by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
How’s your bracket? If you’re one of the tens of millions of people like me who filled out an NCAA tournament bracket, hopefully it hasn’t been introduced to the shredder just yet.
While the nations top college basketball teams try to figure out how to survive and advance to Indianapolis and take home the trophy, many of your recruits are dealing with their own version of “March Madness.” They applied to several colleges and received multiple acceptance letters. Some of those prospects immediately jumped at chance to attend your school, while others for various reasons said, “thanks, but no thanks.” In many cases however, you likely have a large group of admitted students who have yet to make their final decisions. My goal today is to help your school end up on the “champions” line of those admissions brackets.
Selling against your competition is probably the most important battle you face during the recruitment cycle. Here’s a scenario I’ve been frequently discussing with counselors as of late. A recruit has narrowed down his or her list to three or four colleges, including theirs. A couple of them are similar institution types in comparable settings. One or two are completely different. And, every now and then there’s a school that has advanced deep into a prospect’s “bracket,” baffling everyone. The conversation then becomes, “Jeremy…how do I tell this student that I know those other schools aren’t the right fit for them without bad mouthing those schools?” Great question!
Here are seven things you can do to beat out other schools for your undecided admits…tactfully.
- Ask them who they’re leaning on to help them make a final decision. Once they tell you, ask yourself how well you’ve connected with those other individuals. If the answer is “not very well,” you know what you need to do ASAP.
- Discover what they like about the competition and then start to chip away. Before you can chip away at the opposition, you have to know what your prospect perceives their strengths to be. Ask him or her to state the strong points for each of the other schools still under consideration. After hearing the answers, reply to each one with a phrase like, “It’s interesting that you mention that, because our school is actually stronger in that area than them.” Then, list why. Even if you’re going up against a more prominent institution this subtle reply works well.
- Get your prospect to create doubt about those other schools. An effective way to do this is to ask your prospect, “During this process, what are some things that you’ve noticed that you don’t like as much about (insert school name)? You can word the question differently, but the point is to get the prospect to start actively thinking about your competition’s weaknesses instead of their strengths.
- Make sure you’ve overcome ALL your prospect’s objections. This remains one of the most asked about topics when we customize an admissions training workshop for a school. Why? Because it’s the most important part of recruiting a student, and it may be something that your competition isn’t doing. Clarify any specific objections your prospect has, and make sure they get addressed. Every situation is different, so it’s hard to give a general technique that would work in any situation. If you have a specific question I encourage you to email me at email@example.com
- Make sure you’ve proven your school’s VALUE. If you haven’t engaged in a comprehensive and prospect-specific discussion about value, I’d pencil one in very soon. Students and parents expect and want this information from admissions and financial aid. Surprisingly, some studies show that a large number of schools are still failing to address this topic.
- Get them back on campus. When prospects try to weigh the pros and cons of different colleges they’re serious about, it often becomes hard for them to create much separation. Admitted student day events are a great way to remind them what life on campus will look and feel like. Keep in mind that families lead busy lives and as a result will likely have to pick and choose which schools they’ll revisit. It’s crucial that you give them a good reason to come back. (If you want to learn how to create awesome admitted student days, click here).
- Confidently explain why your school is the best choice. Believe it or not, your recruit may not know why you are the best fit. How could that possibly happen, right? Simply put, your story has been lost in the noisy, marketing-filled world that they live in. That’s why we advocate the need for a consistent, ongoing message from the start to the end of the recruitment cycle. If you’re not consistently telling them why they should choose your school, there will be a strong likelihood that they don’t figure out why your school is the best choice.
The second part to this point is in how you explain that “why.” You’ll note my use of the word confidently. If you’re going to make a great persuasive argument, you need to ooze confidence. Our research shows that when it’s time to make a final decision, students and their parents are desperately looking for someone who can confidently articulate a plan for success for that student once they step foot on campus.
Competition for the next generation of students isn’t going to get easier any time soon. Use some or all of these strategies to get an edge on your competition in the battle for prospects, and let us know if we can train you further on any of these techniques.