see ya next week!

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