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Stop Doing This One Simple Thing to Improve Your Campus VisitsMonday, March 2nd, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Before I tell you what that is, I want to start by thanking each of you for your readership. Furthermore, it’s great to hear success stories from those of you who have applied the information from this newsletter. I look forward to being on many of your campuses this spring conducting one of our popular admissions training workshops.

Okay…let’s get down business. Today I’m going to give you one simple idea that you can begin applying immediately.   It won’t cost you a dime and it doesn’t require any extra work. It centers on improving campus visits with prospective students, a topic I’m frequently asked about by admissions directors and counselors I speak with, or who we get to serve as clients.

There are many different strategies that we might suggest depending on your specific situation. This one however is universal and easy to put into practice.

Stop having prospects sit in on a class as part of the campus visit. Let me explain why your admissions team should do this, and touch on why you might be hesitant to actually follow through with removing it from your campus visit schedule.

First, why is it such a good idea?  The answer is simple – Your prospects tell us.

As part of our review and research in preparation for an admissions workshop, we conduct detailed focus groups and surveys with current college students.  When we do, one thing we ask them to tell us is what factors were most important – and least important – in helping them choose a college.  Without fail, nearly 100% of the time, students tell us that sitting in on a class is one of the least effective, least important aspects of their visit to a college campus.

“Sitting in on class was a little boring.” “I think sitting in on a class is not that important, it was interesting for me but not that important.” Both of these are actual comments from your recruits.

So, is it smart to have this on the agenda and prolong a campus visit that in many cases should be shorter anyways? No. The average campus tour already lasts more than one hour. Our research, which again is feedback from students, consistently tells us this is too long. Like it or not, that’s this generation of recruits.

Having said that, let me give you two reasons why you’ll probably elect not to remove this part of your campus visit, even though many of your prospects would be much happier with their visit to campus if you did.

  • You don’t want to upset your friends across campus. In some cases this idea will not even be up for discussion because your office doesn’t want to explain to an academic dean why you’ve stopped coming around and thus eliminated the role they’re used to playing in the process. I completely understand. For those of you who might be on the fence, let me share the following feedback from a counselor at a school we worked with last fall who chose to implement this idea. “I can’t believe it but we have not received any negative feedback from various departments on campus since we stopped visiting classes, which is a pleasant surprise.”
  • “This is college and they need to experience what a typical class will be like.” I’ll answer by telling you what many of your students and student-athletes have told both Dan Tudor and myself – “It’s a college…we get it…they have classrooms.”  In other words, it doesn’t matter.  Now, let me clarify. If you have a prospective student who expresses their desire to sit in on a class or spend some time learning about your college from faculty members, go ahead and make that happen. However, for the vast majority of prospects visiting your campus for a short period of time, they would much rather have some down time for rest and self-exploration.

There it is.  One simple, straightforward solution to better campus visits that’s based on national research and advice from the very people you are trying to attract to your school, along with two obstacles standing in your way. The choice is yours.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the factor that more often than not most influences your students to choose your institution over the competition is…How the admissions staff treated them on their visit.

We’d love to conduct an On-Campus Workshop at your school.  We conduct specific focus group research on-campus, present a dynamic interactive discussion of effective recruiting strategies, and answer specific questions from your admissions team on how to address the challenges you’re facing. Contact Jeremy today at jeremy@dantudor.com

Have You Given Them a Reason to Visit Campus?Monday, February 23rd, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Spring break weeks are fast approaching. A large majority of your younger prospects, primarily juniors, are currently putting together a road map of college campuses to visit. Have you and your admissions staff made a compelling case highlighting the benefits that prospective students and their parents can gain by visiting your campus?

“Wait a minute Jeremy, I’ve written personal letters, sent emails, and had productive phone calls with them. Why wouldn’t they want to come and visit?”

Even though a campus visit would seem to be the next logical step in the process for those prospects, I’m here to tell you that it’s not a mere formality.   Being consistent with your messaging, building the relationship over time, and inviting them to visit won’t always be enough to persuade prospects and their families to take time out of their busy schedules and invest a day at your institution. Especially given that today’s prospect is applying to more colleges than ever before. You have to give them a reason to come to campus.

When we conduct one of our many admissions workshops throughout the year, part of our research includes conducting detailed focus groups and surveys with current college students.  We continue to find that a large majority of your prospects need to understand why you want them to become a member of your student body. Essentially, they want to be able to justify why they should spend their time and money on your campus instead of somebody else’s.

So, what’s your answer then to my question in the subject line of this week’s newsletter? Other than you being interested and sending out reminder notices for your information sessions, what have you really given them? Do they view coming to your campus as a chore, or could it actually be fun?

If you’re on board with me, there are a couple of questions you might need to ask yourself, and one vital point I want you to remember as you make efforts to get your next group of recruits to visit campus.

  1. Have you laid the foundation for the visit?  As I touched on earlier, consistent messaging and cultivating the recruiting relationship over time are extremely helpful. I don’t recommend asking them to visit as part of your first conversation. That initial chat will be unnerving for most prospects, and the last thing you want to do is overwhelm them and start things off on the wrong foot.
  1. Have you created anticipation? If you’re a client of ours, you know how important it is to have the flow of the recruiting process move as quickly and efficiently as possible toward securing a campus visit. Your prospect will anticipate the campus visit if you’ve given them glimpses of what campus is like, why he or she would want to see the dorms, and what the surrounding community is like. Those are some of the key elements our research has uncovered as to what triggers that anticipation in the minds of your recruits when it comes to committing to a campus visit.
  1. You need to have a “because.” A big motivating factor in many prospect’s decision to visit campus, was the idea that there was something important to talk about during their visit. Focus on the idea of selling a personalized tour where they’ll have the opportunity to sit down face to face with the dean of the business school if the recruit is strongly considering that area of study…or the opportunity to meet some members of your school’s drama club if that’s something they’ve indicated an interest in. Bottom line – What your recruits need is what we all need to prompt action from time to time:  A “because”. Do you have one?

In a nutshell, recruits will rarely visit a campus without a good reason that is solidified in their mind – either one that they came up with on their own, or a picture that you have painted for them over a period of time.

When the visit date finally arrives, make sure you and your admissions team avoid making any of the common mistakes that many colleges fall victim to during the all-important campus visit.

A Valuable Admissions Recruiting Lesson LearnedMonday, February 16th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Overcoming an objection from a prospective student can be a difficult challenge. For many admissions counselors it’s one of the most frustrating parts of the job.

Late last fall during a one-on-one consultation with a counselor, the topic of recruiting a new territory was broached. To be clear this new territory was not a bordering state, but rather a region in a different geographic area of the country.

Fast forward to this past week when I got a phone call from that same counselor. Her recruitment in the aforementioned new territory had produced more applications than expected. Great news I said! “Yes and no,” she responded. The recruitment of those out-of-state prospects had gone so smoothly that she failed to inquire about an issue that had now become a critical objection from a handful of those recruits and their parents – “distance from home.”

For many institutions, recruiting students who will have to board a plane or spend most of a day in a car to get to campus can be a tough sell. Simply put, it can end the recruiting conversation before it even begins.

In a perfect world every prospect would be honest from the start and tell you that they won’t consider attending a college that’s a long way from home. The reality is, most recruits will rarely offer-up their true feelings until late in the game, as this counselor learned.

This situation provides a valuable lesson for all counselors who recruit out-of-state, region, or even the country. Determining those feelings right away is something that all recruiters can and should attempt to accomplish by probing. By asking smart questions and being persistent, you will learn when to pursue and when to move on.

Here are two effective questions you can ask early in the process that we’ve seen work, when trying to decide if you should invest your time and your school’s resources in that long distance prospect.

  1. As early as possible, ask the prospect why they’re choosing to look at out-of-area colleges.  Answers like, “I want to see what’s out there,” or “my parents want me to consider your school because of how much mail you’ve sent me,” should be cause for concern. If the prospect cannot verbalize a specific reason, you’ll need to probe further and attempt to discover the true meaning behind those statements. Conversely, if your long distance prospect responds by saying, “Your nursing program offers the hands-on clinical experience I’m looking for,” or “I want to go somewhere with warm weather,” those both indicate a concrete reason behind their interest in learning more about your school.
  1. Ask the parents why they would want to see their son/daughter go “away” to college.  I want you to phrase it exactly like I worded it:  “So, why do you want to see your son/daughter go away to college?”  If the answer is something like, “I don’t really want him/her to go away…but it’s good to keep all the options open,” proceed with caution.  Our research shows that when it comes time for a decision to be made, mom or dad (or both) is going to play the emotion card and push for them to remain close to home.  I’m not telling you to throw in the towel if you hear that response, however, it does mean that you really need to have the parents define why they view your school as a smart consideration for their son or daughter.  Asking this question will provide you with the information that tells you how to move forward.

Let me again reiterate that critical questions such as these should be asked sooner rather than later. Starting the conversation early on is an effective way to determine what course of action you should take with a long distance prospect that you hope to enroll.

Furthermore, I encourage you not to give up at the first sign of resistance, especially if you have an out-of-area recruit that you consider to be “high potential.” Keep the communication flow consistent, but always be listening and looking for those hidden clues. Prospects have been known to change their mind as the recruiting process moves forward. Their top local college may not come through with a strong enough financial aid package, or over time your story may be more compelling and create those all-important feelings.

Want to talk to the national experts about how to recruit specific prospects?  Become a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies.  You’ll get access to a group of experts who can advise you on how to approach specific recruiting situations you’re facing, and a team of off-site staff members that can create recruiting messages that work and help shoulder the load of all aspects of your recruiting duties.  Contact Jeremy today for all the details.

The One Mistake You Don’t Want to Make Down the Stretch With ProspectsMonday, February 9th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Can you believe it’s the second week of February already? That means many of you are entering the final critical phase of the recruiting cycle with this class of prospects. They’ve taken their visit, submitted their application, and in some cases admissions decisions have been sent. Now with fingers crossed, you wait.

In a world of instant gratification, waiting is not something many of us are used to doing. It can cause stress and lead to frustration, especially if you or your admissions team hasn’t had things go according to plan with this particular group of recruits. The reasons why are typically many and varied. I can tell you however that through our work with college admissions offices, we’ve identified a common mistake that many admissions professionals are making late in the process that impacts yield in a negative way.

First, some good news – If you’re making this mistake, there’s still time to fix it. You don’t have to wait until next year’s recruiting class to make changes.

During our On-Campus Workshops with admissions departments, we often discuss the importance of forming a meaningful connection with a prospect, and strengthening that bond throughout the entire recruitment cycle. You’ll note my use of the word “entire,” because here’s where the big mistake starts to occur. Too many admissions counselors shift their communication efforts into cruise control after a prospect’s application has been received.

When discussing this communication issue with counselors during 1-on-1 meetings that accompany our admissions workshop, I hear things like, “I don’t know what else to say to them until they get admitted,” or “I don’t want to bother them anymore until they get our financial aid package.” My response to those statements is simple. If you fail to have meaningful conversations at this juncture of the college selection process with your recruit, he or she is probably not going to enroll at your institution. Furthermore, if you’re having trouble coming up with things to talk to a prospect about that don’t include college admissions or your school, I’d wager to say you haven’t built that rapport yet.

Now that we’ve addressed this common misstep, let’s touch on how you can regain control of the recruiting process. Here are two easy things that any counselor can start doing immediately that will make a difference.

  1. Keep giving them reasons to pick your school. Your prospects are hungry for direction. Even as they wait for an admissions decision or financial aid package, they’re looking for good reasons to ultimately select your school. Make sure you’re giving those to them. Be creative and generate content that is specific to their needs and wants.
  1. Please whatever you do, don’t forget to talk to the parents. If you’re reading my newsletter for the first or even second time, let me explain why. Our research on how prospects make their final decision tell us that parents continue to be one of, if not the biggest outside influence in their child’s final decision. That means if you don’t communicate consistently with them during this waiting period, you leave open the possibility of unanswered questions or objections. We’ve found that a conversation with the parents during this critical time period can be insightful. They will often reveal what’s going on behind the scenes.

In this final crucial phase of the recruiting cycle you can’t just sit back and wait, and hope your prospects choose your school.  Successful admissions professionals continue to cultivate their relationship with recruits and their families, and do so in such a way that furthers their connection with you.

My biggest goal each week with this newsletter is to provide you with information and strategies that will help you become a more efficient recruiter and a better communicator.  As always, feel free to reach out to me at jeremy@dantudor.com with any questions or comments.

How You Can Create the Right Kind of Urgency With ProspectsMonday, February 2nd, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from an admissions director who reads our weekly newsletter. Her school’s deadline to apply had passed, and despite an increase in applications, she had some concerns.

During a recent staff meeting it quickly became evident to her that members of the admissions team were stressed out at the thought of having to convince more admits to say “yes.” Sound familiar? It’s a common problem amongst sales people towards the end of the sales process. You want to create urgency and break through prospect inertia without pressuring too hard and driving those recruits away.

Let me start by touching on what you don’t want to say or do according to our research, unless you and your team are okay with inconsistent yield results.

  • Don’t say something like, “I need an answer by (insert date).”
  • Don’t use threatening language such as, “You need to make a decision soon or your financial aid package may end up changing.”

Doing either one of these things can create conflict and cause distrust. Even if what you’ve said is the truth, they’re unlikely to respond to it, particularly parents who may feel you’re creating that you versus them mentality with such phrasing. I’d also add that attempting to create urgency rarely works if your message isn’t clear or your value proposition is poor.

Instead of trying to impose urgency on your prospects and risk running them off, the goal should be to help them take that next step, which they’re most likely ready to do anyways.

Here are four proven ways to create the right sense of urgency with your prospects.

  1. Build out clear, long-term timelines. This is especially helpful with younger prospects such as high school juniors. Start talking to your recruit as early as possible about timeline expectations. Even though a decision might be 12 months or more away, go ahead and lay out that timeline. Make it clear what you need from them over the next few months, and continue to build that timeline with them throughout the recruitment process. Creating a timeline together and gaining agreement from your prospect that this is how the process will play out is crucial. If you’re near the end of the process and haven’t built out a timeline with one of your seniors, I would strongly encourage you to do so immediately. You could talk to them about the timeline goals of your office, and ask what they feel is needed before a final decision about your school can be made.
  1. Talk about the why it’s important to set a deadline. For example, if you have a senior who has received multiple acceptance letters yet still talks about having months to make that final decision, give him or her logical reasons why it’s in their best interests to move the process forward. Explaining how your school’s on-campus housing process works is one way to create the right kind of urgency. Let them know that you want them to have priority consideration, but space is limited and if they wait too long other students may submit deposits. You could also ask your prospect if they’ve thought about securing tickets to sporting events or priority parking passes, both of which on some campuses are in high demand. By phrasing your concern in the form of a question, he or she will visualize the scenario and it will have a greater impact.
  1. Take away the possibility of attending your school. Talk about what their life would look like if they hadn’t received your college’s acceptance letter. In a subtle, non-threatening way, inquire about a back-up plan. How strongly do they feel about the other college’s they’ve also gained acceptance to? What some of our clients have discovered when they do this is a new critical objection. As you might imagine, many times it has to do with financial aid or distance from home. Once the objection has been clarified, you can then address it and hopefully move the process forward again.
  1. Ask what big question marks still remain. This is particularly useful late in the recruitment cycle if there’s a delay in the decision making of an admitted prospect you really want to deposit. Go ahead and ask the recruit, or his or her parents, “What are the big question marks in your mind about our school that’s making it tough to give a final commitment?” I’m not about to tell you I know what answer you’re going to receive, because the reality is this could go off in a number of different directions. Whatever feedback they give you, you can then analyze it and conclude that this is an objection we can overcome, or the prospect is having a hard time figuring out how to tell you that they’re about to choose a different school. Asking this effective question will reveal more about what they’re thinking than you can imagine. It also emphasizes the right amount of pressure and lets your prospect know that you’re trying to assist them with whatever is left to do.

Does your admissions team need personalized help creating urgency with your current and future prospects? We’re ready when you are! Contact Jeremy directly at jeremy@dantudor.com for more information on strategies that produce results.

A Snowstorm and Preparing to Avoid Crisis With Your ProspectsMonday, January 26th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Last month some friends of ours made the move from Indiana to New Hampshire.

Yesterday I checked in with them to see if they were ready for the impending snowstorm that authorities are saying could topple power lines, disrupt all transportation, and essentially cripple a large chunk of the Northeast. My friend David sent me the following text message labeled blizzard prep. “Tractor – running, plow operational, check. Gas for tractor, check. Gas for generator, check. Oil for furnace, check. Flashlights, candles, lanterns, check. Warm clothes – duh I’m a skier! CHECK! Shovels, check. 4WD vehicle, check.”

Much like New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is coordinating with dozens of local, state and federal agencies, in addition to having city agencies and DOT workers already on the go, David appears to have taken all necessary precautions and is confident that he will be prepared to handle whatever this storm throws at them.

As a college admissions recruiter or leader, a situation like this one provides an important reminder. Every so often you must ensure that each member of your admissions team is prepared to handle crisis as it relates to your prospects.

At this point you might be expecting a list of common crises during the recruitment cycle and how to handle them. Sorry, that’s not the goal of this article. Unlike my friend David and Mayor de Blasio who have no control over Mother Nature, your admissions team can take steps that will help avoid potential obstacles which slow down the recruitment process.

Here are some suggestions that I’d recommend:

  • Build rapport and the trust of your prospect. If I asked you to print off your prospect list and check off the names of those you’ve truly made a connection with, how many would that be? Can you and your prospect, as well as you and your prospect’s parents, spend time talking about something other than your college and the admissions process? Once you’ve formed those personal relationships, then you can start to build trust.  Not the other way around.  Would you trust you if you were listening to you? Without doing both of these things you will not secure commitments from the talented recruits you’re searching for.
  • Communicate consistently and in a variety of ways. You cannot expect to avoid obstacles without a consistent track of messaging every 6 to 9 days. Remember that those messages should be sequential and contain short, fact-based pieces of information with the goal of creating anticipation. Our research firmly indicates that when a prospect sees ongoing, regular contact from you, not only do they engage with the messaging on a more regular basis, but they also feel valued. Your recruiting campaign needs to consist of a regular flow of mail, email, phone contact, personal contact and social media.  Today’s prospective student reacts to a good combination of all of these facets of recruiting.  If you focus on only one or two communication methods, you’re leaving the door open for a competitor that will make the most of each communication resource they possess.
  • Believe the story you’re telling. This past fall I spent two days conducting one of our admissions workshops with a school that didn’t realize the importance of having a great story and using passion when relaying it to their recruits. If you always tell a compelling story you will help create those “feelings” for your prospects. A story told without passion can come across as less credible. If you don’t believe the stories you’re telling, how will they? Remember that prospects rely on those “feelings” and emotions to help them make their decision.
  • Ask good questions. This is one of the most talked-about aspects of recruiting with both our admissions and athletic clients. Almost all want to know how to get a masters degree in effective questioning, and for good reason. Are you asking good probing questions that reveal those hidden clues? Do you know what facts your recruits really care about? If you aren’t asking effective questions, you’re probably struggling at recruiting high potential students.
  • Get them to reveal any objections. We’ve talked about effectively handling objections before. How are you doing lately in this department? Are you able to get your prospects to clearly clarify an objection and how he or she came to feel that way? Or do you try and sidestep those discussions with the hope that your prospect will just forget about them? I’m here to remind you that the latter will not work. If there are unanswered questions in the minds of your prospects or their parents, you need to help them reach a solution quickly, or risk losing them to another school.
  • Tell them what to do next. We see it time and time again. The school that connects all the dots from start to finish in a clear manner runs into significantly less obstacles with their recruits. If you want them to call you, tell them that. If you want them to visit campus, tell them that. If it’s important they complete their financial aid paperwork by a certain date, tell them why and confirm that they’re aware of the aforementioned deadline. DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING…EVER. Be crystal clear about the every single “next step.”
  • Affirm their commitment. When your prospect is admitted, what do you do to congratulate them on their decision? Do you ensure that they sign up for one of your admitted student days? Do you still recruit them and sell the positives of your school? Or, do you breathe a sigh of relief and move on to the next prospect? You need to reaffirm their decision and make them feel good about it. Make them know that they made the right decision, and never let buyer’s remorse settle in.

If you consistently do each of these seven things, the likelihood of the recruiting process flowing smoothly will greatly increase.

Have questions about any of this? Email Jeremy directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

The Four Things Your Prospects Want When it Comes to Financial AidMonday, January 19th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

This past week I had a lengthy discussion with an admissions counselor. She reached out to me for advice after a common theme started to develop with her new admits. The excitement of receiving that acceptance letter had begun to wear off. It was now being replaced by the stress of affording to pay for college.

The first thing I did was reassure this counselor that she wasn’t alone. As we all know, similar situations like this are occurring in many other admissions offices. Accepted prospects are once again being reminded that getting in to college is only half the battle. A new whirlwind of paperwork and electronic filing awaits them.

Colleges and universities are preparing for, or in many cases, are now in the thick of financial aid season. Prospects and parents alike are gathering the information needed to complete the financial aid forms, some of which are due in the coming weeks. Too often however we hear about recruits quickly becoming overwhelmed by the lingo of financial aid. That feeling of frustration can be enhanced further if they call the admissions office, only to speak with someone who is unprepared to provide guidance, and instead passes them off to a financial aid counselor who currently has a full plate and is unavailable.

As we discuss during our on-campus workshops, throughout the entire recruitment process your admissions team must always be laying out those all-important “next steps.” Through listening and effective questioning, counselors should also have uncovered and answered any objections. Having said that, here are four more things your prospects want from you when it comes to financial aid.

  • They want an explanation of the aid package as early as possible. Prospects value schools that give financial aid estimates, even if they can’t spell out all of the package details yet. At a number of institutions the total package may not be known until March or possibly later. Walking a recruit through a projection early on, with specifics such as scholarship awards if possible, is a tangible way to show him or her that you care.
  • They want to know your school’s value. There’s no question that a strong financial aid package will increase the chances that admits submit deposits. Research tells us though that this alone is not enough value to consistently secure commitments. Counselors must sell all of the qualities of the college above and beyond the financial assistance. This includes concrete data on your recent graduates.  Knowing your school’s strengths and presenting the value proposition in the best way to connect with each individual recruit will pay dividends.
  • They want transparency. If you read this newsletter each week then you understand just how important transparency is in the eyes of your prospects. If you haven’t heard that before, I strongly encourage you to write it on a post-it note and stick it somewhere visible as a daily reminder. Here’s how it applies to the financial aid process. As I mentioned earlier, clearly stating what needs to happen next in the process is a must. Make sure your prospects know when the filing deadlines are, what forms are required, what verification means, and how loans and payment plans work. Explain that to maximize their chances of getting aid via the FAFSA, submit that form as soon as possible. If they tell you their parents make too much money so they don’t need to complete it, make sure they understand that there are many different factors that go into financial aid.  Ask them if they received even a few hundred dollars why they wouldn’t want that additional assistance. In the end if you can’t explain the details clearly, what are your prospects going to think?
  • They want you to solve their problem.  That’s right…they want you to help them figure out how to pay for college. They want you to help them find any outside scholarships and figure out what additional options they have for financing tuition and other expenses. They also want you to tell them about any financial aid seminars or workshops that your college or another local high school is hosting. Believe me when I tell you that the counselor who solves their problems will likely be the one whose school receives those deposits. Let’s be honest though, it’s unlikely that you will solve all of their problems, but if you can demonstrate that you’re trying to do so you’ll win brownie points with your prospects.

If you remember each of these four important points when you’re communicating about financial aid with your prospects, you will see greater yields.

Looking for help delivering clearer messages to your recruits? Jeremy Tiers and the staff at Tudor Collegiate Strategies work with college admissions departments around the country on a personalized basis.  To discuss your situation and how the program would work with you, email Jeremy directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

What the Drive-Thru Reminds Us About Customer ServiceMonday, January 12th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

At some point in the past twelve months I’m sure each of you has experienced poor customer service. You know, the kind that frustrates you to no end and you proceed to tell your family, friends and neighbors all about it. Mine occurred a couple of weeks at the drive-thru window of a national fast food chain.

After placing my family’s order our first stop was the pay window.  The teenage employee slid open the glass, continued to finish typing on her cell phone and then asked me for the incorrect total. Next we proceeded to the food window. Mistake number one was giving my daughter outdated milk, which thankfully my wife caught because well that’s just something that parents look for. Next we had my milkshake, which they mistakenly let me order but couldn’t produce because the shake machine was down. When the employee went to fill my wife’s Diet Coke that machine stopped mid pour. She and a couple of colleagues spent several minutes staring at the machine as if it was magically going to repair itself. Finally a manager arrived to see what the problem was. After giving each of use alternate drink choices and replacing what we showed was cold food, we finally exited the parking lot. The entire chaotic experience lasted approximately 15 minutes.

Customer service is a critical component to any successful business, including college admissions. Without satisfied customers your enrollment doesn’t grow. There is however an even bigger problem to keep in mind. If a member of your team comes across as unpleasant, can’t be bothered, or heaven forbid down right rude, in this day and age many complaints are aired through one of the oh-so-public social media platforms.

All of this leads me to ask the following questions. Have you taken a step back and evaluated your office’s customer service recently? Is your admissions team consistently meeting the needs of all of your prospective students and their parents? The cost of attending college continues to rise.  Providing average customer service is no longer sufficient. There are too many other options out there for your customers. Both you and your team need to make time to deliver an exceptional customer experience from start to finish. Just like the disgruntled customer takes to social media to vent, the satisfied one will rave about his or her one-of-a-kind experience, and recommend your school to friends, neighbors and work colleagues for years to come.

Let me share you with ten opportunities where you and your team can stand out and deliver exceptional customer service.

  1. Listen more than you talk, especially with younger prospects. We know you mean well when you try and cram every single fact and positive statistic about your school into that first or second conversation with a prospective student. The problem is, it’s not helping. Instead, when you listen, your recruits and their parents will share all kinds of information about their wants and needs. You can then take those bricks and use them to build a strong relationship. Listening and giving your undivided attention are both chiefly important to your customer.
  1. Engage your prospect to gain their interest.  Remember the teacher that read things word for word from the textbook? Boring, right. If you’re sending long, wordy mailings or always asking yes/no type questions when you talk in person, are you really gaining their interest? It’s hard enough for today’s teenager to focus on something for more than a few seconds. How are you engaging them and creating that anticipation?
  1. Become the “go-to-person.” As we’ve discussed previously, a large part of your job is to be a problem solver. You must provide the prospect and his or her family with the information they want and need to make an informed decision. Arby’s says, “We have the meats!” Guess what, you and your team hold the pieces to your recruit’s decision puzzle. Make sure you’re anticipating their needs and answering all of their questions. For example, right now many families are trying to navigate through the maze known as Financial Aid. Do they understand how to complete the FAFSA? Do they understand that many schools prioritize who gets funding based on deadlines? The more you do for them, the more they’ll look at your school as the logical choice.
  1. Provide your customers with a clear, concise message.  Keep your recruits informed, and do so with simple messages that are easily and quickly understood.
  1. Always tell them what’s next.  If you can, narrow it down to one thing.  Make it straightforward instead of complicated and time-intensive. You prospects and their parents both want and need to know how the next part of the process works. By doing this you will increase their comfort levels and minimize what can otherwise easily become a stressful time in their lives.
  1. Make appointments. For some strange reason too many counselors continue to pick random times to contact their recruits, and then wonder why they rarely connect. Setting up a date and time to speak with your prospects and parents takes the guesswork out of phone calls. It also helps block out your competition from contacting your prospect. Be sure and have a system in place for tracking these calls, because the worst thing you can do is either forget to call, or mix up one recruit’s information with another. It sounds easy enough, but are you consistently doing it?
  1. Don’t just deliver, but over-deliver. How you ask? Start by being sincere when you communicate with them. Then deliver more than what they’re expecting, specifically during the campus visit. Focus more on why things matter to them during the tour, and provide additional opportunities for personal interaction with your students and other members of your campus community who will be impactful. If you exceed their expectations in those areas, you’ll win almost every time.
  1. Deadlines.  Talk about deadlines far in advance. Reiterate when they need to submit specific paperwork, and why sending in their deposits in a timely manner once they’ve been accepted is vital. Deadlines will keep them focused on the task at hand.
  1. Be where your customers are. More of your prospects are using social media. As a result they expect to be able to engage with you online. Responding to questions quickly and providing behind the scenes content via the various social media platforms is imperative. The more knowledgeable you become about how social media works, the better.
  1. When a prospect chooses another school. Sometimes no matter how great your customer service is, your prospect will choose to go elsewhere. The reasons rarely make sense, but that’s the reality. When this happens send them a personal note wishing them well. Tell them you’re even excited for them. That kind of service will pay dividends when others around them inquire down the road about your institution, and the overall experience that they received from you.

If you want a team of proven recruiting experts to help you improve your customer service, click here for more information.

Determining Where Things Stand With Your RecruitsMonday, January 5th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Remember the easy button? You know, that big red button that Staples used to feature in their television commercials. All you had to do was press it and your frustrating situation became simpler. Imagine if your admissions office had one that you could press right now and instantly figure out where your school stands in the minds of your prospects.

Okay back to reality. We all know there’s no easy button for college admissions. Trying to decode the mind of a teenager is a formidable challenge. Unfortunately that’s the reality for admissions teams across America. You’ve been working hard trying to convince your senior prospects that your school is the “right fit.” Phone calls, hand-written letters, emails and maybe even a visit to their high school. You’ve done it all. Let me ask you then, “Is it a done deal?” I’m guessing that many of you just paused for a second before answering. Don’t worry you’re not alone.

One of the biggest parts of a recruiter’s job is to ask questions of prospective students and their parents. The better the questions, the greater the chance you have of connecting with that prospect. There’s a problem though, even for many veteran counselors. You hold yourself back from asking the right questions at the right time because you’re worried about being too pushy. I’m going to encourage you to change that mindset. It’s been proven time and time again as we’ve worked with colleges around the country, that asking great questions will result in prospects opening up and revealing their wishes and fears to you. You will then be able to connect their desires with what your school can offer.

Let’s discuss a few ideas that might be suitable for your admissions team to employ during the latter stages of the recruitment process. Doing these will help reveal what your prospects are thinking.

  1. If you think they might be concealing an objection, it’s time to do more probing. Try asking questions like, “Do you and your parents agree on which college you should attend?” Or, “Sometimes prospects that I talk to have a question about (objection). Is that something that’s on your mind?” If you’ve been transparent and honest up to this point you’ve likely gained their trust. Getting them to reveal that critical objection allows you to address it and continue to move the process forward.
  1. Test out their willingness to engage with you by doing what we refer to as “trial close” offers. For example, are they willing to tell you that when admitted they plan to immediately send in a housing deposit? Getting an affirmative answer is a good sign that more than likely they will eventually act on that statement. Make sure you conduct small “tests” such as this first before you ask for the big commitment.
  1. Utilize mom and dad. I cannot overemphasize just how big a role your prospects’ parents will play in their child’s decision-making process. Our research continues to confirm it. If you still haven’t accepted that fact than your competition already has a leg up on you. For those of you who have cultivated that relationship through separate messaging and communications, next time you have a scheduled call with mom or dad probe them for additional information. Parents will generally tell you more when their child isn’t around.
  1. Make your commitment to them clear. It’s both simple and obvious, yet many counselors neglect to do it. Your prospect has probably applied to six or seven different colleges and needs ways to differentiate between them. Reminding him or her through consistent messaging will reiterate how much of a priority they remain to you and your institution. This is something they want, need and will thank you for. Inconsistency on the other hand, particularly with your letters and emails, is likely to cause a recruit to question your school’s interest, as well as slow down their communication with you at a critical juncture in the process.

Gathering information via effective questioning will allow you to understand how your recruit’s feelings and emotions will play into their final decision. When handled with precision, these are the types of conversations that remind prospects you’re trying to understand them as a person. They also reveal any late game changes that you may need to incorporate into your recruiting game plan.  

Do you get the feeling that your recruiting should be doing better at this point in the year?  Our team of experts can help.  We work with large and small colleges around the country, and are helping them produce some of their best recruiting classes ever.  Our systematic, research-based approach works.  Want more information?  Email Jeremy Tiers directly at jeremy@dantudor.com and ask for a complete overview of our Admissions Recruiting Advantage program.

Why Being Different Works With Your RecruitsMonday, December 29th, 2014

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Over the holiday break I ran into a former neighbor of mine that I hadn’t seen in almost a year. While catching up I found myself trying to figure out what was different about him.

People are programmed to notice what’s different.

We consistently stress to our clients the importance of taking a creative approach and standing out when it comes to recruiting. For some of you that may be a scary proposition. Sure, it’s far easier to use the same tried and true approach. Don’t be surprised though when it produces mixed results. More than ever, this generation of students wants and needs to see, hear and feel something different if you’re going to separate your school from the competition and successfully enroll them.

Once you’ve accepted the fact that it’s okay to be different, I encourage you to also keep in mind that not every prospective student is one in the same. That means a great recruiting idea that generates results with one student might not be effective for another. Your admissions team must always remember who a prospect is and why a particular message is important to them.

There are many instances when differentiating yourself or your school can be beneficial. Here are four aspects of the recruiting process where we’ve seen schools take a different approach and subsequently make a considerable impact with their prospects.

  1. Your letters, particularly the early ones. Too often counselors start by sending lengthy form letters that talk about the school’s name and reputation, while also listing a plethora of facts, figures and rankings. If you’re trying to create a reaction from the recruit, which you absolutely should be, this isn’t the way to do it. Want to be different? As you start to tell stories you need to find ways to connect with your prospect. Incorporating personal details about him or her, as well as their likes into your story-telling is an effective way to start creating those all important “feelings.”
  1. Your campus visits. We covered this topic in detail in a previous post, but let me give you a couple of new ideas. If possible with your high-level recruits, create the opportunity to spend 5 minutes visiting with your school’s President. That kind of personal attention is hard to match.  Or, how about providing solid information regarding recent graduate incomes from the specific major your recruit is considering. Many students struggle to understand the value of a particular degree, so here’s a chance for you to provide valuable information and stand out.
  1. Your phone conversations. At the end of every phone call with a prospective student you should be asking yourself a question – “Are they looking forward to the next time I call?” If you have any doubts, start by reading this. Now, let’s expand a little on how you can make your phone calls even more memorable. If you’re expecting a list of cool and exceptional ideas that have worked for our clients with this one, sorry but that’s not the goal. Rather, the key point I want you to take away is to be original. Once you have gathered personal details about your recruit, at the appropriate time during your conversation, try throwing out something unexpected. If you have a hard time coming up with something, think about some non-traditional ideas that will separate your conversation from the other counselor phone calls the recruit is receiving. Being innovative will take some extra time, but it will produce results.
  1. How you recruit others around the prospect. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself who’s recruiting your prospects for you when you’re not? It’s an important question. Our research shows that parents are the most important outside influence your recruit will utilize when it comes to making their decision. But you already know that. So, let me start by reminding you to cultivate your relationship with mom and dad, and don’t forget that separate messaging to them is a must. Now let’s discuss everybody else that matters in your recruit’s life. These may include their siblings, best friend, girlfriend/boyfriend, high school counselor and possibly another mentor at school or in the community. If you want to be different, it’s time you started connecting on various levels with each of these influencers, so they too understand why your school is the best option. It may not make sense, but the research shows that prospects will often go against their own gut and side with some of these highly influential outside decision makers.

When recruits believe that their college choices all offer the same thing, they naturally must see the people selling them as different to make a choice. How different are you? It’s crucial to come up with ways throughout the recruitment cycle to differentiate both your institution and yourself, without becoming too weird of course. When you’re consistently different and take an alternative approach, it will get noticed, and you will generate positive outcomes.

After the holidays comes New Years, and with New Years comes resolutions!  If you are focused on developing a more research-based, strategic approach to the recruiting process, talk to Jeremy Tiers and the Tudor Collegiate Strategies team. To get an overview of how the process works, and what they do when they work with an admissions staff as clients, click here.  Or, contact Jeremy directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

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