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They’ll Do the Same Thing My Daughter Does If You Let ThemTuesday, August 14th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

    

My wife and I already know the answer before we even ask the question.

Every now and then we let our 9-year old daughter pick where we go out for dinner. There are a ton of nice restaurants within a 15-20 minute drive from our house. But, every time despite having all those options, she opts for one of two familiar choices – McDonald’s or Culver’s.

My daughter chooses ‘safe’ over the unknown. It doesn’t matter that what she usually orders (hamburger, Mac and cheese, or noodles with butter) is available at a bunch of other restaurants. In the end, she settles.

Prospective students do the same thing throughout their college search. They did last year, and they will again this year unless you help them make an uncomfortable decision.

Here are four core issues you’re going to have to find a way to take control of if you want prospective students to bypass their own McDonald’s or Culver’s:

  • Understand the psychology behind their motivation for playing it safe. Most students begin their college search adventurous and seemingly open to anything, including what you’re telling them about your school. But, as many admissions counselors discover, it wanes as time goes on. Why? Because they, like most of us, gravitate to familiar and safe. That might result in the student choosing the school that’s the closest to home, the one that’s the least expensive, has the biggest name recognition, or some other traditionally safe-sounding reason. Sometimes, you benefit from being the safe choice. Many times, you don’t. What I want you to remember is this reasoning is common, and it can be overcome.
  • It’s your responsibility to tell them how to think. Let me be clear on this. I’m not suggesting you trick students into choosing your school. You don’t have that power. However, you do have the tools needed to define why your college or university is going to be the better choice in the end. And you have complete control over how much passion and confidence you exude. You need to clearly lay out all the reasons that a student should take the risk and choose your school. If you don’t, who will? Telling your story effectively is one of the foundational ways you begin to change the hearts and minds of your prospects.
  • Ask them to explain why they’re feeling ready to take a big risk. Another important part of an admissions counselors’ job is to understand why a prospective student is ready to take a risk. For example, you have an interested student from several states away who’s telling you that he/she is open to hearing/learning more about your school. The first thing I want you to ask them is, “So tell me why moving away from home and going far away to college seems like it might be the right decision for you?” If that student comes back with defined reasons as to why they’re looking at colleges out of their area, then you’ve got a strong start to that prospect’s recruitment. If on the other hand you get an answer like, “I don’t know, I just want to see what all my options are and look around a little,” I would argue you proceed with a lot of caution. That scenario can take the form of a lot of different conversations, but the main point I’m trying to make is this: If you sense your prospect is taking a risk or isn’t the typical student you usually see interested in your school, ask them early on to explain why they’re interested.
  • Ask them to define their timeline. One of the most important aspects of getting a prospect to leave their safe zone and consider a riskier path is to have them define their timeline for how their process will move forward, and how they’ll make their final decision. I’ve talked about timeline at length before, but if you need a quick reminder or maybe this is your first time reading my newsletter and you want more strategies on how to do that effectively, read this article I wrote. Defining their timeline early in the process is a critical piece for making sure a student is ready to seriously consider your school.

As you start to have in-depth conversations with this next class of prospective students, make sure you’re looking for what your prospect’s safe options are, and make a plan to clearly and consistently justify why taking a serious look at your school is well worth the risk.

Have a great rest of the week!

It Might Not Make Sense, ButTuesday, August 7th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

    

It happened again, this time during a staff training workshop that I led for a college in Illinois yesterday.

During a break, one of the admissions counselors came up and asked me if his peers at other schools are also dealing with students making completely illogical college decisions. The short answer I gave him was, “of course.”

Choosing a college based on whether or not they have a football team might seem completely illogical to you and the wrong way to break a tie between schools, but it happens from time to time. And some students in 2018 are also still picking colleges based on where their high school friends are or are not going…that includes a boyfriend or girlfriend as well. One student even said in a recent survey we conducted for a school that the deciding factor that led them to pick their college was, “I thought it would be easier to change my major here than at other schools.”

Over the past couple of years I’ve seen and heard more examples of irrational, emotional decisions than ever before in our ongoing work with college admission departments.

Here are five important constants I see with this generation of students that I want you to keep in mind as you start to communicate with this next class:

  • They’re deciding based on their emotions. Emotion often outweighs logic and facts, including when it comes to deciding which colleges to visit and apply to.
  • They’re thinking short term, not long term, when it comes to their college experience. What feels right at that moment is often more important versus over four years.
  • They’re looking to see which colleges truly personalize the process and really take an interest in them. Are you a resource or salesperson? Are you consistently staying in touch and asking them for their feedback and opinions on things? Do you feel like someone they can trust?
  • They’re relying on others to help them make their decisions. Namely parents, peers, and other family and friends in their inner circle/community.
  • They’ll often turn to irrelevant statistics to justify their actions. You might develop a great relationship with a student and offer them a competitive financial aid package, but in the end, they pick the school with the larger, newer residence halls or the one where their boyfriend, girlfriend, or group of friends is going.

The bottom line is this generation is a tough group to recruit. They often change their minds multiple times daily, and they do things that leave people like yourself scratching your head.

Let me share with you some additional ideas/thoughts that might help you moving forward:

  • Search out information as early as possible about how they’re going to make their college decision. Ask questions about tiebreakers and other things that matter most as they look at different schools…no matter how silly you might think they are.
  • If the early emails and letters you send are focused solely on the logical argument that your school and your academic programs are the best choice, you may be making a huge mistake. It’s not that your prospect doesn’t need that, it just may not be the right time yet.
  • Over the past two years in both this newsletter and during NACAC affiliate conferences I’ve spoken at, I’ve really tried to drive home just how much this generation of students are driven by fear. How are you, your colleagues, and your recruiting communications helping to alleviate that fear?
  • Find ways to feed their emotions and make a personal connection rather than a logical case. If you take that approach, you’ll set yourself up for having them listen to your logical case more intently once you have that emotional connection.
  • Make your case with more passion than your competition. I continue to see/hear plenty of stories where the emotional connections that the admissions staff, tour guides, etc. helped build end up being a significant reason why the student chose their school. Emotions sell because emotions are real. And remember, passion has nothing to do with your budget.
  • Always include/engage the parents. When you clue them in early on to your conversations with their son/daughter, and when you ask them for their feedback on things, you gain allies who feel like a valued partner.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your week!

As always, if you have questions about this article or any other aspect of student recruitment, leadership, or professional development, I’m ready to listen and help. Reply back, and we’ll start a conversation.

If You Want Them to Visit CampusTuesday, July 31st, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Before you know it school will be back in session. My daughter actually starts third grade on Thursday, which still blows my mind. Where has summer gone?

Late summer and early fall continue to be popular times for a lot of rising seniors to take a college visit. You and I both know how important that visit is for this generation of students. It’s typically the make or break moment when your school moves up or down the list. And students rely on it heavily when making their final decision.

Let me give you another important piece of information. Our focus group research with colleges and universities across the country over the past year indicates that close to 60% of incoming college freshmen only visited between one and three schools during their college search.

The explanation is simple. Time is at a premium for both parents and prospective students in 2018. Now, more than ever, colleges need to make a stronger case as to why the campus visit (specifically their own) holds so much value.

If you’re wondering what your school has to show a prospective student before they’ll visit your campus, I can help you with that. We ask that exact question on the recruiting survey that goes out before I lead a staff training workshop.

Besides having the academic program/major that a student wants/is interested in, the two biggest themes that repeatedly come up are:

  • Taking an interest in them as an individual
  • Showing them that your campus community is inclusive, welcoming, and that it won’t be hard for them to fit in

We continue to find that most students want and need to understand WHY you want them to become a part of your student body and HOW your school will help them transition and “fit in” so seamlessly.

Ask yourself the following question – Have I given the students in my territory a reason to visit our campus? I mean a real, concrete reason.

Your prospects need a reason that is solidified in their mind – either one that they came up with on their own or a picture that you and your school have painted for them over a period of time. Putting it simply, what they need is what we all need to prompt action from time to time:  A “because.”

Let’s take things a step further. How else are you going to lay the foundation for a campus visit? Consistent, engaging messaging (i.e. letters and emails) that comes from one voice and creates/cultivates a recruiting relationship not only with the student but also their parent(s) is an extremely effective strategy.

Let me mention one more thing before I let you go. Asking for a visit too soon in a student’s college search process can be extremely detrimental. You have to be a little patient, let that recruiting relationship build, create some anticipation, and then ask. Pushing the campus visit as your call to action every single time during early communications can quickly becoming unnerving and overwhelming.

Good luck!

If you want to talk further about anything I mentioned in this article, reply back to my email and we can do that.

P.S. After the campus visit is over, do you know how to determine whether your school moved up or down a student’s list? The answer is in today’s newsletter in the section that’s titled, “A Related Article From Jeremy.”

A Better Way to Answer QuestionsTuesday, July 24th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I would argue that the most successful admissions counselors are able to get prospective students and parents to communicate more with them throughout the college search process than they do with their counterparts at other schools.

Besides cultivating trust, a big part of making that happen comes down to asking effective questions. These are questions where the student or parent reveals the why behind something. They do that because the question asks for their opinion or input, and thus they feel valued. Oftentimes they’ll even open up further and provide you with additional insights and useful information for future conversations.

In addition to knowing what kinds of questions to ask at various stages of the recruitment process, just as important is knowing how to effectively answer a question that comes from a student or parent…especially a yes/no question.

What do you do right now when you get one of those? If you just answer yes or no, you might be missing out on a huge opportunity.

Instead, I would recommend that when you’re asked a question, you should consider answering in the form of a question. Let me explain.

When a prospective student or parent asks you or one of your colleagues a question, it’s a sign that they’re interested in your school. I promise you, they’re not asking every college questions. That level of interest could be a lot, or it could be a little. Your job is to find out which one. Here’s how taking a different approach will help you to do that and more.

Let’s say a student asks you, “Do you offer campus tours on weekends?” The easy answer is, “Yes.” There’s nothing wrong with that response, but there’s a distinct possibility that the student won’t take any immediate action and thus you’ve helped to delay a possible visit.

If you answer differently, you can keep the process moving forward. The student has told you they’re interested in, or at least thinking about, making a campus visit. In your response back to them, I want you to confirm that this is in fact the case. You could say something like, “Are you thinking that a weekend visit to campus will work best for you?” If the student says yes, then your next step is to share the different weekend visit options your school offers and to ask what else they need to know/what else needs to happen before they will commit to a visit.

And if the student’s subsequent response tells you that they’ve all but decided on a date, go ahead and offer to help sign them up for that visit on the spot (if that’s possible) so that they know everything has been completed correctly. Worst case, schedule a time for a quick call with that student/family where you’ll walk them through the process of signing up.

Recognizing when to answer a question in the form of a question is an important skill that all college admission professionals need to learn. Understanding how to do that can be the difference between keeping the process moving forward and delaying it.

Let me also add that how you communicate your response (i.e. the tone and language you use) matters.

If you’ve got a question about today’s article, reply back and let’s talk about it.

Have a great week!

And This Year’s Award Goes to…Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

Award shows highlight the amazing work of people in any given industry or profession.

Tomorrow, ESPN will broadcast their annual ESPY awards (short for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly). Once a year the Worldwide Leader in Sports assembles some of the greatest athletes on the planet all under one roof and then celebrates and relives the best moments of the past calendar year.

In honor of the ESPYs, in 2015 I came up with the TCS Awards for College Admissions. There is one small difference. I’m not actually handing out trophies to specific people today. Instead, I’m going to provide you with some very important reminders and strategies that will help you as you begin to recruit this next class of students.

Are you ready to get started with the show?

Here’s a look at this year’s categories and award winners:

Courage Award: This award goes to the Vice President of Enrollment or Director of Admissions who has the courage to employ a different strategy than their competitors, without worrying about what other industry leaders will think. When you have data or other focus group research available that suggests this generation of students wants something different (ex. more personalization in the communications you send and the campus visits you organize) or doesn’t see value in something anymore (ex. physical viewbooks), it’s time to make a change or at the very least have an internal discussion.

Best Use of Social Media Award: This award goes to the college or university that uses social media as a way to create connections between their current students, faculty, etc., and prospective students. The school uses multiple platforms but remains native to each (i.e. doesn’t post the exact same thing on different platforms). And instead of trying to come up with content that they think is interesting, they encourage their current students to document their daily journey through their eyes. That kind of storytelling is real and raw, and it creates emotions that increase the chances of action being taken.

Best Breakthrough Counselor: This award goes to the Admissions Counselor who understands the importance of talking about subjects like fear, paying for college (aka: financial aid), and timeline early in the process with prospective students and parents. The winner knows that when you can alleviate fear and are transparent from the beginning, you build trust.

Best Record-Breaking Performance: This award goes to the Admissions Counselor who’s able to get 8 or 9 out of every 10 students they call to answer the phone and engage with them. That performance is the result of setting up calls, communicating the purpose of each call ahead of time, and allowing each student to ask questions versus dominating the entire conversation with a bunch of facts and figures.

Best Communication Strategy Award: This award goes to the college or university that understands the value behind having one consistent voice as the lead communicator during the college search process. The winning school also understands that tone, word choices, and length are extremely important in emails, letters, phone calls, and text messages. And instead of always having a call to action that pushes a student to visit, apply, or deposit, they work in targeted questions that ask students and parents for specific feedback on a particular subject.

Best Director/Vice President of Enrollment: This award goes to the leader/manager who creates and maintains a motivated and confident admissions team. They understand that just like the students they’re recruiting, each of their staff members needs to be managed differently and has different wants, motivations, and fears. As a leader, they’re consistent with their message, they encourage input and new ideas, and they understand the importance of both ownership and recognition.

Best Campus Visit Moment: This award goes to school whose tour guides and admissions counselors consistently connect ahead of a student’s visit to discuss talking points and “connectors” that will personalize the experience. Speaking of tour guides, does your school treat them as part of your admissions team, and do they understand the important role they play in the student recruitment process? When they give tours are they just reciting a script and discussing the history of various building on your campus, or do they understand the importance of storytelling and how to effectively do that throughout a campus tour?

Best Upset Award: This award goes to the Admissions Counselor who isn’t afraid to go up against a big name competitor. They create a winning strategy centered on consistent, personalized communication from the counselor to both the student and his or her parents. Within those communications is constant reinforcement about why choosing the smaller name school is going to be the smarter choice for them.

Best Championship Performance: This award goes to the Admissions Counselor, new or veteran, who ends up exceeding their deposit goal. They understand you cannot expect your admitted students to deposit if they (and their parents) don’t trust you. It’s important to start establishing a real recruiting relationship early in the process. If you do, you’ll have an easier time proving to prospective students (and their parents) that you’re concerned about them, and that you want to help solve their problems versus just selling your school.

Best Comeback Award: This award goes to the Admissions Counselor who doesn’t avoid talking about objections and instead confronts negatives that they consistently hear about their school head on. They anticipate the common objections, get clarification, and then become a problem solver for their prospects.

Best Team Award: This award goes to the small college or university whose admissions, athletic, marketing, financial aid, and faculty leadership collaborate together and work towards a common goal. Doing so creates a unified campus community that shows prospective students and parents the kind of support they can expect to receive, as well as the kind of close-knit, welcoming community your campus offers.

Thanks for being a part of the 4th Annual TCS Admissions Awards! Enjoy the rest of your day. I’ll see you back here next July with more awards for college admission professionals.

P.S. Remember back in May when I gave away a training workshop to the admissions staff of one newsletter reader? Well, this past Thursday and Friday I led that training for Pamela Holsinger-Fuchs (pictured with me) and her team at Saint Martin’s University. It was a lot of fun, and we got a lot accomplished!

4 Common Parent FrustrationsTuesday, July 10th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

This past spring I spoke at four NACAC affiliate conferences. During each of those, I made it a point to connect with a lot of high school counselors. I got their thoughts on a number of topics including the value of high school visits by colleges. That’s not the focus of my article today, but if you really want to know what they told me, all you have to do is reach out and ask.

Instead, I want to talk with you about frustrations. Many of those same high school counselors expressed to me that they’re hearing from more and more parents who are frustrated with the college search process as a whole…namely miscommunication or a lack of communication from many college and university admissions offices.

You and I both know that parents play a major role in their child’s college choice. Our recent survey research with students found that over 92% of them said their parent(s) played a significant role in their final decision. And of the 26 training workshops I’ve led over the past twelve months, 19 of those admissions staffs listed better communication with parents as one of their action points.

Let’s talk about what needs to change. Here are four common parent frustrations that I would suggest you have a discussion about in your office:

  1. They want to be a valued partner from the beginning. If you’re waiting until you send out your financial aid package to create real dialogue with parents, that’s a problem. Parents recognize pretty quickly when a college isn’t involving them and instead is trying to use their child to communicate important information. They wonder why schools are taking this approach, and believe it or not, a lot of prospective students wonder the same thing. Here’s my suggestion to you. At the end of one of those early phone calls with the student, ask to briefly speak with one or both of their parents. Or, if you’re having a hard time getting the student on the phone, make a call specifically to the parents. When they get on the phone, introduce yourself, and instead of going into a long spiel about your school, I want you to make it clear that you understand they will play an important role in their child’s decision and that you value their input. Set the tone from the beginning that you want this to be a partnership.
  2. They expect to be consistently kept in the loop. Once you make contact with parents, it’s vitally important to know that they expect you to communicate with them as much as you do with their son or daughter. My suggestion is to create a separate set of messaging for parents if you don’t have one already. And if you do, I would tell you to make sure it contains one personalized email or letter each month that is designed to elicit feedback from parents about a specific topic or point of view…while also keeping them in the loop about any conversation that has recently occurred their child. Let me add one more thing to this. A lot of parents think there’s a lack of overall guidance for them during this process, namely after the campus visit, after their child gets admitted, and after your financial aid award letter has been delivered. Many parents feel there are gaps in communication at crucial stages when they’re searching for guidance and a clear next step.
  3. They want to talk with you about cost and financial aid long before they receive the award letter. Understanding financial aid timelines and terminology, as well as the FAFSA and other paperwork, continues to be arguably the most frustrating part of the college search process for both parents and students. A lot of miscommunication occurs, namely when financial aid staff and admissions staff members don’t communicate to each other about the various conversations that they’ve had with a family. I want you to make it your goal to not only have a conversation about paying for college (in general, not specifically about your school) long before your college releases financial aid awards, but to also explain the basics of how to interpret different award letters. For example, I continue to hear stories about students and parents not understanding that while College A may offer a bigger scholarship amount on their award letter, College B is actually cheaper in the end. Prepare them ahead of time a little bit for what they’re going to be looking at so that it’s not as big a shock and/or as confusing.
  4. They want to understand just how serious your school is about their child. Email and mail from colleges comes in fast and furious, and as we’ve talked about numerous times before, much of it looks and sounds the same. As a result, parents are looking for proof that you’re not just showing “fake interest” in their son or daughter. Three easy ways for you to give them that are – consistent, personalized messaging for both the student and parent that reinforces building a relationship with both; asking questions that get them to reveal what’s important to them as they help their son or daughter make their final decision; and timely feedback when they reach out to you with questions and/or you tell them you’re going to get back to them with more information on something.

This is definitely not a complete list, but rather four of the biggest frustrations that parents continue to express about the college search process.

Again, parents are looking for a school that respects their opinion and input and sees them as a valued partner in the college decision-making process of their son or daughter.

If you want to learn more about the monthly parent messaging we create for clients, go ahead and reply back to my email and we’ll start a conversation.

Have a great rest of the week!

P.S. If you use Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn and you’re interested in even more content from me (as well as pictures from my travels) scroll back up to the top of this article and click on those icons under my name.

They’re Looking At You As One Or the OtherTuesday, July 3rd, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

Welcome to July!!

My travel schedule is about to get insanely busy from now through the NACAC National Conference in September. Lots of staff training workshops as well as new client messaging work and a couple of other speaking engagements.

Prior to leading any training workshop, we always conduct a recruiting survey with that college’s incoming or current freshman class (depends on the time of the year). The questions we ask get to the heart of what students liked and didn’t like about the way colleges communicated with them during their college search process. It’s a lot of great context for us and for the schools we work with.

One of the survey questions asks students to give the admissions counselors at their school advice on what they need to understand about the way this generation of students wants to be recruited.

“We​ ​want​ ​to​ ​feel​ ​that​ ​you​ ​genuinely​ ​care​ ​about​ ​us​ ​as​ ​an​ ​individual.​ ​Not​ ​that​ ​we​ ​are​ ​just​ ​another person​ ​paying​ ​tuition.” That student quote appeared in a recent survey, and comments like it continue to show up multiple times in just about every survey we do.

Like it or not, prospective students (and their parents) see you as either a salesperson (bad) or as a resource (good).

A big key to increasing yield is to consistently be a resource rather than a salesperson. This generation of students wants to feel that you’re genuinely trying to help them navigate what has become a scary and confusing process.

“Just​ ​be​ ​friendly.​ ​<Admissions Counselor name>​ ​was​ ​so​ ​gracious,​ ​kind,​ ​and​ ​caring​ ​throughout​ ​the​ ​process​ ​and​ ​really gave​ ​the​ ​university​ ​a​ ​friendly​ ​face​ ​that​ ​I​ ​could​ ​associate​ ​myself​ ​with.” That student quote was an answer to the same question in the same recent survey, and it’s proof of the positive impact that being a resource can have in the mind of a student.

A lot of admissions counselors believe they have to “sell” their school early in the process and try to move name buys and inquiries as fast as possible towards applying, visiting, and ultimately making a decision. Each of those is important, but as I’ve told you before, we’ve found there’s a more effective approach that you can take. It’s one that will still allow you to do each of those things, and at the same time, do each in a way that consistently makes students feel like you’re actually making the process all about them.

If you constantly inundate students with information and bullet points about every single aspect of your school, and you never give them a chance to get a word in or ask questions, they’re going to view you as a salesperson. Conversely, if you ask them questions about their wants, needs, fears, and timeline, and you communicate consistently with their parents, and you help them solve their on-going problems, they’re going to see you as a resource. Plus, in the process of taking that approach, what you’ll find is you still have all kinds of opportunities to discuss key things that make your school unique and a good fit for that student.

There are a lot of other benefits that come from being a resource. For starters, it’s much easier to connect with a student/family and build trust. When you develop a reputation as someone who is trustworthy, you’ll quickly become the “go-to” counselor for help and advice. And, as I just touched on, when you’re a resource, students will tell you what you need to tell them to sell them. Here’s what I mean. Accurate and timely information is important. One of the biggest mistakes I continue to see admissions counselors make is they give information before they get information…they talk too much. The end result is A) Overloading the other person with too much information; and/or B) Giving the wrong information based on the student’s wants and needs. Asking the right kinds of questions at the right time will lead to students telling you what they want to know about next and what they feel needs to happen first before they take the next step in the process.

So, does that mean if you’re a salesperson you won’t be able to connect with and gain a student’s trust? No, but I promise you it will be a lot harder, and a lot more time consuming.

Here are a few additional things you can do to become a resource for your prospects:

  • Respond quickly to emails, texts, and phone calls
  • Deliver information in an easy to understand, conversational, and engaging format
  • Stay current on trends and pop culture
  • Continually polish your problem solving skills
  • Consistently network and exchange ideas with other admissions professionals
  • Cross train/collaborate with other departments on your campus (specifically financial aid and athletics)
  • Admit when you don’t know something and ask for help

Over the July 4th holiday break I encourage you to look back at some of your recruiting emails and letters from this past cycle. Do they come across as friendly and helpful or salesy? It’s one or the other.

And as you talk more about fall travel in your office or changes that you’re going to make next recruiting cycle, specifically in the way that you communicate with students, let me know how I can help. I’d love to start a conversation about helping you grow.

Stay cool, enjoy the 4th, and I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures from the neighborhood fireworks show that myself and a few others put together last weekend for our community. This is such a fun time of the year!

Two More Things I Need to Tell YouTuesday, June 26th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

Happy Tuesday. It’s crazy to think we’re in the final days of June already!

Last week my article focused on the first communication piece that you send to prospective students…what kind, who should it come from, etc. If you missed it, click this link and get caught up, because quite honestly it might be the most important article I write this summer. Plus, it ties in with what I’m going to share with you today.

Remember, the first thing you need to focus on as you start to reach out to this next class of students is, how are you going to get their attention? Then, once you have their attention, how are you going to get them to consistently engage with you?

In addition to employing the strategy I outlined last week, here are two more communication tips that will help you increase your early response rates.

  1. Don’t give them everything all at once. When a topic is completely defined right away for the reader, many don’t see any reason to engage with the sender. So, instead of telling them everything all at once, (which usually results in a message that’s way too long) I want you to create a little mystery in your messaging. Hold back a little. Don’t tell them everything in one letter, a single email, or even during a phone call about why your school’s location is unbeatable, or how your academic/learning environment is different than your competitors. Instead, hint at things to come in the future that you want to talk with them about. You’ll create curiosity, and you’ll give them a reason to engage with you the next time you reach out. And believe it or not, over time, that approach will actually result in some of your prospects reaching out to you on their own for more information.
  2. Ask them for their opinion on something. I alluded to this in last week’s article when I talked about your call to action. Instead of pushing them to visit or apply right out of the gate, ask a specific question that asks for their opinion on something. I want you to do that so that your prospect understands you’re actually talking with them, not just at them. It makes a big difference! You’re personalizing the process and making it clear that their opinion is important to you. Furthermore, the information you get back from them can help you in future conversations.

Got a question about this? Something else I can help you with? Reply back and ask away. Or if you happen to be reading this article on our website or because someone forwarded it to you, you can email me: jeremy@dantudor.com

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.

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