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Parent Frustrations During the Student Recruitment ProcessTuesday, September 27th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Last week at the NACAC National Conference, 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 level of value that both they and their students perceive high school visits by college admissions counselors to hold. 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 frustration. Many of those same high school counselors expressed to me that now, more than ever, they’re hearing from parents who are frustrated with the student recruitment process as a whole…namely the fact that many college and university admissions offices aren’t doing what they feel is a good enough job of engaging with them.

This is something that continues to baffle me. I know that you know that parents are a huge player in their child’s decision of where to attend college. So why then are so many admissions offices still not doing a good enough job of connecting with their prospect’s biggest influencer(s)? Our research from your students found that over 90% of them said their parents played a significant role in their final decision. And of the 12 admissions training workshops I led this summer, 8 of those teams listed better communication with parents as one of their action points.

If you’re ready to grow in this area, here are four of the most common parent frustrations that I would suggest you address:

  1. They want to be involved earlier in the process. If you’re waiting until the financial aid discussion to create real dialogue with parents, that’s a double whammy. Parents recognize pretty quickly when colleges aren’t involving them in the process the way they want to be and the way they feel they should be. On top of that, the majority of your prospects tell us in our focus group research that they too notice which colleges are and are not connecting with their parents…and everyone wonders why that’s the case. Here’s my suggestion to you. At the end of one of those early phone calls with your prospect, ask them if their mom or dad is available for a minute because you’d like to say hello. When you get that opportunity, be prepared to discuss what you’ve been talking about with their son or daughter and why you feel your school is a “good fit” for them.
  2. They want to be recruited separately by you. Your school sends email, mail, and brochures to your prospects with the goal of getting them interested enough to take that next step. The problem is most of that information still looks and sounds like every other college and university. And as I’ve told you before, in many cases your prospects are scared of what that next step means. When that happens, you and I both know who they turn to for advice. If you’re not sending separate communications to parents, you can’t expect them to have a good vision of what your institution can offer their child. Beyond that, unless the price tag is going to be $0.00, parents are going to take a big interest in affordability and value so they can justify why they should invest a significant chunk of money in your school. You need to prove both of those things to your prospect’s parents because if you don’t make that case separately, you’re going to have a significantly harder time keeping the process moving forward.
  3. They want their concerns addressed during the campus visit. Most of your students continue to tell us that sitting through a meeting about financial aid or meeting with a dean/professor during the campus visit has very little bearing on their final decision to attend your school. That doesn’t mean their parents feel the same way, so you need to be careful about what you schedule and what you don’t. Most parents are going to be interested in doing one, if not both. The easiest way to find out is to contact them separately before the visit and ask them what important things they want to get out of the visit experience. To build on this, I’m going to recommend a strategy that has paid big dividends for some of our clients. Assuming that you’ve established a level of comfort with the family prior to the campus visit, not too soon into the visit separate the student from his or her parents. It doesn’t have to be for long. Have the parents meet with your financial aid staff or that professor, and let the prospect spend some time with the student tour guide and possibly other current students. We’ve found that it makes for a more memorable experience for everybody involved.
  4. They think there’s a lack of overall guidance for parents during the process. This is especially true in the latter stages after the campus visit and after the financial aid award letter has been delivered. Many parents feel there are gaps in communication, and rightfully so, as many admissions counselors tell us they pull back a little and the communication flow slows down because they don’t want the prospect and his or her parents to feel pressured. Meanwhile, the parents are searching for guidance, unsure of what the next step is at a crucial stage.

I’ve just given you four of the most common frustrations parents have during the college search process. Now, what are you going to do with this information?

At a time when 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, I implore you to take action…and so do your prospects.

If you want to learn more about the parent messaging we create for clients simply email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

How You Can Get Your Prospects to TalkTuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately on how to get prospective students to open up and why it’s such a challenge.

Let me start by giving you the good news – If you take the information I’m about to give you today and apply it consistently, it’s no longer going to be such a monumental challenge!

There are three big reasons why students in this next recruiting class either haven’t engaged with you yet or are giving you those standard one and two word answers.

  • Your content is boring and looks and sounds like every other college/university
  • They don’t know you yet (not your school, I mean you personally), so a connection and comfort level hasn’t been established, and oh by the way, they’re scared of saying something wrong
  • You’re not asking the right questions

I’ve given you strategies and ideas on how to make your content more appealing and how to address fear and create a level of comfort with your prospects before. If you missed those articles or need a refresher, I encourage you to connect with me after you finish reading the rest of this article.

Bullet point number three is what I want to focus on with you today.

A huge part of successful recruiting revolves around being the admissions counselor that can get your prospects to communicate more with you than they do your competition…not just one time but consistently throughout the recruitment process. That only happens when a comfort level has been created, and you consistently ask effective questions.

If you’re just sitting back convinced that your prospects will ask you questions when they have them because you’ve told them something like, “I’m here to help, call or email me if you have any questions”, I think you’re going to be disappointed.

One of the key pieces of data that we’ve uncovered from our focus group research with colleges and universities across the nation is that most of today’s teenage recruits don’t know what they’re supposed to ask you or how they’re supposed to ask it. Without your help they may never take initiative and talk to you and really get a feel for whether your school is the “right fit” for them.

Effective questions are the core of every good recruiting effort! They get you an explanation of something, and your prospect will open up and provide you with more insights and useful information that leads to further conversation and aids you in their recruitment.

So if that’s the case, why don’t many of you ask effective questions? I think it’s because you’re either worried about being too pushy, or you’re too busy selling your school with facts and figures.

If you want me to help you grow immediately in this area, there are 4 things I need you to self evaluate first:

  1. You need to figure out WHAT questions to ask. Believe it or not, there are bad questions you can ask. If you don’t know what to ask prospects and parents then all you’re doing is relationship building, which is very important, but it can also prevent you from helping keep the process moving forward.
  2. You need to define WHY you’re asking a particular question. Are you doing it to get actual, useable information, or to help your prospect become comfortable talking to you?
  3. HOW do you ask a question? Some are better over the phone or in-person (ones that are more personal and require more detail). Others can be done in an email, on social media or via text (more conversational type questions).
  4. WHEN do you ask a particular question? There are definitely right times and wrong times. You need to be intelligent in terms of the way you bring up topics. For example, if in the first couple of letters or emails you ask a new prospect to start the application process or sign up for a campus visit, our research says that’s way too soon. Most students are not ready to take that big a step yet.

Always keep those 4 things in mind when you develop a question.

Now, I’m guessing you might be interested in some effective questions that you can use in the early stages of the recruitment process. Below is a handful that we’ve developed that our clients continue to tell us work really well.

But first let me add one more thing. Your initial questions if you’re trying to establish trust and a level of comfort with your prospect should be 100% about them. The questions shouldn’t be too broad and need to be easy enough for the student to answer to get them comfortable talking to you.  We’ve found those questions should not be about declaring who their top school is, or anything that pressures them to give you early information about what they’re thinking.  Instead, ask questions about their approach to the college search process, what their perfect college looks like, and other questions that focus on them. You might even try to make them laugh (or at least smile). Humor is a great icebreaker.

  • What prompted you to start looking at our school? OR if you’re reaching out to the student first you could ask, “What would you need to see from us to become seriously interested in our school?”
  • What are your deal-breakers or things that your college has to have?
  • Walk me through how you’re going to be making your college decision.
  • How do you see yourself using your parents to help you figure out which college is right for you?
  • What’s the most confusing part about this process right now?
  • What scares you the most about the college search process?
  • As we begin to talk more, will you be okay with telling me no if our school doesn’t seem like the right fit?
  • Is there something I need to answer for you before you’ll consider coming to campus for a visit? OR start filling out our application?

If you want a further explanation about one or more of these questions, simply click this link and email me (unless you’ll be at NACAC this week, in which case you should just stop by Booth 853 and we can talk in person).

Remember, the better the questions, the greater the chance you have of connecting with a prospect, getting a back-and-forth conversation started, understanding his or her mindset, and ultimately coming up with a strategy to successfully recruit them. Make those questions thought provoking and make them original.

Good luck, have fun with it, and make it a great recruiting week!

13 Things Your Recruits Told Us That You Need to KnowTuesday, September 13th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

When an admissions department brings us to campus to lead one of our popular training workshops, part of what we do is conduct extensive focus group research with their student body, specifically their freshmen. The questions we ask produce honest, valuable feedback on a number of different parts of the student recruitment process. Students have no problem singling out a specific counselor on a job well done, nor do they mince words about specific things their school’s admissions team needs to improve/change.

Throughout the workshop I reference the survey results and compare them to what students at other colleges and universities nationwide tell us.

In a nutshell, the college or university we’re working with discovers how this generation of student wants to be recruited and what matters to them most/least when it comes time to make that BIG decision.

Along with that focus group research, I regularly interact with teenagers and those in their early 20’s at college fairs, community events, restaurants, the mall, and yes, even in airports when I travel.

My goal is always the same: I want to hear what your “typical recruit” wants from you during the college search/transfer process…because then I can share this with you (if you’re a client of ours, or if you reach out to me and ask) and you can use that information to become a more efficient, more confident recruiter.

In honor of today being September 13th, I’m going to give you 13 things/themes that thousands of students have told us over the past year as it relates to the college recruitment process. I encourage you to share this information with your fellow counselors and others on your campus:

  1. The majority of prospects still only “seriously consider” two or three colleges.
  2. Most colleges and universities have gaps in their communication plans and students notice. They want more consistent communication specifically between the time they deposit/commit to when they arrive on campus. I would add that conversation should shift from why they should want to pick your school to why they’ve made such a great decision and what they should expect to see when they arrive on campus.
  3. Too many schools exaggerate or “lie” (yes students believe colleges “lie”) when they initially discuss things like cost and the overall “student experience” on their campus.
  4. “More texting, less phone calls.” When asked if they agree or disagree with this statement when it comes to college admissions counselors communicating with prospective students, here are some quotes that contain common themes:

“I think that texting can be useful for students when they are busy. Most seniors in high school are trying to figure out college apps, trying to finish schoolwork, and most likely running around to all the other things they do. Texts can be a much easier way to quickly get a message across. However, I think texting only goes so far. It’s great for scheduling phone calls and such, but having conversations about the school and whatever should be done on the phone. The conversation will flow easier and the prospective student will be able to ask questions as they come to mind.”

“I think phone calls are more important because it is much easier to ask questions however, I think if asked we would say text more often because this way we do not have to respond or feel dumb. Most of us are afraid of the phone call but it does force more communication something that is important in this process even if we do not know we need it.”

“Depends on what the student is comfortable with. Some kids HATE talking on the phone and are much more comfortable talking over text. However, sometimes it can be unclear and it is definitely not as personal. I think it depends entirely on the student.”

“Disagree. Phone calls show u are willing to take time for me as a student and not shoot me an automated txt.”

“I disagree with this statement — phone calls seem more personable, and you can understand the tone of the other person’s voice, rather than just guessing VIA text message. Plus, text messages seem so informal.”

“No, because it is hard to communicate certain things by text message. Things may get lost in translation and you have to wait periods of time before getting a response.”

  1. When given the choices of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, students consistently told us that the best social media platform for admissions counselors to use if they want to connect with this next class of prospects is Facebook.
  2. Be up on pop culture, but if you don’t know about people like DJ Khaled, don’t pretend to.
  3. Out of a list of fifteen, the top two factors that were “very important” in terms of how they influenced a student to choose that school over other colleges were the “feel” of the campus,” and “perception of the college as a whole”. The “feel” of the campus was also number one a year ago. “More affordable than some other schools”, which was number two a year ago, has dropped down the list to number five.
  4. During campus walking tours, colleges still spend way too much time talking about the history of the school and various buildings. In that same list of fifteen factors that students use to make a final decision “the history of the school” ranks second to last.
  5. Overall colleges are doing a better job of explaining the financial aid process…BUT only 51.7% of students believe colleges are doing an “awesome” job of it. Instead it’s “okay”, “poor” or “very poor”. Would your school’s President be happy with 51.7%?
  6. Colleges don’t utilize their current students nearly enough during the student recruitment process. Your prospects would love to connect more with them on an individual basis versus you communicating something they said secondhand.
  7. Personal, handwritten notes make a huge positive impression on your prospects…who value the time you commit to doing so versus posting on social media or sending an email. And if you’re wondering when a good time is for such a note, how about right after you talk to them on the phone for the first time or in the first couple of days after the campus visit.
  8. If your school doesn’t communicate with parents consistently throughout the recruitment process (especially during on-campus events), you’re making it twice as hard to get that prospect to deposit to your school. Not impossible, just much harder.
  9. It’s not about your wants and your needs as a counselor. It’s about their wants and their needs from start to finish.

How can I help you grow and win? Seriously, I want to know. If you’re hesitant to connect with me because part of you is worried all I’m going to do is talk about Tudor Collegiate Strategies and push our products…THAT’S NOT ME! So go ahead and email me OR stop by booth 853 next week at the NACAC National Conference, and we can talk in person about #growandwin.

He’s Got the Keys to Helping You Become a Better RecruiterTuesday, September 6th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

If you just looked at that picture and have no idea who that guy is, I think student recruitment is probably harder for you than it needs to be…especially if you happen to be an admissions counselor who is under the age of 30.

During my client visits in the month of August, I had admissions counselors refer to him as “Major Key”, “That Rapper”, and “Oh that’s the Fan Luv Guy”. His name is Khaled Mohamed Khaled, also known as DJ Khaled. He’s an American record producer, radio personality, DJ, and record label executive. And he’s also been referred to as the “King of Snapchat” having racked up over 6 million Snapchat followers in just under a year.

If his name still doesn’t ring a bell and now you’re thinking you don’t need to read the rest of this article, I’m here to tell you that you’re going to miss out on some major lessons about effective recruiting.

I started referencing DJ Khaled during our On-Campus Workshops earlier this summer after speaking with different groups of high school students during my travels who told me that, in their opinion, too many admissions counselors couldn’t relate to this generation of students.  Therein lies the first of eight valuable lessons for those of you that want to become (or want your admissions team to become) more dominant recruiters:

  • Be current on pop culture. In the focus group research surveys we do on campuses across the country, I’m beginning to see more quotes like, “This generation wants to be related to”, and “Don’t try and sound like you know what we’re into when you don’t. We want to be taken seriously and we can tell when you’re just saying something you just read on the internet.” Knowing trends and being current on pop culture isn’t an option anymore if you truly want to connect with teenagers and those in their early 20’s. In addition to being familiar with people like DJ Khaled, how much do you know about what’s popular right now on Netflix and Spotify? Have you ever heard of After School or WhatsApp? It’s hard to be relatable if you don’t know what your clientele is into. And just in case you were wondering how popular DJ Khaled is among viewers ages 12-34, according to a recent article, his videos attract 3 million to 4 million viewers from that age range. To put this in perspective, Nielson reports that roughly 3 million people age 12–34 watch The Big Bang Theory. Yes, on an average video, DJ Khaled has more views than an acclaimed television show.
  • Keep your recruiting message consistent. If you knew who DJ Khaled was before you read this article then you’re probably familiar with themes like “We the Best” and “They don’t want you to (insert whatever verb you want) …” People know what DJ Khaled represents because it’s the same all the time. Consistency is such an important part of any effective recruiting plan.  You must have consistent weekly content that’s interesting, focused on your prospect, and demands interaction.  Those three aspects of an effective recruiting plan have helped our clients grow enrollment over the years.
  • Always tell a compelling story. In last week’s newsletter I walked you through how to begin telling your school’s story. Storytelling will help you achieve emotional engagement which is a critical part in your student’s decision-making process. DJ Khaled tells compelling stories every single day on Snapchat. Here’s the key though — his stories, or snaps, consistently get and keep people’s attention. They keep coming back day after day, and they spread the word to the masses. Khaled gives his viewers a behind the scenes look into an average day of his life. His stories have recurring themes and include a variety of celebrities and other characters. They include things like breakfast with his personal chef, taking care of his flowers, and inviting his fans to meet him at various locations across the country. His stories create curiosity, they engage, and they help create feelings. Do your admissions recruiting communications do that right now for your prospects?
  • Make sure you’re providing value. After watching a few of DJ Khaled’s snaps on Snapchat, it quickly becomes clear there’s a lot of branding/selling taking place. Here’s the thing. It doesn’t feel like he’s forcing product on you every second because his content provides value at every turn. By providing content that his viewers value, he quickly builds credibility and rapport with them. If you do the same thing with your prospects when you finally ask them to take action on something they’ll be more likely to do so. Khaled understands this. Do you?
  • Social Media is extremely powerful with this generation (and most colleges don’t use it effectively). That’s not me telling you that, that’s your students. The biggest piece of advice your students continue to offer in terms of what they think college admissions needs to do better or differently as you communicate with this next class is…use more social media.   Your students want real and raw, and right now most of them think the content you provide on social media is forced and fake. Here’s a great, detailed student quote from a recent survey, “I think it would be neat to see more social media things…Showing something like a Snapchat story of the school and how beautiful and interesting it would get more people interested. Two other things would be telling what things normal students do on a daily basis for classes or just living up there.” I’ll say it again – real and raw, not forced and fake. The content you provide also needs to appeal to the heart and be shareable if you want to get a maximum return on your investment.
  • Genuine wins. How many of you are comfortable showing your real side? If you’re trying to cultivate trust and become the go-to person for your prospects and their parents, being genuine is a must. DJ Khaled is not afraid to be himself – a hilarious and honest guy. For example, he doesn’t hide the fact that he needs to be in better shape. He talks about it and uses it as motivation. He’s also more than happy to show what kind of lifestyle his hard work has afforded him, like hanging out with celebrities and swimming in pools and riding jet-skis in exotic locations around the world. He even goes out of his way to connect with his fans during his travels often times including them in his snaps. It’s just Khaled being Khaled. That honesty is a big reason why his audience feels they can relate to him and why his fans are constantly coming back to see more.
  • Your recruiting messages need to feature repetition. Repetition is one of the least used and most effective strategies that you can utilize in your recruiting message. DJ Khaled uses repetition just about every single day. Whenever he’s getting ready to release an album, highlight a product, or encourage “Fan Luv” to come out and meet him, he’ll post multiple snaps on Snapchat with the same message done in a variety of ways and locations. He even gets help from his celebrity friends and his fans in many instances. Today’s generation of students counts on repetition.
  • Passion will make you stand out. I’ve talked about it many times before. Those who have passion will create meaningful long-term relationships with prospects, parents, and virtually everyone else they come in contact with. You can’t buy it, it’s hard to teach, and most counselors don’t use it to their advantage. DJ Khaled puts so much passion and excitement into every aspect of his life, it becomes infectious. For you, the college admissions professional, it’s the same thing. It’s about how you say what you say. Have you put in the hard work that it takes to truly get to know your prospects’ wants and needs? When you do that, it’s much easier to be excited about a particular aspect of your college because you know it matters to your prospect…instead of just assuming, guessing, or hoping.

For some of you these eight bullet points may have been timely reminders. 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.

If you want even more lessons and strategies that can help take your recruiting game to that next level all you have to do is ask. You can call me on my cell phone (612-386-0854), text me, email me, or if you’re going to be at the NACAC National Conference in a couple of weeks swing by Booth 853, and we can chat in person.

 

 

How to Begin Telling Your School’s “Story”Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Whenever we go to lead one of our On-Campus Workshops for a college admissions department, a big part of our job is helping them to develop their “story”.

I think stories are vital to the student recruitment process. And just to be clear, when I say “story” I’m not talking about your marketing materials. Much of that information is dull and uninspiring…your students continue to tell us those exact words.

The stories I’m referring to are a crucial ingredient in your recruiting communication flow. They talk about things like the people on your campus (students, faculty) and your community. They create emotion for your prospects, and they help them visualize themselves on your campus and in your classroom.

So, what’s your “story” that you want this next class to buy into? Have you sat back and considered what kind of picture you’re painting for your prospect in their head through your recruiting materials, phone calls and even on-campus visits?

If you’ve never seriously thought about your “story” before, and need help in creating it so that you can be a more effective recruiter, today I’m going to pass along some critical questions that your admissions team should ask each other. The answers will help you find out what’s unique about your institution and how to present it as a compelling story that any prospective student will want to hear more of:

  1. What are your prospects demanding?  Here’s a hint: It’s not always about the money, so don’t make that the focus.  If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, or you’ve had me on campus to lead a workshop, you know students continue to tell us that personal relationships with you and other students on your campus impact how they will make their final college decision much more than being affordable. They demand attention, and they demand benefits that revolve around them.  What can you do to “meet their demand”?
  2. What do your prospects need?  A really good financial aid package?  Yes.  A degree?  Of course.  To see themselves “fitting in” on your campus?  All the time.  Ask yourself what your prospects need, and you will go a long way towards reaching them with a message – a story – that they will identify with.  Remember: “Needs” are different than “demands”.  Their needs revolve around the realities that they are facing and are necessary for them to overcome those hurdles.  And in most cases different prospects have different needs. Figure out a way to meet their needs (that’s what they care about, anyway…their needs, not yours).
  3. What are they willing to pay for?  This is a challenging and in-depth question. What is it that your prospects view as being a “premium” feature of your school that if they had to pay for it, they would be happy to do so? For example, it might be the brand new dorms or the ability to be a part of the sports culture or the Greek system on your campus (if you have it). Each of those things is a tangible “premium” item that your prospects might be willing to pay for if they had to.  Understanding what the most valuable parts that your college offers them in their eyes is a big key in developing a great recruiting story.
  4. What niche(s) can your school offer that others don’t?  Earlier this month I worked with a university that is developing a specialized niche in the way they prepare their freshmen students to successfully transition to college life. Take a look at what kind of “specialty” niche you can put together for your prospects. What can you offer them on your campus that most of your competitors don’t?  Find an area that other colleges are failing to focus on, and build out that unique brand for your prospect.
  5. Who are the people behind your institution?  I don’t mean just your school’s President. I mean who else on your campus can your prospects connect with on a personal level? A big key as you tell those people’s “story” is to be genuine. Don’t embellish so much that down the line it becomes clear to your prospects or their parents that this person isn’t really who you’ve painted them as. And also don’t forget your audience either because you don’t want to necessarily tell the same “story” to everyone. The goal is for your “story” to be personal and have emotion built into it.

Asking these five questions can help your admissions team develop the beginnings of a great recruiting strategy.

If you want to achieve emotional engagement, which is a critical part in today’s student decision-making process, effective storytelling is a must.

Ready to take the next step?  Become a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies. Let us help you develop and execute your story saving you time and increasing your yield results. Click here for more details. Our system works, and we’d love to tell you why.

Do You Really Know What Your Prospects Are Thinking?Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Prospective students think differently than you do. But you know this…or do you?

I ask because a surprising number of admissions counselors that I talk to don’t realize it, and it’s preventing them from becoming dominant recruiters.

Many of you are concerned with your school’s history, your school’s location, and other “stuff” as you build-out your recruiting story for your prospects. Oh, and you need to be able to offer a better financial aid package every time too, right?  Otherwise there’s just no way that you can get more prospects to visit your campus or increase your enrollment.

In the majority of cases, that kind of thinking is flat-out wrong.

I can tell you that with confidence because we’ve had the chance to personally interview hundreds and hundreds of your students over the years.  They’ve told us how they make their final decision, and what matters most to them.  In the end, if you look at the data it’s obvious that your prospects value things differently than you do.

Let me give you some common examples:

  • They think how you treat them and communicate with them is more important than what your dorm rooms looks like. Personal relationships rank higher than your on-campus student housing, no matter how new the dorms may be, time after time.
  • They think the way your students treat them during their campus visit will tell them if your campus makes them feel wanted and if they can fit in. If other students (not just the tour guides) aren’t friendly and welcoming when your prospect is touring campus, the chances that prospect will end up enrolling at your school take a significant hit.
  • They think their parents are very important to the decision making process. In many cases this generation of students rely on their parents to help them make any major decision. If you aren’t recruiting the parents at the same time you recruit their child, you are making recruiting harder than it needs to be.
  • They think that you talk too much during your phone calls. Don’t take it personally, but if you’re doing most of the talking during any phone call you have with a prospective student, you’re hurting your school’s chances. If doesn’t matter how important you think the information you’re giving them is, more time talking does not equal more interest from your prospect.
  • They think your emails and letters are too long and look and sound the same as every other college that’s sending them stuff. Your prospects tell us that they scan those email and letters versus reading them from start to finish.  They also tell us that most of the information is boring and not personalized enough.
  • They think it’s great when you ask questions about their wants and their needs versus just selling your school. Make sure you’re making it more about getting to know them rather than selling your school or your academic program right away.
  • They love it when you write them personal, hand-written letters and post cards.
    They’ll read every word of a hand-written note you send to them. They tell us as much, because they understand that hand-written notes take more of your time. In their minds they think that means you put a higher value on them than other prospects. And would you be surprised to also learn that your prospects tell us they wonder what you thought of them after that first phone call or visit to campus. Yet another great opportunity to send them a personal note.
  • Social media matters to them and they think you don’t do a good enough job of using it to your advantage. This is one of the biggest pieces of advice that your students offer up when we ask them what your admissions department needs to do better in terms of how you communicate with this next class you’re now recruiting. One student summed it up best when she said, “Be more where we are”.

Are there exceptions to these rules?  Of course. But I’ll guarantee you that the majority of the prospects you just started recruiting think this way.

If you’re on board and now wondering what you can do to change the way that you communicate and recruit this next class, here are some quick tips:

  • Simplify your communication with them.  Be more direct and to the point.  That’s what they want.
  • Communicate through multiple channels consistently and effectively. Develop messages that allow you to get, and keep, back-and-forth conversations going.
  • Ask them questions that other admissions counselors avoid or don’t believe need to be discussed. Topics such as fear and their timeline.

Now is the time to start matching your communication with what your prospects are thinking.  Once you do, recruiting will get a lot easier.

Want more engagement from prospective students? It starts here!

Do You Excel at These 7 Things?Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

All summer long I’ve offered you a series of articles that I hope will aid in your professional development.

Remember, doing some critical self-evaluation is important if you want to improve a particular skill and ultimately become a more dominant admissions professional.

One of the most popular parts of our On-Campus Training Workshops is the 1-on-1-counselor consultation. During these meetings a couple of counselors always ask me what skills and traits I believe separate a high performing counselor/recruiter from an average one.

If you’re expecting to see words like “organized,“ “friendly,” and “good communicator,” that’s not where this list is going. Those are givens. Instead, I’m going to share some skills and characteristics that I see consistently, not just in admissions counselors who excel, but also in nearly every elite business professional that I’ve ever met.

How good are you at these 7 things?

  1. Problem solver. It’s crucial that you possess the ability to both discover problems and develop solutions. Remember, you’re dealing with teenagers and young adults who want to have their problems (chiefly – how to pick the right college and how to pay for it) solved. It starts by asking effective questions at the right time.  If you can’t do that, you’ll miss out on opportunities to solve problems and separate yourself and your school from the competition.
  2. Translator. Don’t ever, ever assume that an 18 or 21-year old student, and quite possibly many of their parents, know what FAFSA, PPY, EFC, COA, ROI, Early Action and Rolling Admission all mean. You will need to translate those industry terms into layman’s terms, quite possibly more than once. You’ll also need to do so in such a way that doesn’t make your prospect or their parents feel incompetent.
  3. Listener. One of the bigger mistakes I continue to see a lot of admissions counselors make is they give information before they get information. They provide more information than is necessary, and in many cases, they give out the wrong information (based on their prospect’s wants and needs). Want to know how to determine if you’re a good listener? The good ones, and I mean the really good ones, ask effective questions that get their prospects to not only reveal their “wants” and “don’t wants” but also how they would like the college search process to play itself out.
  4. Closer. Simply put, effective “closers” (those who turn admits into deposits) understand it’s about the relationship just as much as it is about the sale. Selling is about building a relationship with your prospect (and their parents) throughout the recruitment cycle. When you consistently prove you’re a resource and come up with ways to answer their wants and needs, you develop trust and loyalty. That will lead to positive outcomes.
  5. Empathy. Some people are born with this skill while others have to develop it over time. Truly understanding your prospect, their life situation, fears, motivations, and dreams isn’t an easy thing. The counselors that struggle with this skill are generally the ones that are more concerned with what they need from their prospects and not what their prospects want from them. Let your recruit know that you understand his or her “want” and have a solution to satisfy that “want.”
  6. Always look to improve. With success often comes comfort. When a person reaches a goal, there can be a tendency to assume that if they repeat the exact same steps again it will produce the same results. It’s a common mistake. Those that rise to the top value both positive and negative feedback and are willing to invest to improve their skills and attitudes. Be proactive, and seek out learning opportunities.
  7. Remain passionate. It’s a magical word that can help you win over recruits. As I’ve said before, passion is not an act and is hard to fake. Real passion for who you are and what your institution provides can make all the difference in the world.  Passion will lead to meaningful long-term relationships with your prospects (and their parents) every single time.

If you’d like to talk in greater detail about one or more of these critical skills and attributes, and how you can incorporate them into your recruiting strategy, don’t hesitate to email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

What to Do Next After Your First Contacts Are DoneTuesday, August 9th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

What’s your plan now?

Many admissions departments around the country have officially started the recruitment process with the next class of prospective students. The first emails and letters have been sent, and the first phone calls have been made.

If you’ve been asking the right kinds of questions, and you’re trying to understand your prospects’ individual wants and needs and not just selling your school, maybe you’ve even had some of them engage with you and begin the application process. If you’re shaking your head no, keep in mind it doesn’t have to be that way. We can help.

Regardless, you’re now faced with the daunting two-word question that worries even a veteran, confident college admissions recruiter: “What’s next?”

The answer to that question is critical. In fact, it will undoubtedly determine what kind of results you have in the months to come.

So, you tell me. What do you think should come next? It would be great if there was a simple, one-size-fits-all answer to that question…but there’s not. The answer will vary significantly from school to school.

Having said that, today I want to outline a few successful approaches that we’ve seen work on a consistent basis the past couple of years for our clients. As you read through each of these strategies and key questions, I want you to ask yourself how you can adapt them to your school and your specific situation:

How are you going to start to establish that your school is the smart choice? Our research has uncovered a surprising trend with this generation of students in terms of how they actually make their final decision – They have to justify it logically. It’s true that they can emotionally gravitate towards a college throughout the process, however, at some point in the later stages, either they or their parents start asking, “Is this a smart decision.” What you do with your communication between now and that final decision will determine if your school ends up being seriously considered.

How are you going to start to establish that your school is the emotional choice? Every year in the early stages of the recruitment process we see prospects gravitate to an admissions counselor and college that creates an emotional tie with them. It’s important to have a strategy that will help create that feeling in the first place. One of the examples both Dan (Tudor) and I use when we present our On-Campus Workshops is Starbucks. They have mastered the art of creating and managing a feeling of comfort when you walk into any one of their thousands of stores nationwide. The color on the walls, the music that’s playing, and the inviting, comfy furniture…it’s all done specifically to create a feeling of warmth and comfort. What’s your plan to create the right feeling for your prospects now that the initial contact message is in their hands? If you and your admissions colleagues don’t have one, you’re introducing random results into the recruiting process.

You MUST engage the parents early. Our research also finds that most parents are both polite and anxious as you begin to contact their child. On the one hand, they don’t want to interfere with the process, and on the other hand, their urge is to step in and play a part as soon as possible. A big reason behind their urge to be involved is a result of their child asking them to. While the majority of your competition will ignore the parents as long as possible, and fail to do basic things like getting their prospects’ parents names and cell phone information, I want to encourage you to do the opposite. Establish early contact with the parents of this next class of recruits and work to establish that same emotional connection with them. Call them, email them, ask them questions, and engage them. If you do, what you’ll find is they’re happy to provide you with useful information, and more importantly, they will look at you as the admissions counselor that respects their opinion and input and is treating them as a valued partner in the recruiting process of their son or daughter. Do you have a plan to communicate with your prospects’ parents at the beginning? If not, you’re missing a BIG opportunity to create some separation from other colleges.

Work to establish a mutually agreed upon timeline for making their decision. Do everything you can as early as possible to find out when your prospect (and his or her parents) sees a final decision being made. You don’t have to get an exact date. A general time of the year is fine. By simply asking a few effective questions about the prospect’s timeline not only will you find out how long you probably have to recruit that prospect, but you’ll also gain valuable insight into how they’ll be making their decision. Most counselors we observe wait to have this conversation until after a prospect applies for admission. Don’t let that be you. If you’re willing to ask a few critical questions early in the process, you’ll be able to strategically design a messaging plan that earns your prospect’s interest.

Are you establishing control of the process? Are you going to control the recruiting conversation and the decision making process, or will you relinquish that role to them? What I’m suggesting is that you should establish yourself as the counselor that will be guiding them through the recruitment process rather than telling yourself that your job is to give them your school’s information, answer questions, and then stand by and wait politely for their decision. A large part of your job is to guide your prospect’s decision from start to finish. Not trick, not force, but guide. You do that through effective questioning, establishing logical “next steps” throughout the process, and continually providing them with smart reasons why your institution is the right choice. How do you plan to establish that role as the leader of the conversation and their trusted guide?

After reading these strategies and questions, some of you may discover that you need to make some major changes in how you recruit during the early stages of the process. I’m sure some of you other readers may not need to adjust your approach at all.

If you had the feeling with this last class that you were really were ineffective when it came to carrying on a logical, consistent conversation with your prospects and their parents, now is the time to act.

Our Tudor Collegiate Strategies team offers one-on-one help with formulating a research-based approach to communicating with recruits. It will save you time and eliminate a lot of frustrations. The next step is to email me at jeremy@dantudor.com

Critical Recruiting Strategy Questions For Your Admissions StaffTuesday, August 2nd, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

If you’re a regular reader of this newsletter then you know I’m always looking for ways to help you with your professional development. If you’re a new reader, welcome, and now you know too.

Over the past few months I’ve told you why you should be a resource and not a salesperson, how you can be more interesting to prospects, and I’ve given you reasons why your recruitment efforts might be falling short.

Today I want to ask you some critical recruiting strategy questions. They aren’t optional – you have to answer them.

Why? Because I want you to be successful and dominate what has become an increasingly challenging recruiting landscape.

The four questions I’m about to ask you are going to require some thought and should be answered in some detail.

Each of these questions pertains to your central approach to your recruiting message. Many college admissions staffs haven’t truly answered them before, which will give you an automatic advantage if you take a few minutes to answer them for your institution. Doing so will also allow you and your admissions team to recruit more logically and effectively.

Here are the questions that I want to see you develop answers for as you head into another busy and eventful recruitment season:

  1. Who are the prospective students you’re trying to connect with? I’m not looking for actual names. I’m looking for traits.  Things such as demographics, geographical information, and personality type.  Once you define the characteristics of the prospects you’re going after, you’ll be surprised at how well you focus on those recruits.  That’s a major problem we find with many admissions counselors – No definition of what their school is all about.  If you try to sell your school to everyone, you’ll end up selling it effectively to no one.  So let me ask you, “How do you answer that question right now”?
  2. Why are they going to choose your institution?  For many of you reading this, you aren’t coming off a year where you significantly increased your enrollment. In fact, many of you may have experienced a drop. Chances are there’s a direct competitor of yours that has better campus dining, newer dorms/buildings, offers more merit aid, and maybe a better location.  So the big question is also a simple one: How are you going to change their (your prospects and their parents) perspective?  How do you change your story?  And once you change their minds, what then?  You need to know what your end game is before you enter a serious recruitment battle for a high achieving student. So let me ask you, “How do you answer that question right now”?
  3. What tools are you lacking?  Most admissions leaders can easily define what their team is good at doing when it comes to recruiting.  Conversely, many aren’t aware of the skill set(s) their team lacks. So, if you’re being honest with yourself and the counselors on your staff, what three things do you need to get better at right away?  What are the things you do poorly, or wrong, as a leader? Honest, ongoing self-evaluation is important if you want to achieve long-term success in the college recruitment world.  Many schools are tasked to “get more done with less”. Are you using that as your excuse when you don’t reach your goals, or are you digging deeper to find an alternative solution? So let me ask you, “How do you answer that question right now”?
  4. What do you need to make successful recruiting happen more often?  Think about the time(s) when everything fell into place and you reached, or even exceeded, your enrollment goals.  What went right?  What happened that time that didn’t happen all the other times?  I recommend you develop a prototype of the ideal recruiting process, the ideal campus visit, and the ideal sales message. If you need help with one or all of these things I encourage you to reach out and connect with me. It’s what we do. You should also be asking yourself what some of the common mistakes in your ongoing recruiting efforts are (again, be honest!).  What do you need to do in order to duplicate the big successes in the past?  So let me ask you, “How do you answer that question right now”?

More than ever before, you and your institution need to define what you’re all about. Tell a great story (it’s one of the things that separates an average recruiter from a superstar recruiter).

Coming up with answers to those four questions will go a long away towards helping you build a firm foundation that you can recruit effectively and efficiently from.

We’re starting work with multiple new clients this month. Each school understands they need a different approach to student recruitment, and we understand that each school is different and unique. Find out how our research-based approach can work for you and your team. All you have to do is email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

Developing Your Recruiting RelationshipTuesday, July 26th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

At a time when colleges and universities are looking especially hard at the bottom line, admissions professionals must be able to consistently market and sell their school to prospective students and their parents. That’s the bottom line.

One of the biggest challenges we’re often asked to address during our On-Campus Training Workshops is how to get and keep the attention of today’s prospects. It’s an on-going battle that’s for sure. If the teenager or twenty something on the other end wants to ignore your recruiting message, you can’t stop him or her. What you can do however is provide them with compelling reasons to choose your school over the competition.

Here’s even better news! You don’t need to have a big time budget to successfully communicate your message and cultivate a positive relationship. You just need a few easy strategies that savvy business professionals use on a daily basis.

Think about how you develop relationships in your personal life. Any good relationship is built on trust. When there’s trust, there’s loyalty. When a relationship has those two characteristics that means there’s a genuine concern for each others’ well being.

Your recruiting relationships should be developed the same way. You cannot expect your recruit and his or her parents to commit to your institution if they don’t trust you. When you build trust, loyalty will follow. Your recruits will want to continue to interact with you rather than your competitors.

It’s important to start establishing those real, caring, long-term relationships with your prospects early in the recruitment process. If you do, you’ll have an easy time proving to your recruits (and their parents and others around them) that you’re concerned about them, and want to help solve their problems. You’re not just there trying to sell a college. You’re there to help.

If you want to differentiate yourself from admissions counselors who will read this and then forget about it later today, try these four proven strategies for establishing those all-important prospect relationships:

  1. Be specific when telling your recruiting story. Are you currently developing a story that tells your prospects something very specific or very memorable about your institution? Sometimes a specific focus can help you tell your school’s story in a much more compelling way, and give recruits a reason to listen to what you’re saying.
  2. Understand that different recruits have different problems. If you’re an avid reader of this newsletter, you know that your recruits all have worries, fears and hopes. Here’s the thing. Those of a traditional student (teenager) are going to be very different from those of a non-traditional student (single parent, mid-career professional). If you don’t believe that then you’ll rarely connect with prospects the way you need to if they’re going to enroll at your school. It’s your job to try and put yourself in each recruit’s shoes and develop separate messaging that will truly help them. When you do that you’re sending a strong message that you care.
  3. Make your recruiting messages personal. When you effectively use personalization during the recruitment process you stand out from the crowd. To build a close relationship with your prospect and his or her family you must communicate on a personal level no matter the type of contact. That includes mail, email, phone calls, social media and face-to-face contact. I understand doing this will take up more time and involve some creative thinking. The end result will be a feeling of being wanted. That’s something that every single prospective student is looking for.
  4. Commit to utilizing social media. Let me be clear. I’m not talking about your admissions Facebook page (although that’s not a bad idea either). I want you to invest more in your personal SM accounts. If you don’t you’re missing out on a prime opportunity to reveal the “real you,” as well as offer a behind the scenes look at what makes life at your school so great. As always, no matter what type of communication you use, you must be consistent if you expect favorable results.

A quick word of caution. Don’t ever pretend to be someone you’re not. Your sincerity, or lack thereof, will always shine through.  Teenagers today are smart.  They know when you’re telling them the truth and when you’ve embellished a little too much.

These four strategies will help you quickly establish real rapport with your prospects, and in the end increase your school’s chances of enrolling them.

We help colleges and universities improve their recruiting relationships year-round. If you have a specific question or want help developing a winning strategy call me at 612-386-0854…or just send me an email.

 

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