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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!

Important Recruiting “Tiebreakers”Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Here’s something interesting that I continue to both hear and read about. There comes a time towards the end of the college decision-making process where students (and parents) start to think about, and discuss, how much of a sincere interest each school that has made the final cut has taken in them (or their child). This is especially true for student-athletes.

Caring more than your competition is something that I’ve talked to you about before. Our focus group research continues to show that the treatment an admitted student receives from a college’s admissions staff, current students, faculty, and anyone else they come in contact with during the process is a very important factor in their final decision…including sometimes helping to break a tie.

Demonstrating that you care conveys reliability, and it helps to builds trust. Beyond that, it’s also something that you completely control.

“Recruiting tiebreakers” as I like to call them can sometimes be something insignificant to you as an admissions professional but important in the eyes of the student/family. Be mindful of that. I’d also encourage you (if you haven’t done this already) to ask your admitted but undecided students what things they’re planning to use to help them break a tie between two schools if it comes to that, which by the way is a situation that happens quite frequently. You could ask them that question as a call to action in an email or during a phone call.

Here are two other things that a large majority of students tell us they need if the recruiting tie is going to be broken in your school’s favor:

  1. Emotional connections. For most young people, emotion often outweighs logic and facts. Students trust the feelings they get throughout the college search process. Those include the feelings you create through your recruiting communications, the recruiting relationship you develop (or don’t develop) with the student and their parents, and the feelings they get when they visit campus or watch videos on your social media pages or your website. How are you capturing their emotions and creating emotional connections between them and your campus community? Those emotional connections create a feeling of comfort, they create trust, and they offer a sense of acceptance and belonging which is what a lot of students are scared they won’t be able to find at a college. And if you haven’t already done so, now is also a great time to connect your undecided students with current students, specifically your freshmen as they recently went through the same tough choices and dealt with the same sorts of feelings that your undecideds are dealing with right now. Hearing how a current student made that same tough decision and how your school has helped them excel during year one could easily be the deciding factor.
  2. A clear understanding of HOW something at your college is truly different and WHY your college is worth the investment. You have small class sizes, professors that care, a welcoming community, or you’ve got all kinds of options because you’re a larger institution…it’s too general! Plus, virtually all of your competitors are saying the exact same thing. It’s time to offer more detailed stories that explain both the how and the why. Your value can be communicated logically and emotionally, and you need to do both. I would also add that you shouldn’t present the same case or the same exact stories to every single student. Sure, there will be common threads, but part of executing this point correctly is having a clear understanding of the wants, needs, and fears of your admitted student and his or her family.

You may have noticed that I didn’t mention cost. That doesn’t mean price isn’t important and won’t in some cases be the biggest tiebreaker for a student/family. Your goal should be to extract that information (i.e. asking targeted questions) as early as possible by starting a conversation about paying for college long before your school releases their financial aid award. When you employ that strategy you allow yourself (and your school) all kinds of time to prove your value and overcome the cost objection.

Good luck!

P.S. I know May 1 is approaching fast. If you’ve got a recruiting scenario that you’re looking for advice on, or you could use a couple last minute questions to ask your undecideds that will help you yield vital information on their mindset, go ahead and send me an email. Free help, no strings attached.

Are You Creating the Right Kind of Urgency?Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

The topic for this week’s article is the result of a recent phone call I had with an admissions counselor who also happens to be a frequent reader of this newsletter. She reached out to me looking for ideas on how to create urgency and not pressure with her admitted students.

Her fear was that she was pressuring many of her undecided students too hard and that was having a negative effect on both future conversations (i.e. getting them to continue to engage with her) and the final decision. All she wanted to do, she told me, was to remind those students how much her school wanted them and to see when they felt they would be ready to make a decision.

Does any of this sound familiar? It’s a common challenge for admissions counselors, which is why I want to spend a few minutes today talking about some easy things that you can do to correct your approach if you’re facing a similar problem.

Let me start by saying that both Dan (Tudor) and I continue to see a lot of colleges and universities really push their internal timelines on prospective students, which in many cases creates bad pressure that ends up driving some of them away.

When you push a deadline on someone without having a prior discussion about it, it almost always comes across as you pressuring that person and creating an atmosphere of you versus me. That could include saying something like, “I need an answer by (insert date).” Now, I’m not saying that you won’t get students to deposit when you do it that way, but I would argue that your chances for melt significantly increase.

I talk a lot about being a partner in the college search process with a student/family because there is strategy and psychology behind that approach. You create the right kind of urgency by setting clear, long-term timeline expectations for the prospect as early as possible in the process.

For example, as you start to have early conversations with high school juniors in the coming weeks, I want you to help those students build out the next 8 to 10 months and what that will look like. It doesn’t have to be exact, and it’s okay if together you edit that timeline at some point. Just make sure that both you and the student/family are in agreement on the timeline. I would even go so far as to ask them after you build it out if they’re in agreement with everything you’ve discussed.

And if you’re near the end of the process and you haven’t built out a timeline with one of your undecided seniors, I would strongly encourage you do so immediately. You could talk to them about the timeline goals of your office, and ask what they feel is needed before a final decision about your school can be made.

Let me add one more thing. If a student isn’t willing to build out a timeline with you, I would start to question just how serious they are about your school and ask a few targeted follow-up questions.

Remember, it’s about the way they want this process to go, not the way you need it to go.

So, in addition to building out those clear, long-term timelines, here are four other very simple things you can do to create the right kind of urgency.

  1. Explain the WHY behind the urgency. Help the student/family understand why it’s in their best interests to keep the process moving forward. Give them logical reasons such as additional stress and having to complete multiple tasks in a much shorter timeframe.
  2. Ask them what big question marks still remain. This is particularly useful late in the process with admitted but undecided students. Go ahead and ask the student, or his or her parents, “What are the big question marks in your mind about our school that are making it tough to make a decision?” I’m not about to tell you I know what answer you’re going to receive because the reality is this could go off in a number of different directions. Whatever feedback they give you, analyze it and deduce if this is an objection that you can overcome or if the student is just having a hard time telling you “no.” You could also ask something like, “On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of being close to making a decision, where are you at?” If they tell you they’re at an 8, then get them to verbalize why they’re an 8 and what they see as the final stumbling blocks or question marks.
  3. Talk about their next steps and be a problem solver. Building on #2, take the feedback you receive and come up with a solution for them or at least the next step. You could also tell the student you’re thinking it might be helpful for them to talk to someone who was in the same position recently (i.e. one of your freshmen) and faced a similar challenge. Ask them if making that connection that would be helpful…most will say “yes.”
  4. Use the right words and phrases in your recruiting communications. There are plenty of words and phrases that you can use in your emails, letters, and text messages to help you create urgency. They include – Fast, quick, close, soon, approaching, deadline, never, and don’t miss out. Each one of these will cause their mind to think urgently over time.

Was this article helpful? I’m always interested in hearing what you think. And, if you have a question about urgency or any other aspect of student recruitment, let’s start a conversation (or at least get one scheduled on the calendar). All you have to do is reply back.

P.S. Have you seen #TiersTalks on Twitter? I started it in 2018 as a way to give you a behind the scenes look throughout the week at key themes and insights from conversations I have with admission and EM professionals (including when I lead a workshop). You can check it out here.

Recruiting Reminders From the NCAA TournamentTuesday, March 20th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

A historic upset. Check. Buzzer beaters. Check. A 98-year-old nun becoming famous. Check. And friends of mine tearing up their brackets and uttering some choice words after a weekend that could only be described as complete madness. Check, check, and check.

If you’re like most people, you probably found yourself glued to a TV at some point last week between Thursday and Sunday watching this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. I’m not going to lie. I spent almost the entire weekend with family and friends flipping back and forth between the four CBS/Turner channels.

While taking in all the action, some very important lessons and recruiting reminders for college admissions professionals surfaced. So, throughout the weekend I grabbed my MacBook Pro and jotted down a bunch of reminders just for you. Here they are:

Take the time to come up with better questions. So many sideline reporters are great at asking questions that produce the right answers. By “right,” I mean the correct answer that a smart, student-athlete or coach should give. Their answer won’t make any waves, will let them go on to the next question, and continue on until the end of the interview. This also describes many of the conversations that admissions professionals have with prospective students. If you don’t go deeper and think bigger with your questions you’re going to get a standard, vanilla answer. The problem with that is, you don’t really learn anything new about your prospect, and the end result is you aren’t able to move the process forward. I want you to ask questions that require extra thought, which then will produce insightful answers.

Lesser-known schools can and will beat bigger name brands. This happens every year in the NCAA tournament. Why? A big reason is a lot of the smaller schools have players on their team who had the opportunity to pick a well known, bigger name school during the recruiting process. The reasons why they didn’t vary, but when a coach (or in your case, you or your admissions colleagues) offer consistent, personalized messaging that creates connections and explains why your school is the smarter choice based on the student’s wants/needs, it won’t be an automatic loss when you go head to head with a bigger name school. Far from it.

The importance of social listening. The UMBC Athletics Twitter account had approximately 5,000 followers prior to Friday’s game against Virginia. 72 hours later after their historic upset, and a close loss in the second round, that number stands at just under 110,000. Social listening gives you the ability to take all those new conversations and followers and develop important insights and opportunities for engagement.

This generation values authenticity. A lot more people know who Zach Seidel is today. In case you’re not one of them, let me explain. Zach was in charge of the UMBC Athletics Twitter account during the NCAA tournament. Part of the reason their follower count spiked so much were Zach’s genuine, down to earth, and at times quite humorous tweets. There’s an important lesson for you here. Zach’s tweets weren’t just a play by play of UMBC’s two basketball games. He did an outstanding job of both informing (sharing facts about UMBC) and engaging. His tweets were consistently authentic (silly, funny, and snarky), and that helped bring national attention to his school. Make sure your social media posts aren’t just a repeat of things on your website, and take the time to engage authentically with your followers.

Capitalize on big moments. In keeping with UMBC as our case study, from the end of their game last Friday to Sunday morning, the school’s bookstore store received about 3,500 online orders – almost as many as the total for the entire previous year. The school is also in the process of trying to trademark “Retrievers,” “Retriever Nation,” and “16 over 1” because they want to keep the conversation going long after the tournament ends. Leveraging attention and emotions immediately after any successful event is vital. Create powerful content (storytelling) with the help of videos and photos that is relevant, helpful, shareable, and drives action. You could also offer discounted or free merchandise to show your appreciation.

People are your secret weapon. If you don’t work at Loyola University Chicago, you probably didn’t know who Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt was before last Thursday. She’s the 98-year-old team chaplain who has since become one of the faces of this year’s NCAA tournament. Long after this year’s tournament ends many of us won’t remember the score of a particular game, but we will remember people like Sister Jean because of her spirit and passion for her team…plus it’s hard to forget a 98-year-old nun. On your campus you have one or more people like Sister Jean (aka micro influencers) who are memorable and can help you make emotional connections with prospective students and families. It could be current students, faculty, staff, or your alumni. It might even be someone who lives in your surrounding campus community. Make it a priority to find those people and tell their unique stories. This generation of students continues to make it clear that when a college representative can help them make a connection it’s extremely beneficial when it comes time to make their final decision.

Consistency matters from start to finish. Cincinnati led Nevada by 22 points with 11:37 remaining in the game. Then the Bearcats got comfortable with their big lead, and Nevada proceeded to outscore them 32 to 8, winning the game by two points. Consistency from start to finish is so important when it comes to winning in the NCAA tournament. Very few leads are truly safe. Similarly, just because your deposits are up or you’re ahead of your projections doesn’t mean the work stops or slows down with that group of students. Develop a melt plan that involves consistent communication to your committed students (and their parents) and continues to demand interaction until the day they arrive on your campus.

If you’ve got a question about this article, let me again remind you that I’m only an email, call, or text away.

And if your NCAA tournament bracket is still somehow intact, tell me who you’ve got in your Final Four and who your National Champion is. You can email me here or connect with me on Twitter at @CoachTiers

Are Your Admits Giving You These “Buying Signals?”Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

It’s that time of year again for college admission professionals…aka crunch time.

Everybody has their list of admitted students who have yet to deposit, and if you’re like most, you’re trying to connect with those students and figure out if your school is at or near the top of their list.

Let me start there first. If you’re burning up the phone lines trying to reach these students and you’re getting the silent treatment, click this link for your answer why, as well as some ideas on what you can do to change that.

Now, let’s talk more about your conversations with those admitted, but undecided students. What really surprises me when I talk to admissions counselors is how few of them are actively looking for signs or “buying signals” from students. Instead, they’re waiting for the student to offer up a direct statement one way or the other as to where things stand. Because of that, they often miss the signals that students create, many of which are in the form of questions and statements.

I want you to be able to pick up on those signals as early as possible which is why we’re spending time on this today.

With years of research data collected on how prospects make their final decision, Dan (Tudor) and I have identified several reliable signals that are given by a student who is either extremely interested in your school or ready to deposit/commit.

Before I share that information with you, let me reiterate the importance of being an active listener in your day-to-day conversations. Listening is such an important skill for all of us. And as it relates to this topic, the better listener you become, the easier it will be to spot these “buying signals” that I’m about to share with you. Here they are:

  1. The parents reveal what’s going on behind the scenes. During conversations with you they share details about other colleges they’ve been talking to or anything else related to the process of making a decision on whether or not your college is the “right fit” for their child. We’ve found that in a lot of cases the parents take an overly active role at the end of their child’s decision-making process with colleges they’re seriously considering. This is yet another reason why it’s so important to establish early and consistent contact with the parents of prospective students.
  2. They ask questions about cost or your school’s financial aid processes. That could be direct questions about payment processes at your school or even comments wondering how they would afford the leftover cost at a school like yours. This also includes objections or subtle arguments about cost as well. Each one of those questions and comments (by students or parents) is a serious sign that they are actively trying to figure out how they can afford your institution. If your school is no longer a serious option they won’t invest the time and energy into debating with you. Again, students who aren’t seriously considering your school will rarely, if ever, bring up cost. Students trying to picture themselves at your school will always bring up cost.
  3. They ask about upcoming Admitted Student Day events or other opportunities to come back to campus. When they do this, this is their way of telling you that your school made the final cut. It’s an especially strong sign if they go out of their way and ask to see specific things or talk to specific people during such an event.
  4. They ask the same question multiple times or in multiple ways. If they ask you to repeat something that you told them earlier, or if a subject comes up a second or third time during multiple conversations with them you should strongly consider “asking for the commitment.” This is almost always a sign that they’ve been mulling over a decision that’s in your favor.
  5. They ask detailed questions about a specific aspect of your school. These questions are somewhat rare, so when you get one, I would recommend you accelerate the process to whatever the next step happens to be. It might be a question like, “What percentage of your undergraduate students end up doing their Masters program at your school?” Or, it could be a “How do I” question like, “How do I know what my final cost will be?” Students rarely ask positive questions like these unless they’re already picturing themselves as a student on your campus.
  6. They ask if you can connect them with a current student. Typically this means they’re looking for confirmation to make them feel good about a decision.
  7. They give you other verbal “buying signals.” Parents in particular are really good at this. During an admitted student day, campus visit, or phone conversation, listen for comments like “Wow, I didn’t know that.”  Or, “Great, that’s what I thought.”  Statements like those are signs that they’re engaged mentally with what you’re saying and what they’re seeing.
  8. They ask you what the next step is. When a person is ready to make a decision they often won’t wait for you to tell them what the next step is. They’ll just come right out and ask you something like, “So what would I do next?”

Speaking of next steps, the next step once you get one or more of these “buying signals” is to act on them right away. That action plan could include either what I’ve referred to before as a “trial close,” or if you get a really strong signal, your next step should be to ask them if they’re ready to deposit/commit. If this part of the process is something you need help with, email, call, or text me and we can set up a time to chat.

Beyond that, if you’re struggling right now with a specific subset of students, or you’re looking for ideas/strategies on a specific admissions/EM topic, go ahead and connect with me. The advice is free! I’m here to help you if you’re willing to ask me.

Good luck!

P.S. If you didn’t take the 1-minute survey that I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, please do that for me right now by clicking this link. Thanks so much.

It’s Time to Tell You How I Got HereTuesday, March 6th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

My plan was to finish up an article I started about the “buying signals” that undecided students put out around this time each year. Then, while waiting on my flight home last night from Boston, I read a thank you email from an admissions counselor, and I haven’t been able to get her words out of my mind. So, I’ve decided that it’s time to tell you how I got here…how I became (among other things) the guy that sends you this newsletter every single Tuesday.

I’m sharing my story with you now because the conversation I had with that admissions counselor at last week’s Indiana NACAC affiliate conference resulted in a “BIG aha moment” for her (her words not mine), much like a similar conversation did for me back in 1993. My hope is this article will do the same for somebody else who really needs it right now…maybe you.

When I graduated from high school in 1994, the plan was to attend University and become a teacher. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it was because my mom was a teacher, and my grandfather was a teacher. Or, maybe it was also because my outlook on life (specifically my mindset) changed in 1993 after a conversation I had with one of my high school teachers, Mr. Boichuk. Looking back over the years, it’s become clear to me that the conversation he and I had was a big aha moment that helped shape who I’ve become, what I’ve accomplished, and what I will accomplish over the rest of my professional career.

During my junior year of high school in 1993 I was really struggling to understand why I didn’t excel at certain things and why I hadn’t gained acceptance from certain peers. I was mentally beating myself up pretty badly. It all came to a head one day during a conversation with Mr. Boichuk, my history teacher. The gist of what he told me at the end of our conversation is as follows – You’re not going to be great at everything; Stop feeling sorry for yourself; Stop worrying about what you can’t do, and stop listening to people who tell you that you can’t do something; Focus on what you’re good at and figure out what you need to do to achieve what you want; You control your effort and your attitude…start believing it! I still remember that conversation like it was yesterday.

From that day forward it was a complete shift in mindset for me. I started believing in myself more. I stopped listening to people who told me I couldn’t do something, and I started really focusing more on what my strengths were, while also accepting my limitations. In short, I started to become self aware.

If you’re unhappy right now, or you want to move up the Higher Ed ladder like so many admissions professionals tell me they do, you may need to do the same. You may need to do a personal deep dive and become more self aware. That’s what I told the admissions counselor during our conversation in the conference hotel lobby last week after she shared with me that she felt she got passed over last fall for a promotion. In listening to her it quickly became clear that she was focused more on the past instead of looking in the mirror and considering that she might not be ready/have the skill set needed yet. Outside of being one of the more veteran counselors, I asked her to think about things she had done to prepare and position herself as someone who was ready for that opportunity.

When you truly become self aware, you’re able to more effectively manage your behaviors and emotions. The more you can do that, the easier it is to make real improvements that result in growth.

For me, the first big challenge came in 2004. I had played high school basketball but was always the last player to come off the bench and get into a game. After stumbling upon an opportunity to coach a high school all-star team at a summer event between my freshman and sophomore year of university, I decided that coaching was something I wanted to pursue further. I finished university and eventually made my way to Minnesota. After coaching at the high school level for five years (and working at that high school during the day), I felt I was ready to make the jump to the college level. Every single person outside of my immediate family and closest friends told me it would never happen because I didn’t play in college, let alone much in high school. Being self aware helped me to realize that even though I didn’t have the typical resume of most college coaches, what I did have and what I was really, really good at was being a genuine, caring person who could build relationships and connect on a personal level with both young people and adults. That ability coupled with my work ethic led me to develop thousands of relationships with all kinds of different people in basketball circles from the NBA down to the youth levels. The end result was an 8-year college coaching career that included helping recruit a young man who would eventually be named National Player of the Year; another who would become a school’s all-time assists leader; and I was a part of a Division II school’s win over a Top 25 Division I program.

Fast forward to 2014 and another opportunity presented itself simply because of a relationship I had built – Construct, manage and lead the college admissions division of Tudor Collegiate Strategies. It was a big challenge, but the opportunity to build something from the ground up and help people grow (like I had done in coaching) drew me in. For the first two years I was constantly told during my travels from vendors and others in the space that my chances of gaining any real traction were low. Some even went so far as to tell me that I was going to lose because I hadn’t worked directly in a college admissions office. But I knew deep down that I had a plan built on a tireless work ethic, patience, empathy, and the understanding of how to build and grow real relationships. Plus, I had gained a lot of knowledge from my time as a high school college and career advisor, and as a college coach I had worked closely with admissions offices at multiple schools.

Beyond that, I knew that there would be failures along the way, and I was okay with that fact. I was going to learn and grow from every single mistake.

The results continue to speak for themselves. Our company continues to grow at an incredible rate, and last year we helped multiple schools achieve record freshmen enrollment. Clients are seeing growth both as institutions and as individual admissions professionals.

I take great pride in what we’ve built to this point, but my fuel and the biggest thing that keeps me pushing forward and motivated every single day, is knowing that tomorrow I may have another opportunity to help someone else grow or maybe even help them have their big “aha” moment.

The feeling I got when I read that thank you email from that admissions counselor is hard to describe…it was just so exhilarating. It’s the same feeling I had in 2016 when an admissions counselor I didn’t know asked me to be his mentor after I finished leading a workshop, and it’s the same feeling I get every single time somebody thanks me for an article I wrote or tells me that they tried a strategy I recommended and it worked.

Again, the biggest reason I’m sharing my story today is to remind you about the importance AND the power of self awareness. We all have strengths and weaknesses. You need to be okay with yours, whatever they are. When you’re honest with yourself, who you are and where you are in life, and you’re willing to put in the work to get to where you want to be, you’re on the path to becoming the best you.

Please use this article as a reminder or as motivation to change. And if you’re already in a great place in life but you have a colleague or friend that isn’t, I encourage you to forward this on to them. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I really appreciate it!

If you’re interested in receiving my weekly admissions email newsletter where this article first appeared, all you have to do is send me a quick email that says “sign me up for your newsletter.” I’d love to have you join this growing community!

P.S. I thought you might enjoy this picture I took yesterday at sunrise during my flight to Boston.

 

8 Keys for Your Admitted Student Day EventTuesday, February 27th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Application and admit numbers are up over last year. That’s what I’ve been getting told this winter from a lot of admissions/EM leaders.

The excitement seems to quickly get replaced, though, with cautious optimism.

At the end of the day, they know what you and I both know. Conversion (yield) is the number that matters the most.

So, what’s your school’s plan as we enter the home stretch with this next class of students? More specifically, how are you going to make sure your admitted student day (ASD) events pay off?

More and more I’m hearing admitted students describe these events just like they describe a lot of college communications and campus visits – they all look and sound very similar. Admitted students get to sit through a bunch of meetings, namely ones about academics, financial aid, and orientation; they meet a few staff members and current students; they tour campus; they eat lunch; and then they go home and try to make sense of what was a six to eight-hour whirlwind.

A growing problem students and parents tell us is many of these events have become so big that it unfortunately leads to a less personalized feel.

So, let me ask you the same question again but in a different way. What’s your school’s plan to make sure that your admitted student day event doesn’t mirror everybody else’s, AND doesn’t feel so big that students (some of whom are still undecided) walk away feeling frustrated and/or confused? This generation wants and needs to see, hear, and feel something different. And they want the focus to be more on them as an individual student/family.

Armed with that knowledge, today I want to offer you eight key things to think about as you and your admissions staff colleagues discuss upcoming on-campus ASD events.

  • The first 30 minutes. The start of your event can make or break the rest of the day. What kind of initial feeling is your school creating from the time a student/family parks their vehicle, to when they check-in, to when your welcome session or first block begins? It needs to be a smooth, low-pressure process that’s welcoming and gets them excited about what they’re about to experience.
  • Weekends are fine, but what about weekdays? Most colleges have their admitted student day events on a Saturday. How many students and families are you missing an opportunity with because that doesn’t fit their schedule? Consider adding a weekday offering. It won’t appeal to everyone, but if I told you that making this option available could result in another 3, 5, or even 10 students enrolling, what would you say?
  • Figure out your biggest problem. Building on the last bullet point, have you ever asked yourself what the most annoying/frustrating part of your admitted student day event is for your admits and their families? Maybe it’s your parking situation, or lack thereof. Maybe your campus is hard to navigate. Whatever “it” is, become a problem solver on behalf of your audience. And if you’re not sure what “it” is, I would argue that trying to get that information via a post-event survey isn’t a great strategy. Instead, consider social listening (i.e. searching social media to see what students and others said/thought). Social listening can provide actionable insight. If you’re looking for help in that area, check out what our friends over at Campus Sonar are doing.
  • Give them information sessions that are different. Academic breakout sessions, talking about financial aid, and learning how to register for housing/classes are important. I’m not arguing any of that. However, when you have admitted students who still don’t know if it will be easy or hard to “fit” into your campus community, I strongly encourage you to go a little deeper in these sessions. For example, when it comes to those academic meetings, what kind of opportunities for true engagement are you creating between your admits and your faculty? Developing a level of comfort with a faculty member who may actually teach them at some point is a big positive. And what about offering a session for students that focuses on the freshmen experience (or transfer experience) and what your school does to help new students acclimate both academically and socially. A topic like that one is on the minds of most students, so why not alleviate some of their fears and take the mystery away.
  • Separate the student and their parent(s). I’ve talked in previous articles about the importance of doing this at some point during the campus visit. The same value exists during an admitted student day. You need to create an unforgettable experience for everybody. Again, one of the biggest things that every single student wants is a “feeling” of fitting in. It’s hard to make that happen if the only student interaction they have is with their tour guide or with a student panel. The more current students they meet and have an actual conversation with (outside of a scheduled session), the greater the chance that they’ll connect on a personal level. Being able to ask questions of current students without mom, dad or an admission staffer around can give them that. I’ll even go so far as to tell you that allocating some time during your event where your admitted students literally do nothing but “hang out” with your current students will be a positive. On the parent side, make sure financial aid isn’t the only topic you cover in detail. Consider more in-depth discussions on topics like safety, academic advising, and outcomes.
  • Create an emotional moment or connection. When it happens, that moment or connection is something that a student will remember when they make their final decision. Are you creating an atmosphere during your ASD that makes an emotional moment or connection possible? Here are three quick examples that I’ve seen work on different campuses. The school President has the students and families over to his or her house to play games and socialize not only with him or her, but other people in the community such as recent graduates and influential business leaders; A carnival type party with various activities and competitions, food trucks, a DJ, and more; An interactive family feud type event.
  • Strategic 1-on-1 time with an admissions counselor. Allotting specific time for an individual meeting between a student/family (especially any undecided students) and their admissions counselor (or at worst an admissions staff member) is critical. And just to be clear, I’m not referring to small talk that occurs throughout the day. Now, from a time standpoint I understand that it’s highly unlikely you’ll meet 1-on-1 with every student/family that attends your ASD. It’s about being strategic. Some need extra love and attention from you more than others. Do you know who they are?
  • Remind them they’re a priority, and ask them if they’re ready to commit/deposit. In my article last week I talked about “closing” and how you can make it less stressful. Click that link if you missed it or want a quick refresher. A lot of counselors continue to assume that once a student has been admitted it’s obvious how much their school wants them. That isn’t always the case. They need to hear it again…now more than ever, actually. If you’ve built a relationship with a student/parent(s) and you know that the student has all the information they need (both from your school and other colleges still being considered) to make an informed decision, go ahead and ask them if they’re ready to submit their deposit/commit/become a (insert your school mascot’s name). How you ask is up to you. I just want to make sure that you ask. Please keep in mind, though, that if you haven’t consistently communicated with the student, and you don’t have a feel for their timeline, then the student may not be ready to be asked.

Admitted student day events are a key component of the college recruitment cycle. Consider having a discussion in your office about one or more of these ideas today.

If you have a question about today’s article, go ahead and email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

“Closing” Doesn’t Have to Be So StressfulTuesday, February 20th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

The last thing I do when I lead a training workshop is have the admissions staff come up with four or five action points. Having them define the next steps (as individuals and as a group) is extremely important if the growth process is going to continue.

Becoming a better closer or becoming more comfortable asking for the commitment has been an action point in just about every single workshop I’ve led over the past year.

I’ve found that a lot of admissions counselors stress themselves out about the pending decisions of their admitted students because they don’t have a good feel for the mindset or the timeline of many of the students/families that they’re working with.

Managing the volume of names that make up most territories these days is without a doubt a big challenge. So, what’s the solution? I would argue it’s a lot of hard work (and I mean a lot!) along with a lot of teamwork and some very defined recruitment strategies, many of which I will continue to provide you with in this newsletter each Tuesday.

It starts with recognizing that the college search process for a student is exactly that…a process. Your goal should be to take your time and lead prospective students and parents through the process of understanding the value your school offers, how your student experience is different, and how it ties in to what each student is looking for in their college experience. Trying to skip steps or trying to explain those things in one meeting or during one admitted student day event is not an effective strategy. The end result will almost always be, “I need some more time to think about it,” or “I’m not sure yet.”

Your students know what you too should know. You’re not asking for “a decision,” you’re asking for “a set of decisions.” If you look at student recruitment as a process rather than an event, you will have less stress, specifically when it comes time to ask a student if they’re ready to make their decision. It’s about providing opportunities for a student to say yes to each step along the way. When you gain agreement through small wins or as I like to call them, “little yeses,” your job immediately becomes less challenging. More on what those “little yeses” look like in just a minute.

If you want to create opportunities to get a string of incremental yeses, consistently do these four things:

  • Ask specific, targeted questions throughout the entire process
  • Involve parents in the process much earlier
  • Provide personalized messaging for students and parents with different calls to action that encourage engagement
  • Show them you’re a resource (not a salesperson) who understands this process is about them and not your school

All four of those things are interrelated, and together they form the core of an effective recruitment strategy. They also require patience.

Consistent, personalized messaging in particular has proven to be an instant game changer for our clients. During a phone call last week with a Director of Admissions at a school we partner with, the DOA was excited to share that apps, admits, and deposits year/year were all up! When I asked him for some feedback he expressed that having a consistent message that creates engagement and provides information his counselors can then build upon has made a major difference. Again, it’s the idea of building a relationship brick by brick.

Now let’s dive into those “little yeses” further. When you get a student or parent to offer agreement to something versus you telling them what they should do/think, they’re more likely to move forward because they were the architect. For example:

  • Get them to reply back to an email with the answer to a question you asked
  • Get them to agree to set up a phone call with you
  • Get them to agree to talk to their parent(s) about visiting campus (or visiting again for your ASD)
  • Get them to agree that your college’s location is actually a positive
  • Get them to tell you that they can see themselves living in your dorms, attending events on your campus, or working closely with your dedicated faculty
  • Get them to agree that they understand the VALUE of a degree from your school
  • Get them to agree that filling out the FAFSA can be beneficial for them
  • Get the parent(s) to agree that your campus is a safe environment and you have programs in place to help their son/daughter successfully transition to college life
  • Get them to agree on what the next step in their process will be
  • Get them to agree when they’ll make their final decision and how

Each one of those things can be classified as small wins. Once you get enough of those small wins or “little yeses”, it makes asking for the big yes (their intention to enroll at your school) less stressful and much easier…but you still have to ask. When you do, you won’t have to worry about being pushy because you’ve consistently recruited them the right way (i.e. the way they want) and they’ve already given you a bunch of “little yeses” along the way that clearly indicate your school is a serious contender.

The other major benefit of taking the approach I just shared with you is you’ll discover much quicker just how serious (or not serious) a student is about your school.

If you have a specific question about this article or any other part of student recruitment, click this link and send me an email right now. I’m ready to listen and offer advice if you’re willing to share.

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