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The First Contact Piece You’re SendingTuesday, June 19th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

Between starting work with new clients and being asked to audit individual letters and emails, the first contact piece is something I’ve been spending a lot of time on these past few weeks.

It’s an extremely important communication (maybe the most important one), so I thought it might be helpful to share a bunch of ideas and strategies with you today. These are things that continue to produce positive results for our clients at the beginning (i.e. they get a student’s attention, generate a response, and start the process of building a recruiting relationship).

To be clear, I’m referring to the first communication piece that your school sends a new inquiry or prospect whenever they enter your funnel. That could happen tomorrow, or it might not be until December or January.

The first thing that you and your admissions and marketing colleagues need to do is come up with an answer to the following question – “What’s the goal of our first contact piece?” I would argue, and I’ve done so many times in this newsletter, that it’s to get their attention and create engagement.

Email open rates are helpful, but an actual response rate is an even better metric to use. Engagement gives you that. It’s proof that your message was received, read (or least skimmed through), provided some amount of value or intrigue, and proof that your call to action worked.

The biggest problem I see with most first contact pieces is they look and sound just like 98% of other schools do. It’s just a different template and a different set of facts and figures topped off with a call to action that asks the student to visit campus or encourages them to call or email a general admissions phone number/email address if they have any questions. I don’t believe that’s a winning strategy in 2018.

Now let’s talk about what will work, starting with whom the communication comes from, and what kind of communication you send. The strategy we continue to use with our clients is a result of ongoing focus group surveys we conduct with the students themselves. We ask incoming or current college freshmen that just went through the college search process the following two questions:

Question 1: “When you started your college search, which person from a college would you have preferred to hear from first?”

Answer:

Admissions Counselor – 82.6%

Director of Admissions –17.4%

Context for you – Students have told us that a message from anyone in a position of leadership (especially if they’ve never met that person) is intimidating and, in their minds, a mass piece. It’s more plausible in their minds that an admissions counselor would actually take (and have) the time to reach out to them.

Question 2: “What’s the first kind of communication you think a college should use with a student at the beginning of the process?”

Answer:

Letter – 43.3%

Email – 32.6%

Phone Call – 21.3%

Text Message – 2.8%

Context for you – Students have told us that a letter is a tangible, safe interaction (especially when they don’t know the person). They also believe that a letter takes more effort than an email, and as such, they view it as a more personalized form of communication.

Let’s move on to the body of your first contact piece, which again I’m recommending should be a letter that comes from each individual admissions counselor. Here are some tips:

  • Shorter, less formal, and more conversational. The longer it is, the harder it is for the student to take it all in. And in most cases they’re not ready for tons of information yet, nor do they care about it… which causes them to stop reading before the end and increases the chances they’ll miss your call to action.
  • Forget about all the facts, figures, and history. It comes across as “selling” and studies suggest that we’re more apt to reply to something that doesn’t sound like an advertising message.
  • Instead, introduce the admissions counselor and make it clear that he/she understands the college search process is confusing, scary, etc. and that the goal is to make it easier for the student and his/her family. Establish the counselor as the go-to person.
  • Use words and a tone that creates excitement and makes it clear that the admissions counselor is looking forward to getting to know the student and hear more about what he/she is looking for in a college. You could even go so far as to tell the student he/she is a priority.

Finally, let’s discuss your call to action. I want you to avoid asking the student to visit your campus. This is something that’s really hard for a lot of schools to buy into. Let me explain the reasoning behind my statement.

If you tell a student, “I want you to come to campus,” or you ask them “When can you come to campus for a visit” in the first contact piece or during the first high school visit/college fair visit, it jumps several spaces ahead on their recruiting game board so to speak. You’re trying to skip a bunch of steps in their mind, and it just doesn’t seem right. Only bring it up once you have either a) spent two or three conversations asking them questions and getting to know them, or b) they bring it up…that would apply to their parents, as well. Push the visit too early, and, according to our research, you’ll seem disingenuous.

Instead, ask a specific question as your call to action. You could ask about their fear or their must-haves as they look at different schools. Whatever it is, it needs to be defined and not overly broad and general. Otherwise a lot of students don’t know what kind of response you’re looking for, and fear of sounding dumb will prevent many from responding at all.

Encourage them to respond back quickly with their answer. Tell them you’re excited to hear what they have to say because providing that feedback will give you a better idea of what information about your school will be useful to share with them next. In short, I want you to give them a “because”.

Follow the advice that I’ve given you today and I’m confident you’ll see increased engagement immediately with this next class of students.

And if at any point you want me to review your first contact piece and offer feedback, all you have to do is ask. It won’t cost you anything but your time. Simply email me.

Yes, You Can Learn From Howard SternTuesday, June 12th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

No, that’s not a misprint. There are actually a number of things that you can learn from Howard Stern that will make you a better recruiter and/or a better leader.

The shock jock, as he’s known to many, has amassed tens of millions of listeners on Sirius XM satellite radio and has been deemed by some the most powerful interviewer in American broadcasting. Billy Joel even called his interview with Stern “probably the most astute and insightful interview” he’d done.

I listen to the Stern show a lot when I travel, and if you’ve never heard Howard interview a guest on his show, you don’t know what you’re missing. Pick your favorite celebrity or music star and type their name along with Howard’s into Google when you have a few extra minutes. Chances are he’s interviewed them at some point. His recent interviews with James Corden and Cardi B are particularly insightful and worth the listen.

Over the years I’ve noticed a few things that Howard does consistently during his interviews, each of which I want to talk with you about today. These are techniques that I would recommend you consider implementing (if you’re not already) during your conversations with prospective students and parents.

  • Eliminate any fear at the beginning. Howard starts off a lot of his interviews with small talk and a compliment for his guest. It’s low pressure and makes the other person immediately feel safe and comfortable. Similarly, when you talk with students, don’t immediately bombard them with all kinds of questions and a push to visit campus or complete your application. Worry more about putting them at ease and eliminating any fears they might have.
  • It’s not an interview it’s a conversation. If you remember one thing from today’s article I hope it’s this point. Don’t approach your conversations with students (at college fairs, school visits, campus visit events, etc) like it’s an interview. The goal as I’ve stated in numerous articles before is to get and keep their attention…to make a connection and have future conversations. Many of Stern’s guests rave about how fun and memorable their interviews with him were. Many have been back multiple times over the years. Would your students say the same thing about the phone calls and contacts they have with you? You’ll discover the answer when you try and connect a second time. Make your conversation more casual, and make it about them. Do that, and you’ll gain all kinds of valuable information and insights from the student or their parent.
  • Don’t interrupt. Just like it probably drives you nuts when other people don’t let you finish your thoughts and sentences, the same thing holds true for the students that you’re recruiting. I know it can be tempting to get so excited about something that you jump in and cut them off. Don’t do it. Stern always lets his guests finish telling a story or answering a question to the point where there’s often a second or two of dead air.
  • Have a list of effective questions and follow-up questions. Stern has become a master at asking specific questions that get his guests to talk more openly and freely about themselves than they typically do in public. His questions don’t just lead to answers, they lead to stories. It doesn’t take him long (and it won’t take you long either) to discover what motivates the other person or why something is or isn’t important in their mind. Howard also does a great job of latching on to a guest’s answers and digging deeper with follow up questions like “What’s going on there,” or “Help me understand that.” Context matters.
  • Don’t be afraid to go in a different direction midstream. Any time you ask a prospect or their parents a question that then leads to unexpected points of interest, don’t be afraid to change the direction of the conversation. At the same time be mindful of those tough subjects where digging too deep isn’t worth the risk.
  • Don’t be afraid to poke fun at yourself (or address your school’s negatives). Howard pokes fun at himself all the time. It makes him more genuine, and it reminds his guests that he’s human and makes mistakes just like them. Don’t be afraid to share a funny story about something silly or unintelligent that you’ve done. And don’t be afraid to address your school’s negatives either, whatever they may be. Every college has something. That transparency will separate you from your competitors who only talk about the positives. This generation of students (and their parents) is looking for colleges that are demonstrating honesty during the recruitment process.

Some or all of these six bullet points may have simply been timely reminders for you today. That’s great! For everyone else, I encourage you to take one or more of them and consider how it or they can help you become a better recruiter.

Lastly, at the beginning of this article I mentioned leadership. All six of these points are applicable to you if you directly manage others in your office. Leadership isn’t just about giving direction. It’s about getting to know every single person you manage (their motivations, wants, needs, and fears) and figuring out what each of them needs from you so that they can achieve their own personal goals and the goals that you’ve set for them.

I hope you have an amazing day and week!

As always, reach out and connect with me on email, phone, or text if I can help you with something.

What Are You Doing About This?Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

You probably know this but it bears repeating – the average attention span is now eight seconds long. To give you context, according to some studies, that’s less than the nine-second attention span of your average goldfish.

The 2018 world we live in is full of choices, and everybody is getting marketed to from so many different directions that our brains are getting tired. Throw in social media and the growing number of apps, and well it’s no surprise that young people in particular are drowning out the noise more than ever.

I’m talking with you about this today because it ties in with the way that prospective students take in the recruiting messages that you and your school send to them.

Having creative content (i.e. messaging that looks and sounds different) that’s easy to take in and offers value to the reader has never been more important.

This generation of students has been conditioned to receive information in a certain way and in certain amounts. How you give them information is almost as important as the information you give them.

So, how do you ensure that your recruiting messages aren’t wearing out your prospect? Here are four things I want you want to think about:

  • How much information do you give them at the beginning? The majority of prospective students aren’t ready to take in the massive amount of information that most colleges unload on them in the early stages. One of the surest ways to alienate a prospective student is to immediately give them a long list of statistics, facts, figures and random talking points about your school, your academic programs, etc. In fact, we’ve found that colleges who take this approach at the beginning almost instantly see their prospects tune them out for future conversations. The goal early in the process should be to get their attention, generate a response, and get a back-and-forth conversation going. If that didn’t happen this past cycle, go back and review the first and second communication pieces that you sent out. Were you trying to get their attention and a response or just giving them a ton of information that they may or may not care about, let alone be ready to take in?
  • This generation of students is busy. How are you making the college search process easier for them? Along with a general fatigue, there’s another important element to how your emails and letters may be making prospective students feel. If they’re busy, which you and I both know they are, it diminishes their desire to want more information. Making the process (and the conversations that come with it) easier for them to take in is a simple way to make you and your school stand out and to improve your customer service. Your messages should be shorter in length, more conversational, and be limited to one topic. Remember, students are looking for help with what is a confusing and scary process. Give it to them, and you’ll gain their trust and their loyalty.
  • A college search without a timeline will quickly become exhausting. “There are too many forms to fill out and some of them take forever.” That’s a direct quote from one student this past cycle when we asked them about the most frustrating part of the college search process. When prospective students don’t know how much is left to do or when it needs to be done by (and why it’s so important in some cases), it becomes mentally exhausting. Working together with your students and their parents to build out a defined timeline with markers early in the process is the easiest way to avoid that exhaustion.
  • How much information do you give them later on?  After students have been admitted and you’ve delivered your financial aid awards, your prospects need logical points to reference. Giving them specific things later in the process will help them differentiate your school from your competitors, and it will also help them justify a decision to pick your school. Too many schools slow down their communications after the admitted stage. That’s when your admits and their parents need your information, specifically the value part, the most…even if you’ve already told them before. From start to finish, there needs to be a consistent flow of information that explains why your school is the “right fit” for that particular student.

Do you have a question about this article? Reply back and ask away. Or if you happen to be reading it secondhand, you can email me: jeremy@dantudor.com

And if the emails and letters that your school is sending are in need of an overhaul, then let’s start a conversation about how we can help you get and keep the attention of more students this next recruiting cycle. I’m happy to share the communication strategy we help our clients execute, and why it continues to work!

They’re Everywhere! More Recruiting Tips From My TravelsTuesday, May 29th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

What a way to end my spring travel. Last week started with 48 hours in Atlantic City during which I gave the keynote speech at NJACAC and presented a breakout session. Then it was home for 12 hours to sleep in my own bed and have breakfast with my wife and daughter. And then it was back to the airport to fly to the opposite coast and Spokane, WA for 36 hours to speak at PNACAC. I had so much fun connecting with many of you in person!

When I travel, my eyes and ears are always paying attention. Why? Because there are people all around you that can teach you really valuable recruiting techniques. So, when I see or hear something of note, I add it to a Word document and then eventually I pass it along to you in an article like this one.

Here are nine things to think about if you want to become a more effective recruiter and communicator:

  • Earning trust. We have a lot of options when we fly. Last week during my layover at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport I met Captain Mark and First Officer Jason who work for Delta. Prior to boarding our flight, both of them were walking around the gate area striking up conversations with many of the passengers…including me. Not having seen others do this before, I asked Captain Mark about it. He told me that in his mind it was extremely important to earn the trust of customers before they flew with him. Plus it was another way to personalize the traveler experience. Without either, he said, how was he or the airline he flew for any different than the rest? My question to you is, how are you earning the trust of your prospective students and their parents?
  • Perfecting your approach. Have you noticed that more bartenders are asking you for your name? Some like Robert in Wichita, KS and Nate in Peoria, IL, will even go so far as to describe how the food is prepared and why the food at their restaurants is better than the rest. It’s all about how they first establish contact with a new customer. That sets the tone for the customer relationship even if it’s only for a few minutes. When done correctly, it increases the likelihood of repeat business. How much time do you put into figuring out what your approach sounds like to prospective students?
  • Using compliments. It’s a simple thing with a massive ROI. Compliments help you make a connection and cultivate a relationship. They also show that you care, which is something that prospective students tell us they’re actively looking for.
  • Pay attention to body language. Are you aware that your body language reveals things to total strangers including prospective students and their parents? It’s true. Why does that matter? It might surprise you to know that research indicates over 65 percent of our communication is done nonverbally. In fact, studies show that nonverbal communication has a much greater impact and reliability than the spoken word. Therefore, if a prospective student’s words don’t match with their body language, you’d be wise to rely on body language as a more accurate reflection of their true feelings.
  • Prove that you can solve their problems. It’s crucial that you possess the ability to both discover problems and develop solutions. Remember, you’re dealing with young people who want to have their problems (specifically – how to pick the right college and how to pay for it) solved. It starts by asking effective questions. If you can’t do that, you’ll miss out on opportunities to solve problems and separate yourself and your school from your competitors.
  • Know what your competition has to offer. How much do you really know about the three or four schools that you constantly compete with for students? Without that knowledge it’s hard to outline the differences between your student experience and theirs. Let me clarify. I don’t want you to focus on negative recruiting. Instead, I want you to be able to passionately explain why your school is a better fit. Are you able to consistently do that in a professional way?
  • It’s how you say what you say. In other words, the “feel” of the language you use with prospective students is even more important than the facts you’re relaying to them. As I’ve said before, our research clearly shows that this generation of students is focused more on how you make them feel. That’s one of the big reasons we focus on the overall tone of the messages and recruiting strategy that we help develop for our clients.
  • Are your letters and emails speaking the right language? Stop worrying so much about everything being “on brand.” Your communications, specifically the letters and emails you send, need to be shorter, and they need to be all about them. Use language that we all speak every single day. And most of all be consistent.
  • Do they understand why, how, and when to take action? And if the answer is yes to all three but they’re still not moving forward, what’s holding them back? Your prospect is always moving in one direction (towards you) or the other (away from you). They never stay neutral.

Looking for more ideas that can help you in your day-to-day? Reply back to this email and let me know what you need help with.

P.S. I want to give one more big shout-out to NJACAC President-Elect Carlos Cano and everyone else from Jersey for their hospitality last week. What an amazing group!

What’s Your Answer to This Important Question?Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Delivering better, more consistent customer service continues to be one of the biggest concerns that college admission and enrollment management leaders voice to me.

Ten years ago if a prospective student had a really bad campus visit, or if a parent received the runaround from someone at your school, they’d vent to a few family members or friends and that was that.

Social Media has completely flipped the script, and with it, word of mouth has exploded like never before. Its impact can be extremely beneficial for both you and your school, or it can be devastatingly negative.

Three years ago I wrote an article where I referenced a conversation I had with a guy named Bill. That article, parts of which I’m going to share with you today, has become one of the most read and most referenced articles I’ve ever written. The conversation Bill and I had generated a very important question that I’m going to pose to you today. Your answer is even more important given the current recruiting landscape of 2018.

Let me start by telling you who Bill is. He runs a decorative/stamped concrete business in the Indianapolis area, which as you may or may not already know, is where I live. Bill is one of the most genuine and down to earth people I’ve ever met. When we built our house, his team created our stamped concrete patio.

A year or so after our patio went in, Bill happened to be in the area and chose to knock on my door and thank me. I’ll get to why in a minute. Bill had just come from our new neighbors’ house across the street. After seeing our patio when they moved in, my neighbors told me that they wanted to do something similar in their backyard. Without hesitation I whipped out my cell phone, told them they needed to call or text Bill, and I gave them his cell number. I had done the same thing for a half dozen other neighbors before, and I’ve done the same thing multiple times since.

Bill’s knock on my door that day was to thank me for all the word-of-mouth recommendations. To date, his company has created and installed 19 different patios in my subdivision.

Why did I offer up Bill’s information so quickly then, and why do I keep doing the same thing now when people ask about our patio? The answer is easy. It’s not because Bill asked me to, and it’s not because he offered me a referral reward of some kind. It’s because so many people in 2018 don’t act like Bill. Too many people, especially those in customer service industries, only care about getting “the sale.” You never hear from them again after that point unless they need something from you of course.

So, here’s my question for you: How many people that barely know you and have had only minimal contact with you (like I had with Bill) would, without hesitation, recommend your school to a prospective student (or their parents) if asked about different colleges?

I’ll even take it one step further. How many of those same people would recommend you to a friend who needed help with something in your area of expertise? If you’ve never thought about either of those things, I strongly encourage you to do so.

Word-of-mouth is the most powerful selling tool you have available. It stems naturally from an unmatched customer experience or interaction. Prospective students, just like my neighbors, are relying on others to help them make decisions.

Our ongoing research with incoming and current freshmen shows that they’ll often go against what their own gut is telling them and side with other influential outside decision makers. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s what’s happening. It’s actually happening all across society. Just look at Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc.

So, I’ll ask the same question again in a different way. “Who’s recruiting for you when you’re not recruiting?”

How many different people do you come in contact with or pass in the halls during a school visit, college fair, or professional development conference? How about the hotel that you stay at or the restaurant on the road where you eat? Think long and hard about that for a minute. If you don’t think investing in relationships will pay a lifetime of dividends, I’m here to tell you it does. I believe in that statement so much that it was the focus of my keynote speech at this week’s NJACAC conference.

Your goal should be to generate positive interactions that get passed along from one person to the next, just like Bill did with me. You control the narrative that is written and communicated about you. That means more smiling, listening, and talking with passion when you discuss your school and what you do.

Start spending a couple of extra minutes and really concentrate on creating a positive relationship with this next class of prospects, their parents, and others around them. The same thing goes for other industry and business professionals that you come in contact with.

The personal and professional R.O.I. when you invest in relationships is astronomical, both short term and long term. I used the word “invest” for a reason because great relationships take time.  There is no shortcut!

Got a question about student recruitment, leadership, or professional/personal development? I’m here to help if you’re willing to reach out and ask.

Have a great week!

Are You Giving Them Enough Context?Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

I’m asking because context plays an important role in the student recruitment process. And, too often admissions professionals, namely counselors, don’t give prospective students enough of it when telling their school’s story.

Here’s what I mean:

You start a conversation with a prospect, and you say something like, “We have professors that care and a welcoming community that will quickly feel like home.” You also talk about class sizes and the fact that a high percentage of your recent graduates are employed or continuing their education within six months or a year of graduating. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with any of that.

But if you dig deeper, context is missing. Without it, you’re going to sound a lot like every other school that you’re competing against.

When I lead a staff training workshop I explain that prospective students often need the WHY behind what a counselor, coach, faculty, or another staff member is telling them or asking them to do. When you provide the “why,” you educate, motivate, and empower. And when the student feels like an active participant in something that involves them, and they understand the value and benefit, they’re more likely to take action.

I would also add that sometimes you will need to tell your prospect what they should think about a certain topic, fact, or something you might show them during their visit to campus. If you don’t supply that context you’re opening the door for someone else to define parts of your school’s story…will it be accurate?

Context also does the following:

  • It gives them a reason to listen to you.
  • It accelerates their understanding of your school and why it might be a good fit for them.
  • If done regularly, it helps to personalize the recruitment process.

So, as you create your story for this next class of students, consider implementing these three strategies that have worked well for our clients:

Start any big conversation with an explanation. For example, “Here’s why I want to talk to you now about financial aid and paying for college…” Doing so sets up a reason that they should listen to what you’re about to say. And when you give them that explanation, make it about them as much as possible.

Or, end a big conversation with definition. After you show your prospect something, or talk to them (or their parents) about a topic that’s important, define it for them by saying something simple like, “Here’s why all of this should matter to you…” Tell them why what you just talked about is important, and how they should define what they just heard you say, or what you’ve just shown them.

Anticipate and address potential negatives from your competitors. If you know that other colleges consistently point out a negative about some aspect of your school (ex. location, size, outdated buildings), warn your prospect ahead of time. Give them context about what they’re likely to hear, and do it in a way that combats and eliminates their intentions. For example, if you know that a direct competitor is likely to mention your school’s outdated buildings and facilities, give your prospect context. Not about the buildings and facilities, but about your competitor’s intentions. You could say something like, “So now that you’ve seen campus, let me warn you about something that might happen. There are some schools out there who are going to tell you that our buildings and facilities won’t allow you to excel here as a student. That’s just not true, and here’s why that should be a huge red flag for you…”

Remember, it’s up to you to define what your prospects should think about something and why that something should be important to them. And in some cases, you’ll also need to explain how that something is different at your school.

Context is one of the hidden secrets of effective recruiting. Do it correctly, and you’ll not only notice an immediate difference in the conversations you have, but it will also allow you to move a student/family through the recruitment process more efficiently.

Have a great day!

P.S. I’ll be speaking at NJACAC in Atlantic City, NJ next Monday and Tuesday. If you’re going to be there, be sure and say hello.

P.P.S. And next Thursday and Friday I’ll be in Spokane, WA speaking at PNACAC. My session which is titled, “The value of phone calls in student recruitment” will be presented on Thursday at 2:15pm in Room 201.

Making These Changes Next Recruiting CycleTuesday, May 8th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

In my Inbox among a bunch of “can you help me” emails and workshop contest entries last week was a note from a Senior Admissions Counselor. I led a workshop for the university he worked at a couple of years ago…he’s since moved on to another school.

Emails like his are the reason I put so much time and energy into this weekly newsletter. Hearing from admission professionals who have successfully executed strategies I recommended means the world to me.

This article I wrote about three words to avoid, and this article about questions to ask undecided students really helped this counselor “explode in terms of contacts and deposits.” In fact, his numbers and yield rates this year are the strongest in his office.

I’m sharing this story with you because it’s further proof that making small changes to the way you communicate with prospective students can net you a big ROI…and a lot less stress in the weeks leading up to May 1.

So, as you begin to shift your attention this spring/summer to the next class of prospective students, here are ten additional ideas (small changes) that I encourage you to consider implementing, either individually or throughout your entire admissions office.

  1. Have one consistent voice in your recruiting communications (emails, letters, phone calls, text messages). Instead of sending random pieces from the Director of Admissions, the admissions counselor, a current student, faculty, etc., establish a point person right now so that prospective students know who they can turn to for help and advice during their college search. That person, whom I recommend is the admissions counselor, should be doing the bulk of the communicating with a student/family. That doesn’t mean you can’t send additional ad hoc pieces from other people on campus. When you do that, though, have the established “go-to person” set it up first. Our data continues to show that schools who take this approach and stay consistent, yield more students.
  2. Use keywords/phrases in your recruiting communications. If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know how much this generation of students wants to be valued and have their wants and needs viewed as important. Why not tell them exactly that? Say things like, “I appreciate you,” “You’re important to us,” or “I believe in you.” Phrases like those contain powerful words that your prospects will respond to. Word choice also matters, and I would encourage you to use more verbs. Verbs are action, while adjectives are descriptive. Verbs give your prospects a positive feeling and do a much better job of answering the “why.” Lastly, make it a priority to ask them about their biggest fear(s) and how they “feel” about certain things. Doing so will yield important information, build trust, and encourage open discussion.
  3. Be easy to talk to. It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s something that many admission professionals just don’t pay attention to. The text and sentence structure that you use in your letters, emails, social media campaigns and text messages matters. You need to make it easy for your prospects, most of whom are already scared to have a conversation with you in the first place, to actually reply to you. As one student said in a survey we conducted, “Be more friendly and use English that everybody speaks every day.”
  4. Establish a timeline with each student/family early on. As I explain when I lead a staff training workshop, establishing a timeline that your prospect or their parents have set in their mind for making that final decision is critical for you to effectively manage the entire recruiting process (and all those names that a counselor has in their territory). It also gives your prospects a checklist to follow from the beginning, which will alleviate some of the stress they’re feeling during the early stages of their college search.
  5. Keep your notes up to date in the CRM. Straightforward and simple. Make it a priority, especially during fall travel season. It will benefit you and everyone else in your office.
  6. Start a conversation about paying for college/financial aid long before you send out your award letter/package. That means now for your soon-to-be seniors. And remember, that initial conversation should be with the parent(s) and/or the parent(s) and their child together…not with just the student.
  7. Explain how your school is different and why your school is better early on. I can’t emphasize enough how vital this point is. If you don’t do it early on, you can expect most students to slip in to “analysis paralysis.” So, instead of just saying you have “professors who care,” start providing concrete, detailed examples of how they care. And if you have a “friendly, welcoming community,” then provide context that allows your prospect to connect the dots and understand why that kind of atmosphere is important and how it will make their experience at your school more enjoyable and worthwhile.
  8. Phone calls are important and valuable. Get used to making a lot of them. This is something I’ve been hammering home over the past year. Despite how digital and social this current generation of students has become, phone calls still need to be a core piece of your recruiting communications plan. They’re not going away anytime soon, and the majority of high school juniors who are on your radar right now value them when they’re done correctly (i.e. the way students want). If you still don’t believe me and need more proof, click this link and read some or all of these articles about phone calls that I’ve written. And as a leader, if you’re not evaluating the phone calls that are made by counselors, student workers, etc., I would strongly urge you to start doing so.
  9. Explain the WHY more often. Not enough attention is given to context and why it’s beneficial for the other person. Throughout the college search process colleges ask students and parents to take action on a multitude of things. They want to understand the WHY or the “because.” Why should they visit your campus? Why should they apply right now? Why is it in their best interest to fill out the FAFSA now instead of waiting until January or February? Why should the student answer the phone when you call? Take the time to clearly explain why you’re asking them to do whatever it is and how it will benefit them or make their life easier.
  10. Repeat just about everything you’re telling prospective students to their parents. Ignoring the parents and not involving them deeply in the conversation from the beginning will result in a loss the majority of the time. They don’t have to be on the same call, email, or text exchange that you have with their son or daughter, but they do need to be brought up to speed as to what you’re discussing with them. Always make it clear to the parents just how much you value their input and assistance.

If you want to talk in greater detail about one or more of these ideas, you don’t have to bring me to your campus for us to do that. All you have to do is reply back to this email and start a conversation with me. I’m here to listen and help if you’re willing to take the time to reach out and ask for it.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

If They Choose Another School You ShouldTuesday, April 24th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Sometimes even your best isn’t going to be enough to convince an admitted student that your school is the “best fit” for them. The reasons will vary. Some will be legitimate, and some will make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Anytime you lose a student it’s important to self-evaluate and figure out the why behind that student’s decision…especially if it’s someone that you had penciled in as a “yes.” That’s what I’m going to help you with today.

In some cases the why will be something that’s out of your control. But more often than you might think, the answer has to do with changing your approach, improving a certain skill set, or correcting a bad habit. Figuring out the why and coming up with an effective strategy for the next time around is something that will help admissions professionals who are looking to climb the ladder.

Let me start by giving you three basic tips to help you deal with rejection:

1) Don’t overreact and become argumentative with the student (or parent).

2) Congratulate the student on their decision. Professionalism always matters. Word of mouth (i.e. a positive experience even though the student didn’t pick your school) is king and it can help lead to future deposits.

3) Never let rejection get you down. I see this happen a lot with admissions counselors during their first cycle, to the point where some develop a negative attitude and begin dreading future conversations. Always keep in mind they’re not rejecting you personally.

Now, let’s talk more about how to determine the why behind a student’s decision. I’ve talked a lot in this newsletter about what kind of questions to ask at different stages of the recruitment process. If you missed last week’s article about questions to ask undecided students, click here.

Determining the why behind a “no thanks” can easily be done if you ask the right kinds of questions. Often times the answers to those questions can be even more insightful than the ones you ask a prospective student before they’ve made their final decision.

So, here are seven questions you can ask a student right after they tell you they’ve chosen another school. I want you to ask them exactly like you see them below.

  • What was the number one reason behind you choosing that school?
  • Tell me about the feel of their campus and how it compared to when you visited our school.
  • Was there anything that almost made you pick our school?
  • When did you actually know that our school wasn’t the right fit for you?
  • What did your parents say about our school and your decision?
  • Did our school communicate with you too much, not enough, or just the right amount during your college search?
  • Can you tell me one thing that I could have done better to make your college search process less stressful?

Analyzing a recruitment process that ends unsuccessfully can provide incredibly valuable information that will be useful during future cycles. I encourage you to make time for this important step.

If your recruiting results this year aren’t what you expected, and you’d like help figuring out WHY, I’m happy to assist and get you some cut and dry answers. It won’t cost you anything but your time (no, me offering free help is not a misprint). Reply back to this email, and we will set up a time to connect.

Thanks again for spending a couple of minutes with me today!

Ask Your Undecided Students These QuestionsTuesday, April 17th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Thanks for checking out this week’s newsletter. I’m sending good vibes your way as you finish putting together your school’s next class of new students.

Last week I received a bunch of emails from admissions counselors looking for advice on how they could move their undecided students to the “yes column,” or at least one step closer towards making those deposits.

In three different emails I was given the scenario of a student being “90-95% sure” or “pretty sure” that they were coming, but the student then told the admissions counselor in the same conversation that they were going to wait a little longer to make sure. My replies to each admissions counselor were the same. I explained the importance of immediately setting up a phone call with the student and asking a specific question about their uncertainty (ex. “Can you help me understand what’s preventing you from making your decision right now?”).

Keep in mind that at this point in the process it’s less about “selling” to your undecided students and more about asking the right questions that will get them to provide insight or answers to their decision making process and current mindset.

With that in mind, here are a handful of questions that have worked well with this group of students. You can ask them just like I’ve written them, or you can tweak them a little depending on the situation. And let me reiterate that if you want to talk about specific situations you’re dealing with, or you want to ask for context about any of the questions below, I’m happy to help you. Just reply back or click here to send me an email.

  • What does your decision making process look like?
  • What’s your timeline for making a decision?
  • What’s left on your to-do list before you make a decision?
  • What’s the biggest thing you’re scared of right now?
  • Is there anybody else besides your parents that you’re leaning on to help you?
  • What are your parents saying about making a decision?
  • Do you and your parents agree on which college is the best fit for you?
  • Have you and your parents talked about choosing a school that costs more?
  • Is your decision going to come down to which school gives you the biggest scholarship?
  • If you were going to tell me that you’ve picked a different college, what do you think the #1 reason would be?
  • What do you like the most about our campus and the atmosphere here?
  • Can you see yourself living here on campus?
  • What do you want to see us talk about next?
  • Are you feeling like you’re ready to commit to <School name>?

If you ask a question and the answer you get doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, ask them one of these follow-up questions:

  • What does that mean?
  • Can you help me understand that a little better?

If the student gives you a vanilla answer, and you want more context, go ahead and ask them WHY what they just told you is important to them.

You should also consider asking any question with a “because” in it. In our work with admission departments around the country, we’ve found that “because” is a powerful motivator for this generation of students.

One more thing – Whatever you do, don’t just run through a list of questions robotically. As you’re getting feedback from the student, be sure and add something of value to the conversation. Otherwise your conversation will come off as scripted, and it’s unlikely the student will truly “open up.”

After you ask one or more of these questions, let me know how it goes. Good luck!

P.S. It’s crazy how fast my newsletter community continues to grow! I can’t thank you enough for all the support. If you know somebody who could benefit from being a part of it but isn’t right now, have them send me a quick email to jeremy@dantudor.com that simply says “sign me up for your newsletter.”

If You Want to Rekindle Their InterestTuesday, April 10th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

This time of year admission departments are either really happy with how their recruiting efforts are going, or they’re frantically looking for ideas on how to re-kindle interest from students who at some point this cycle demonstrated serious interest in their school. I’m referring to students who visited campus but never applied, as well as students who started but didn’t finish your school’s application.

There are a few reasons I think it’s smart to come up with a strategy to go after these two groups of students:

  • They’re already familiar with your school.
  • At one point it’s safe to assume that most probably felt there was a chance that your school might be that “right fit.”
  • Assuming they haven’t deposited to another school, they’re probably feeling a little anxious about their college plans for this fall.

So, how do you proceed with these students, get their attention again, and rekindle communication and interest in your school?

The easy answer is to communicate that your school will offer an extremely generous financial aid package if they complete their application by a certain date.

A lot of schools, however, aren’t in a position to do that, or they’d rather pursue a strategy that doesn’t include getting crazy with their discount rate.

Here are three basic ideas I’ve seen produce positive results that you should consider:

  1. Apologize for the lack of (or poor) communication. I know…it’s probably partly (or mostly) the student’s fault for not communicating with you. But as the person who is initiating the contact, and as the “authority figure” in this relationship, you need to be the one to apologize. It will take the pressure off of them and open the door for ongoing communication. I’ve found that this simple strategy works well for admissions counselors because it gives them a defined reason to make phone calls to these students.
  2. Call with lots of urgency. At this point, like it or not, phone calls are going to be the best way to offer personalized communication and have a serious conversation with these students. Assuming they answer the phone or choose to call you back (make sure your voicemail gives them a reason to), tell them that you’ve been waiting to hear back from them, but haven’t, so you wanted to be a little forward and push the process forward considering the time of year. Tell them that they’re a high priority right now and that your school believes they’re a great fit (be ready to offer some proof behind why you’re saying that). Make the next steps clear, and tell each student that the sooner they complete your school’s application and apply for financial aid, the better the financial aid package you’ll be able to offer them. I’ve worked with multiple admissions counselors who have found that creating a lot of urgency at this late juncture is enough to get the student (if they’re still undecided) to finally take things a little more seriously. Combine that with defined next steps and a counselor who’s willing to help, and what some might see as “pushy” ends up providing a sense of relief for the student…and a reason to finally end the process.
  3. Call with the assumption that they’ve deposited somewhere else, and offer your congratulations. If they’ve ended the process and chosen another school, you’ll come off as caring and thoughtful. Make sure you take the time to ask two or three questions about why the student choose the other school…this is extremely important and that information will be useful in future recruiting situations. If the student still hasn’t made a final decision, they’ll tell you, and the door may be re-opened. If you do get a second chance with these students, make sure your staff has a clear plan of how to take full advantage of it.

Oftentimes persistence pays off in recruiting. Try one or more of these ideas and you might be pleasantly surprised at the end result.

Good luck, and I’ll see you back here next Tuesday!

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