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2 Things Before You Go On BreakTuesday, December 18th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

As you finish up your final few days in the office for 2018, I’ve got two things I want you to think about.

First, when you interact with prospective and admitted students and their parents in the coming weeks, be mindful that you’re one of a number of colleges reaching out to them through the many different channels.

For you to have a productive back-and-forth conversation, you need to understand how to influence them on a personal level. That means taking the time to really get to know who they are if you haven’t done so already – specifically their wants, needs, motivations, and fears as they pertain to the college search. The key to all of that is consistently asking the right kinds of questions that then allow the other person to take control of the conversation and express their thoughts and opinions on different things.

If you don’t take this approach, you go from being someone who they’re excited to learn more from, to just another college representative delivering a sales pitch…no matter how much they like your college on the surface.

Much like I never forget those who connect with me and thank me for helping them, your students and their parents will remember you when you consistently make this process about them. Caring, being thoughtful, being accessible, and just being plain relatable never go unnoticed, even if they don’t verbalize that to you.

Once they “know you” and it’s clear you’re consistently trying to help guide them through the college search process, they’ll listen and they’ll engage as you tell various aspects of your school’s story and explain why your college is a good fit for them. But it has to be about them.

Let me add one word of caution. While relationship building is extremely important, so is action. Relationship building without action (i.e. getting them to take the next step in the process) makes yielding a student much harder.

The second thing I want to bring to your attention is a question that needs to be answered – How is your school really different from the other colleges that your admitted students have on their lists?

Students tell us in surveys that they cut down their list of schools to two or three and then proceed to really struggle with how to differentiate between them. So, if one of your admits asked you that question, what would your response be?

Sure, a lot of colleges offer similar experiences, but there are also a lot of things that make your school, and every other college that your students are considering “unique.”

For example, instead of saying you have “professors who care,” start providing concrete, detailed examples of how they care (i.e. tell more stories). And if you have a “friendly, welcoming community,” then give some more context that allows the students to connect the dots and understand what that exactly means, why that kind of atmosphere is important, and how it will make their experience at your school more enjoyable and worthwhile.

These two little things can make a big difference, so please take a second and think how they apply to your day-to-day.

And don’t forget, next Tuesday’s newsletter will contain the most popular articles of 2018.

You Have to Ask Them Better QuestionsTuesday, December 11th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

Last week I talked about paying close attention to the way that you start your sentences when you talk to prospective students. The words that you choose to use will either elicit a response, or you’ll get a whole lot of nothing.

The same thing goes every time you ask questions. Depending on the words you use, you’re either going to get the “right” answer (Aka the answer the student thinks they should give you), no answer at all, or an insightful answer with context and usable information.

Standard, vanilla questions produce standard, vanilla answers. You simply don’t come away with anything useful. A perfect example of that happened last week with San Antonio Spurs basketball coach Gregg Popovich. After a loss to the LA Lakers in which LeBron James scored 42 points, a reporter asked Coach Popovich why it was so difficult for his players to guard LeBron. “Have you watched LeBron play before?” Popovich said with a straight face, pausing for an eye roll and dramatic head shake. “He’s LeBron James. That’s what makes him difficult to guard.”

I want you to always ask yourself, “What do I hope to learn by asking this question?” If you do that consistently, you’ll be able to formulate a better, more effective question.

Three other important things I want you to keep in mind:

  • In your first conversation, don’t bombard them with all kinds of yes/no questions and a push to visit campus or complete their application. Do that, and it’s likely you’ll overwhelm them. Concentrate more on putting the student’s mind at ease and eliminating any fears they might have. Your goal should be to get them comfortable enough to talk back-and-forth with you. For some students that might actually take multiple conversations, and that’s okay.
  • While many of the best questions are open ended and probing, closed questions (questions that can be answered with a yes or a no) are helpful in some situations, such as negotiations. There comes a point where it’s imperative to not allow the other person to avoid answering the question.
  • Avoid using complicated admissions and enrollment management jargon.

Now, here are a few examples of questions that have been turned into better questions:

Question: What are you looking for in a college?

Better Question: What are two things that your future college has to have?

Question: What can I help you with right now?

Better Question: What’s the most confusing part of the college search process for you right now?

Question: Are you going to finish your application soon?

Better Question: Can you help me understand why you started your application but haven’t finished it yet?

Question: What did you think of the visit?

Better Question: What did you like the most about our campus?

After you ask any question, be prepared to ask a follow-up question based on the answer you get back. Follow up questions show that you’re listening, you care, and you want to know more. Three great ones that can be used in a number of different situations are:

  • Why is that important to you?
  • What does that mean?
  • Can you help me understand that better?

If you need help turning a question into a better question, shoot me a quick email…happy to help.

P.S. It’s also worthwhile to create a list of effective questions (Google Doc or something similar) that can constantly be updated by the admissions counselors, tour guides, student callers, etc. That way everybody has something to reference when it comes to common situations.

Avoid Saying This in Your Emails, Calls and TextsTuesday, December 4th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

Words matter. Words compel us to do things, and they also bore us to the point where we stop paying attention or listening. This is especially true for every prospective student that you’re trying to enroll right now…traditional undergrad or non-traditional.

Considering how hard it is to get and keep the attention of anybody these days, it’s important to know which words and phrases to avoid.

Over the past few years I’ve identified three words that a lot of admissions counselors and student callers use that provide little to no benefit for them.

They use these words to start a new email. And they use them quite often at the beginning of a phone call or when they send a text message.

The problem is, when you say these three words together, you risk slowing down the recruiting process, or worse, stopping it altogether.

Those three words are, “I was just…”

Think about it for a minute. Have you ever said, “I was just calling to see if…” or, “I was just checking in” or, “I was just making sure that…”

So what is it about “I was just” that makes it so bad in a recruiting situation? When you use that phrase, students all know what you want: You want information, or you want an update. You need to find out if the student is close to completing their application, finishing the FAFSA, picking a time to visit campus, or making a decision.

And, since you don’t want to pressure that 16 to 24 year old, you slide into the conversation by saying, “I was just…”

When you use those three words together, what you’re doing in a lot of cases is giving that student (or parent) the unintended message that they don’t need to take action right now. And, depending on the topic of the discussion, you might be telling them (believe it or not) that they aren’t all that important to your school.

“I was just” can be paralyzing because:

  • It’s not the truth. You weren’t just “checking in” when you called or emailed that last student, were you? You were trying to extract some concrete information or a progress report so that you could figure out what to do next.
  • It conveys weakness. There isn’t much energy behind the phrase, and that gives off the wrong impression to the student.
  • It gives them permission to put you off. If you say something like, “I was just calling to see if you’ve finished your application?”  They might respond, “Not yet, I’ve just been so busy with school and stuff.” And since it sounds like there’s no urgency on your part, they figure they’ve got more time, and it’s no big deal.

Instead of using that phrase I want you to use language like this:

  • “The deadline for that paperwork is coming up soon <Student name> and I want to make sure that you don’t miss it because…”
  • “I want your feedback on…”
  • “I want you to come visit campus next month because…”
  • “A lot of students tell me they’re scared and overwhelmed at this point, and I want to know if you’re feeling that way?”

Each of those phrases is strong, and they’re going to prompt action.  But even more importantly, they’re going to demand a reply.

Moving forward, I encourage you to really focus on how you start out your sentences when you begin conversations with prospective students, and parents for that matter. Same thing goes if your school utilizes student callers at any stage.

This is a small thing that will produce a big ROI.

Was today’s article helpful for you? I’d love your two cents. And if it was helpful, then forward it on to a colleague that you think might benefit from it as well.

Admissions Newsletter Survey ResultsTuesday, December 4th, 2018

A couple of weeks ago I asked you to answer two very important questions.

Q1: What one quality do you value the most in a leader?

Q2: What one piece of advice would you give a new admissions professional or tell your past self?

The survey was 100% anonymous, and I think the feedback will be invaluable for a lot of readers as well as myself. Regardless of your current title or years of experience in college admissions, you’re going to want to read these answers. My hope is they will be what pushes someone to make a major change, or what helps them take a major step forward in their career.

Thanks again to everyone who participated!

If you have any questions about this survey you can contact me directly at: jeremy@dantudor.com

 

Q1. What ONE QUALITY do you value the most in a leader?

1 Compassion– cares about me as a person
2 Cool-headed.
3 Equipping – preparing your people and then allowing them to do what you have equipped them to do. No need to micromanage, but let them bring their unique gifts to the role you have given them and prepared them for.
4 Willingness to have you grow
5 communication
6 Being in the trenches with me.
7 Motivational
8 Non micro-manager. The ability to let me do my work, yet provide input when needed.
9 Communication and compassion. I know you only listed 1 but I feel as though these two go hand in hand. A leader who can articulate what they want but being able to compassionately article this is a skill not many have. This is a skill that will help team members run through a wall or run away. By being able to be compassionate and understand the personal traits of a team, one can clearly communicate the goals of the project/overall goal.
10 Honesty
11

 

Clear vision
12 Transparency
13 Honesty
14 I value a leader who allows their staff do complete their work and balance their home-life with work-life. There’s nothing worse than a slave driver who expects counselors to be all work, all the time. Holding a team accountable doesn’t have to come at the expense of a team’s happiness or sanity.
15 The ability to listen
16 Respect
17 Transparency
18 Honesty
19 passion – people will follow with excitement. passion for why we do what we do will affect how we do it.
 

20

The ability to admit when they are wrong (i.e. ability to be humble and vulnerable…), yet maintain their strength and dignity.
21 SUPPORT
22 Thoughtfulness-in thinking through new ideas before responding, in deciding how to present a new idea, in their care and keeping of their direct reports, and in how they treat all others.
23 Authenticity
24 The ability to get their hands dirty. If they ask me to do something, I don’t necessarily expect them to do it, but if they are willing to give a campus tour in the freezing cold and put themselves my shoes I really respect that.
25 Honesty – regardless of the situation, be honest and straightforward in address any issue you face.
26 Humility
27 inteGRITy: courageously holds to their strong principles & character (my work around for giving my top two qualities in one 🙂
28 Appreciation…knowing and being acknowledged that the effort and work you put in to be successful is appreciated and valued by your supervisor/leader.
29 Honest communication
30 Consistency
31 Kindness
32 Willingness to roll up his/her sleeves and adequately contribute to the boring but necessary work alongside his/her subordinates.
33 Courage.   The courage to trust your instincts, fight for what needs to be done in the office, and the courage to allow the employees to work smart.
34 Mentor. A great admissions leader is able to help their staff achieve their professional goals and mentor the next generation of admissions leaders.
35 Vulnerability
36 Transparency
37 Trust
38 Direction. I want to know what way our department is going. The goals and objectives. Our mission of who we are. Need a leader that has a clear direction and always refers to it.
39 Communication
40 Transparency
 

 

41

The one quality that I value the most in a leader is the quality to take charge and get things done when things need to be done. That can mean taking care of unnecessary drama in the workplace or helping to motivate the team to meet a weekly goal.
42 Honesty/integrity
43 sense of humor
44 I think the best leaders know how to collaborate in such a way that values people and their opinions while still being able to make the hard decisions when it is not the most popular.
45 Vision
46 Integrity
47 I value someone who has a servant mindset and is willing to listen, encourage and lead from behind rather than in front.
48 Availability – being available to the team for support and guidance.
49 A leader has to make his/her team feel safe and supported so they can take risks and make choices that allow for creative problem solving. If support doesn’t come from leadership, the work place is stunted from the get-go.
50 Confidence
51 Candid.
52 The quality I value most in a leader is the ability to clearly and coherently define the vision and how each individual fits into that vision.
53 I’ve found a strong leader shoulders the pressure put on our office and motivates us in ways so we do not always feel that pressure. Another strong quality if communication.

 

Q2. What ONE PIECE OF ADVICE would you give a new college admissions professional or tell your past self?

1 There is a LOT to take in as a first year counselor; don’t be afraid to ask lots and lots of questions
2 You are the expert.
3 Establish a work life balance early on
4 When you focus on doing your job you don’t have to worry about acing one task… your consistent work ethic is more appreciated.
5 Call and ask questions that allow you to KNOW the student, their goals, fears, and expectations.
6 You can do everything right and still lose a student to another school. That’s okay. Don’t take it personally.
7 Take time for mini (not many) breaks throughout the day. At the end of the day, be satisfied with your work efforts.   We all live in a 24 hour day, and we need to balance our work load, as well as create a time to cease work and live a home life.
8 Do not wait! Jump in and explore. Find a mentor and jump into your local affiliates. This will help you learn more about the community you are enrolling in. Do not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone either. This could be by either traveling for recruitment or presenting at a local conference. Do it!
9 Be patient.   Rome was not built in a day so don’t expect to know everything about admissions when you start. It takes a good year to understand this crazy line of work!
10 Don’t be afraid to work harder than your peers.
11 Don’t assume you know everything! Be open to learning.
12 Don’t forget to take care of yourself and make your wellness a priority. It’s like the oxygen masks on airplanes…put the oxygen mask on yourself before you   help someone else. You can’t adequately help someone else if you are struggling to breathe.
13 Stay on top of work and don’t let it build up. Letting your workload build to a point where it controls your life is the kiss of death. Stay up on work even if it means extra-time in the office now and then. Admissions isn’t a 9-5 job or always just 40 hour weeks. If you try to operate that way, it will build up and you’ll be working 50, 60 or 70+ hours a week to catch up. You will resent that and won’t last in the profession if it happens.
14 The importance of networking
15 ASK QUESTIONS, no matter how obvious you may think the answer “should” be
16 A student may not always be the right fit for YOUR institution. But you will always feel good as a professional if you help them find the right fit, even if it’s not your school.
 

17

 

To immediately get to know your IT person and dive into the data before forming any plan or goal.

18 be a builder – build relationships across so many channels, students, families, academics, athletics, community, high school leaders,
 

19

View your job as a “professional life-changer.” What you say DOES matter in the futures of each and every student you meet. You are not the important person in the whole process…the STUDENT is the most important person and should be the center of your focus.   Referring a student to another college can be just as important and significant as recruiting them to yours. There has to be a fit. It is all about the student and his/her needs. Not yours.
20 self-care and balance are just as important as getting your job done. You can’t do a good job, if you aren’t at 100%.
21 Strive to be the best one in your office at everything. The first one in the office, the last one to leave, the one who volunteers, the one who takes the appointment no one wants, the person with ideas, the person who gives feedback openly and the one who asks for more opportunities.
22 Every application is a human being
23 Do not be afraid to ask questions! Even if you think it might be a silly or stupid question, just ask. It is better to ask questions and do something right than to do something wrong and ask how to fix it.
24 Learn as much about the FA process as you can. Admissions and FA are so interwoven that you need to understand how aid is used at your institution to shape a class and achieve desired institutional objectives.
25 Refuse to be passive: take initiative and don’t abdicate responsibility. “How to Lead Change When You’re Not In Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority”: I’ve used the principles in this book with both my staff & student workers and wish I had this as a new counselor.
26 Focus on relationship management, more than the individual recruitment of students and families. The more you focus on the relationship, the easier the recruitment piece will be. Don’t limit relationship management to the prospective students/families you work with. Focus on establishing meaningful relationships with your colleagues (inside and outside of your department), high school counselors, and any influencers in your purview. This will undoubtedly assist you both as you start your career, but continuing on as you progress in your career.
27 Work to live, don’t live to work
28 Be genuine and hold true to your word
29 To my past self: you know more than you give yourself credit for.
30 Don’t try to do everything because you can’t; ask more seasoned colleagues what matters most, and start there.
 

31

 

Infotain. That is what admissions is all about. Deliver your information about you school in a way that is fun and engaging with students, families, and counselors.

32 Learn as much as you can. Understand not just the admissions process but also know how that intersects with other processes (e.g., financial aid). Work to become the “one stop” person for that student you work with. While you cannot answer every question, students, and their families, always appreciate it when you can provide them with the basic information to assist them in making decisions.
33 Get very comfortable with the phrase, “I don’t know the answer to that question, but I know who does… I’ll get right back to you!”
34 It is okay to question leadership. Clarity is important and, sometimes, you can’t get there without asking questions.
35 You’ll work strange and long hours, but don’t forget to take care of yourself, both mentally and physically.
36 Learn as much as you can about technology. It is going to be the best way to figure out how to connect with students in the future.
37 Volunteer to help in the office when it is asked or needed. It is a great way to learn something new and also to shine a bit for stepping up in the office.
38 Be real and try your best to not sound rehearsed. Information is important but a REAL relationship with the student is invaluable.
39 One piece of advice that I would give a new college admission profession or tell my past self is that everything will always work out. All you need to do is to give yourself some time.
40 No matter your role, realize that you have the ability to put someone’s life on a completely different trajectory. All of your actions, no matter how seemingly insignificant–taking that extra minute to explain the financial aid process or advocating for that borderline student–directly impacts the students with which you work. Never cease to be humbled by that and let that be your motivation on the most difficult days.
41 It’s okay (and good!) to think outside the box! Share ideas, contribute to brainstorm sessions. Know that it’s okay to fail, as long as you’re always failing forward and learning from any mistakes or missteps along the way.
42 When you get ready for work in the morning, leave your toes at home. If you want to be successful then it takes working hard and most times working hard with people who are smart and also work hard. People are going to disagree with you and at times, you might look stupid. But take risks and don’t get upset on the small things. This means that toes are going to get stepped on. Similar to my answer for the first question – we need to care about people but we cannot only make decisions to please people so that it benefits ourselves. The best decisions and actions will sometime have to step on some toes for the greater good of our students and our schools.
43 Give yourself a year before making final judgment on the approaches your office takes.
44 Be open to taking on responsibilities that may not fall within your defined job duties.
45 Take time to ask questions, journal, and take timeouts to be creative with your approaches. If you get too caught up in the day to day tasks, you lose sight and creativity.
46 Stay positive and don’t sweat the small stuff.
47 Get on the road early. Being an in-house counselor or a new counselor is a great time to learn lots of information. The only way you improve what you do is by working with the raw material, messing up, changing your approach, and working with students. Being on the road is the best place to show what you really do know and what you’re still learning. Pair up with a seasoned counselor and hit some fairs. Answer the phones and emails. Ask questions. Start there and you’re on your way to being an admissions wizard in no time. Trial by fire is the only trial you need in the first two months.
48 Find balance. Admission requires a lot of you, and while it can be VERY rewarding, it can also be very draining. Find other passions and find the balance.
49 Be honest, be you, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s how you grow, and that’s how you develop as a professional.
50 Don’t take rejection personally. At the end of the day, the potential student isn’t saying no to you, but to the school.
51 Slow your roll! Stay the course. Keep your eye on the prize and work hard. Put all the other garbage away and worry about the things you can control.

 

Do You Have the Answer Yet?Tuesday, November 27th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

“Apps are up” is something I’m hearing a lot this fall as I talk with college admission leaders. Our conversation then quickly turns to how their staff will manage a busier than usual application load.

When a student applies to your school they’re demonstrating a level of interest. They’re also giving you what I referred to in a recent article as a “little yes.” Accumulating those “little yeses” each time you communicate with a prospective student or parent is important because it will make asking for the big yes down the road (their commitment/deposit to your school) much easier and less stressful because they’ve already given you a bunch of agreements along the way.

While positive interactions are valuable and important, negative feedback can also be extremely helpful. That may sound a little confusing but stick with me here because this is a strategy that will help you keep things moving forward with a lot of your students who have applied.

It’s been proven that young people are driven by fear. And that means in many cases they continue to have very little apprehension when it comes to not exactly telling admissions counselors the whole truth during their college search process.

Because of this it’s extremely important for admissions counselors to continue to ask effective, targeted questions after a student applies. Sitting back and waiting because you either don’t want to come across as pushy or you’re convinced they know everything they want/need to know, is not a smart strategy at this stage. Do either and it’s likely you’ll lose more students later on than you anticipated because some were never telling you the whole truth to begin with.

Instead, here’s what I want you to do next. Put together and/or print a current list of all of your apps.

Now, if I asked you to tell me what the one thing is that may prevent each of those students on your list from matriculating after being admitted, do you know what the answer is? It might even be more than one thing. And please don’t assume “cost” if you aren’t sure. If a student hasn’t told you something specific, it’s time to search out that answer.

Go ahead and ask a question like, “If you were going to tell me no at the end of this process and choose another school, what do you think would be the #1 reason why you’d do that?”

If cost or financial aid is their answer, I want you to immediately ask a follow-up question like, “Help me understand that better.” You need to get them to explain the why behind that answer because I continue to find that a lot of students just default to saying cost or financial aid because it’s the easy way out.

Once you have that answer, it’s now time come up with a strategy to help the student or parent(s) overcome their objection or fear.

The sooner you can gather this information and help them overcome their objection or alleviate their fear, the greater the chance they’ll take the next step in their process.

Let me also add that depending on the size of your school, you may have to sort your list of apps further based on other measures of demonstrated interest. Start with the highest ranking students or those who have shown the most demonstrated interest to this point and then work your way backwards. This will help you manage your time effectively.

One more thing – It’s very rare for a student or parent(s) not to have an objection (big or small) or fear about every single college that’s under serious consideration. Whether they choose to tell you about it or not depends on the recruiting relationship that you have or have not created and cultivated up to this point.

If you have a question about this article or you’d like my advice on a specific situation you’re dealing with, reply back and we’ll talk.

Have a great rest of your week!

How to Persuade Them Through Small WinsTuesday, November 13th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

It’s important to take your time and lead prospective students through the process of understanding all the different reasons why they should want to choose your school over the other colleges on their list.

That involves persuasion and patience…sometimes a lot of patience. Always remember though that the college search process for a student is exactly that, a process.

Too many colleges right now are trying to skip steps and accelerate a student’s decision-making process. They’re pushing them to visit campus and/or complete their school’s application before the student feels ready to do so. Sometimes that works, but typically those students struggle after they’re admitted to understand what really makes that school different from their other finalists. They end up being the students who tell you things like, “I need some more time to think about it,” or “I’m not sure yet.”

Along with persuasion, you need to begin to lay the groundwork for agreement in the early stages. Consistent messaging and personalized communication are one of the most effective ways to do that. Another is by asking effective, targeted questions each time and then listening closely. Both involve patience.

Patience is also at the heart of this next strategy that I want you to adopt if you’re not doing it already – Gaining agreement through small wins, or as I refer to them in workshops, “little yeses”.

When you get a prospective student (or their parent) to offer agreement to something and give you that “little yes”, versus you telling them what they should do/think, they’re more likely to move forward in the process and complete their next step.

Here are some examples:

  • You get the student to reply back to an email with the answer to a question you asked
  • You get the student to agree to set up a phone call with you
  • You get the student to agree to talk to their parents about visiting campus
  • You get the parent and student to agree to have the cost/paying for college talk
  • You get the student to agree that your college’s location is going to be a plus
  • You get the student to agree that filling out the FAFSA now can be beneficial
  • You get the parents to agree that your campus is a safe environment, and you have programs in place to help their child successfully transition to college life
  • You get the student to agree on what the next step in their process will be

I would classify each of those things as small wins.

Think about how you can gain at least one “win” every time you interact with a prospective student (or parent). If you do, it will make asking for the big yes (their commitment/deposit) much easier and less stressful because they’ve already given you a bunch of agreements along the way. In some cases they may even be persuaded to pay more.

There’s proven research behind this idea. Develop a plan to implement it, or let me know if you need help. This is another way for you to stand out from your competition.

We Need to Talk About Those Emails and LettersTuesday, November 6th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

We need to talk about them because words like confusing, overwhelming, and boring continue to show up in our surveys way too often when we ask students about the emails and letters they receive, and the conversations they have, with colleges during their search.

Too many colleges still don’t appreciate the need for using the right language in their recruiting communications. The result is lower levels of engagement and less action being taken.

I’m not just referring to what your marketing and communications staff might send out either. I’m also talking about the emails, letters, hand-written notes, and text messages that admissions counselors send out on any given day, as well as the phone calls that they make.

They all have a structure to them. And there’s a right way to construct and deliver your message if the goal is to get a response, have the reader take another specific action, or get a back-and-forth conversation going. That’s what I’m going to help you with today, because many of the students considering your school right now will engage with you throughout their college search process if you follow these best practices.

  • Don’t try and “sell” your school at the start. There are all kinds of studies out there that suggest we’re more likely to reply to something that doesn’t sound like an advertising message. Many initial messages that colleges construct jump right in to “selling” their school. My recommendation is that you be patient and take a long-term approach. Start by getting them comfortable enough to engage with you, and then ask them questions that allow you to discover their wants, needs, fears, etc. Very few inquiries or prospects (especially high school students) are ready to take in sales-related messaging from a school right away.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. As I’ve explained many times before, students are scared and confused during their college search…about a lot of things. Before you send them any sort of communication, read it and ask yourself if you would find this both helpful and easy to read. The answer needs to be yes to both. And if you want to be extra sure then go ahead and show it to one of your current students or student workers and ask them for their thoughts. It’s okay to do that. Understanding your audience helps you to determine how you should arrange your information and what kind of details will be important for a specific segment of your population. It also influences the tone of the text, which is something I’ll get into more about in a just a minute.
  • Let them know that you want and value their feedback. It might surprise you but students tell us in surveys that they wish colleges would ask their opinion on things. Many of those same students also want you to tell them that it’s both okay for them to offer feedback, and that you appreciate their willingness to share.
  • Less is always better. I’m probably not the first, second, or even third person to tell you that your messages and conversations need to be shorter. Less really is more with this generation of students. Instead of trying to cram a bunch of different points on a specific topic into one email or one letter, break them up into sequential communications that connect and hammer home the big point you’re trying to make. And limit your paragraphs to one idea for clarity. When you don’t, it’s not only confusing, but it also can be downright overwhelming to your prospects (and their parents).
  • Word choice matters. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to increase your engagement levels, focus more on the words that you use. The solution is to take a less formal and more conversational approach. That approach won’t make you sound unprofessional. Instead, you’ll become more relatable, believable, and more authentic. Also, make it a goal to have your emails, letters, and texts flow just like a regular conversation, meaning don’t talk at the other person and give them orders, talk with them. Lastly, it’s okay to start the occasional sentence with the word “and,” “but,” or “because.” And it’s okay to use a … to continue a thought.
  • Tone matters. When you have a face-to-face conversation with someone you use their body language, specifically their tone and facial expressions, to assess how they feel. Letters, emails, and even text messages don’t allow for such a determination. That means you can’t tell when the other person misunderstands something. In addition to your word choices being important, both punctuation and capitalization matter. The tone you use will help you create excitement and anticipation.
  • Consistency matters. Make sure you’re communicating foundational, logical facts to prospective students about every six to nine days. That’s how often they want communication from a college according to our research. Along with your emails and letters mix in the occasional phone call and text message depending on the student’s preferences and the stage they’re at. Our research solidly indicates that when a student sees ongoing, regular contact from a college that follows the other points I’ve outlined so far, not only do they engage on a more regular basis, but they also make the judgment that the school is more interested in them, and values them. Those feelings are what every college should want prospective students to feel.
  • Establish a “go-to person.” I’ve talked about this at length in previous articles but it needs to be mentioned again. Have one consistent voice in your recruiting communications (emails, letters, phone calls, text messages). Eliminate the admissions.edu email address and/or the 1-800 number/general admissions office phone number. Students are less likely to engage with you when you take that approach for a number of reasons, namely fear. Establish a “go-to person” for all of their questions and concerns. That person, who I recommend should be their admissions counselor, should be doing the bulk of the communicating with a student/family from start to finish. We use this strategy in the messaging we create for colleges and it’s extremely effective.
  • One call to action, that’s it. I’ve been asked to review and offer feedback on a lot of recruiting emails this year, and almost every single one has had multiple calls to action. When you include more than one CTA you increase the chance for confusion and you decrease the chances that the student will do any of what you ask. Choose one thing and be clear. As a by-product of doing this you’ll also have shorter emails/letters.

Change is hard, I get it. But if you’re not getting engagement or you’re struggling to get students to take action I want you try one, two, or all nine of these things. They continue to work for our clients and other colleges I’ve recommended them to and I’m confident that they’ll work for you.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your colleagues.

P.S. I’m happy to review one of your current emails or a letter and offer an outside perspective if you’d like. No strings attached. All you have to do is email me and ask.

Doing This After the Campus Visit??Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

During a workshop I led last Friday, one of the things we discussed was personalizing the campus visit experience.

Part of that has to do with what you do, or don’t do, in the days following a student’s visit (i.e. your post-visit strategy). And by post-visit strategy, I’m not talking about sending a handwritten “thank you for visiting” note. That’s a nice touch, but there’s more to it than that if your goal is to continue to keep the process moving forward with that student.

As I explained to both the admissions staff and performing arts leadership during the aforementioned workshop, no student leaves a campus visit feeling the same way about that school as when they arrived. They’re either more excited or disappointed.

That’s why it’s extremely important for admissions counselors to ask targeted questions as part of their post-visit strategy. Doing so can provide counselors with some of the best information possible during a critical point in the student recruitment process. In most cases, the student will reveal all kinds of new information about their timeline as well as new feelings (both likes and dislikes) they may have following their visit to your campus…but only if you ask them the right kinds of questions.

Before I give you some targeted questions to use, let me start by addressing when and how this follow-up conversation should take place.

A lot of counselors tell me they meet with students/families after the walking tour or near the end of the visit. Their tendency is to immediately say something like, “So what did you think, Jeremy?” That eventually leads to some version of, “What questions can I answer for you now?” This strategy isn’t wrong, but my advice is to avoid this line of questioning at that time. Most students are still trying to process everything they just saw along with all of the information they received and conversations they had throughout the day.

Instead, my recommendation is that during your conversation with the student you make it clear that you know it was a busy day with a lot of people and a lot of information, so you want to give them a little time to process everything and talk things over as a family. Discuss setting up a short phone call together in the next 2-3 days and make it clear that the goal of that phone call will be to answer any questions they have and to discuss the student’s next steps. Make it a goal to schedule that call before they leave campus.

Here are some questions that I’ve recommended to admissions counselors that have produced valuable, actionable information. Consider asking the student one or more of these:

  • Can you walk me through what happens next for you?
  • What are one or two things that you wish you could change about our campus now that you’ve seen it?
  • What did your parents say about the visit when you talked with them?
  • What are your parents telling you to do at this point in the process?
  • What was the worst part of your visit here?
  • Did your visit here change how you feel about <Your school name>?
  • Are you planning to visit any other colleges soon?
  • What do you think the best part about living on our campus would be?
  • Would you be interested in coming back to campus later this year for a different event?
  • If you came back for another visit here, what would you want to see or experience again?
  • What do you want to see us talk about next?
  • Are you ready to take the next step in the process with us?

And if you have an opportunity to speak with the parent(s), consider asking one or more of these questions:

  • What advice did you give <Student name> after the visit?
  • What did you talk about the most as a family on the way home?
  • What were the biggest positives about our campus that stuck out to you?
  • What surprised you the most about our campus?
  • What do you see as the next step in this process for <Student name>?

Each one of these questions will allow you to gain some insights into how the student and their family are now viewing your school. Based on the answers you receive, you can then determine what your next set of actions needs to be.

Good luck, and enjoy the rest of your week!

P.S. Growing the campus visit program (i.e. adding more tour guides, hiring someone whose sole job is to manage the tour guides and your events, and increasing the amount of training that’s provided for tour guides) is one of FOUR RECRUITING STRATEGIES I believe we’ll see more of in college admissions and higher ed over the next few years. The other three?

I believe social media, specifically current student VLOGs, will grow in popularity and become part of an effective digital communication strategy.

I believe that colleges will create specific student advisory groups to offer feedback on specific recruitment projects. As an example, I talked to a social media manager the other day that created an influencer project team at her school this year designed to identify social media influencers.

And I believe that the number of colleges offering and investing in Esports programs will grow significantly.

Have You Asked These Questions Yet?Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

Today’s article will take you about 60 seconds to read and will give you a massive ROI if you follow through. Here we go!

Every time a college brings me to campus to lead a recruiting training workshop, I ask at least a couple of the admissions staff what was most helpful. One of the biggest things I hear goes something like, “I love all the questions that you gave us.”

Asking the right kinds of questions is without a doubt a game changer and something that will immediately separate you from your competitors.

Most of the students you’re recruiting are more than happy to share all kinds of useful and usable information if you simply ask questions about them, their process, their wants, needs, fears, concerns, likes, dislikes, etc. In some cases, they’ll tell you exactly how to successfully recruit them to your school.

With that in mind, here are four questions that you should immediately ask every single prospective student on your list (if you haven’t already)…especially seniors and juniors, and especially those with high demonstrated interest in your school. These questions will elicit a response, and that response can help you to move the process forward.

You can ask these questions during college fairs, high school visits, campus visits, in an email, letter, or over the phone.

  • What’s the biggest fear you have as you’re looking at different colleges?
  • What does the best college look like in your mind?
  • Have you and your parents had a conversation yet about paying for college and financial aid? (Whether they answer yes or no, your follow-up question should focus on the “4 buckets.” If you don’t know what I mean, click that link and scroll down)
  • What do you see as the next step in your college search?

If you ask one or more of these questions and then aren’t sure where to steer the conversation next, email, call or text me, and I’ll give you some immediate feedback. No strings attached.

Good luck, and check out the rest of this week’s newsletter for more tips, strategies, and news you need to know.

How Many of These 29 Things Are You Doing?Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

There are a number of different ways that you can create better recruiting stories. While I was doing some fall cleaning, I came across a bunch of them in various documents and notes on my MacBook.

My first thought was to pass along these tips and recruitment strategies to you in this week’s article. Not all of these will apply to you, but a lot of them will.

And whether you’re a long time reader or one of the many new people that have been added to my newsletter community over the past few weeks, reply back and let me know what you think about this article…or about the newsletter…or both. My goal continues to be to help admissions professionals grow, lead, and win. Thank you for your continued support!

  1. Write down three things you know prospective students don’t care about. Stop talking about those things immediately.
  2. You have to decide to tell your story. It starts there. Too often colleges revert to a list of statistics, facts and data that they relay to prospective students. Worse yet, most colleges stop telling their story way too early in the process, thinking (mistakenly) that once they actually begin speaking one-on-one with a student, they don’t need to continue telling their story.
  3. Eliminate the myth that direct mail isn’t effective as a communication tool. I know postage costs a lot, and yes eliminating or minimizing it would also save a lot of time. Too many colleges have decided that this generation doesn’t read mail and/or doesn’t want it. Our ongoing survey research continues to show the exact opposite. Students understand letters take more time to craft, and they use that as tangible proof that a college is “serious about them.” And if you want data to support this point, 58.4% of students in our surveys said they wanted a letter from a college once a month during their college search. Another 25.4% said once per week.
  4. Go through your upcoming emails and letters and take out all of the “big words.”
  5. Be okay with starting an occasional sentence with the word “and” or “but.” This generation of students could care less whether it’s grammatically correct or not.
  6. And use a more conversational tone. That won’t make you less professional, it will actually make you more relatable.
  7. Have one consistent voice in your recruiting communications (emails, letters, phone calls, text messages). That person, who I recommend should be the admissions counselor, should be doing the bulk of the communicating with a student/family from start to finish.
  8. Start a conversation about fear. A Director (and reader of this newsletter) did exactly that as part of her open house welcome remarks this past weekend. Multiple parents expressed their appreciation to her.
  9. Use Facebook if you want to tell your stories to parents on social media.
  10. Use Instagram and YouTube to tell your social media story to prospective students.
  11. Most colleges do not produce social media content native to each platform.
  12. Facebook ads and Instagram influencers. Google them both right now, and educate yourself if you haven’t already.
  13. Consider having one or more of your current students Vlog their journey during the school year. I’ve been recommending this to colleges for the last two years and the handful that have listened have seen amazing results. This is the next BIG thing. Be an early adopter.
  14. If you want to increase engagement, change your call to action to a question that asks for the reader’s feedback or opinion on something.
  15. Consistency over volume.
  16. The best idea won’t work without the right execution.
  17. If your current students were tasked with convincing their friends from high school (or community college) to choose your school, how would they do that? You should ask them and then discuss their feedback within your office.
  18. Don’t be afraid to talk about cost, value, and financial aid early on with parents (as well as their son or daughter).
  19. Don’t give up on students who don’t seem to be engaged with your story. Many are still listening and just not responding yet.
  20. As the recruiting process moves forward, the story should get more and more narrow, focused on them specifically.
  21. In many conversations, context matters more than you think.
  22. As you tell different stories, your goal right now in October should be to get them to campus…not to apply. Don’t skip this important step, because the campus visit continues to be where feelings occur and where the decision is made for many.
  23. The campus visit is the most important aspect of your story. Does everyone involved in your visits (namely your tour guides/student ambassadors) understand and believe that? What stories can they tell? And how is your campus visit a different feel from your competitors?
  24. Most parents will vote to have their son or daughter stay close to home, or go to the school that costs less, unless you tell them why your school is the better, smarter choice.
  25. It’s hard to continue to tell your story effectively later in the process if you don’t keep track of previous conversations with students and their parents in your CRM.
  26. Look for objections and enthusiastically address them with prospective students.
  27. A large majority of your admitted students need you to tell them why to pick your school over the others on their list.
  28. Recent student outcomes (by major) are becoming more and more important to this generation of students.
  29. Phone calls will continue to offer massive ROI to those who can execute them correctly. “Voice” leads to deeper relationships.

Recruiting, like story telling, is a process. Respect that process, manage it, and remember, it should always be about them.

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