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How to Keep Your Admissions Team MotivatedMonday, November 17th, 2014

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

During a conversation with one of my neighbors at the bus stop this morning she asked if I was ready for the change to colder weather. I reminded her that we had lived in northern Minnesota for four years, a place that by the way received their first snowfall of the season nearly two weeks ago. A 25-degree sunrise in central Indiana is a walk in the park.

Most of you reading this article are also undergoing a seasonal change. The college admissions cycle is transitioning from the “travel season” to the “reading season.” Gone are the days of driving from state-to-state executing college fairs, high school visits and other events on behalf of your school. Over the next few months staffs will review enormous piles of applications looking for those students who best fit their institutional profile. Any free moments during the selection process are likely to be spent sending emails, making phone calls and trying to meet the additional never-ending requests of what is commonly described as a grueling profession. It’s a demanding lifestyle where the pressure to achieve specific enrollment numbers increases stress and causes frequent frustration amongst the young professionals who are the face of most admissions teams.

Before we discuss different ways to motivate your team, it’s important to review the portrait of the admissions field. A July 2014 report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling titled, “Career Paths for Admission Officers: A Survey Report,” offered valuable insight about the profession. Findings were based on a survey of nearly 1,500 admissions officials. Nearly 44% had less than 3 years experience in their current position and more than half (55 percent) of respondents said they planned to seek a new career opportunity within two or three years. In short, experienced help is hard to find and even harder to keep around.

Some of the most important concerns voiced by this generation’s admissions and enrollment leaders related to lack of information about a career path and work-life balance. Their list of responsibilities on campus keeps increasing despite less funding and compensation. The growing pressure to enroll students is also leading to a more sales-based approach to recruitment. Combine all of this and you have a workforce that is stressed out, tired, and ultimately searching for daily motivation.

Motivation can be the determining factor for the amount of success a team achieves. In most instances, a successful group will have been motivated from start to finish. That doesn’t mean there won’t be days when it’s harder to drum up some enthusiasm and stay focused on the institutional mission. When those days occur I encourage you to remind your colleagues that the objective they’re working towards is greater than any individual.

Here are some suggestions on how to create and keep a motivated and confident admissions team:

Be a leader that others want to follow. There are a wide variety of leadership styles.  However you choose to lead, I cannot stress enough the importance of being consistent. Your team will model your actions. Being unpredictable will lead to an unstable work environment. Keep your word if you say you’re going to do something. This cultivates an environment of trust. No matter what they think of you, it’s vital that your staff has faith that in the end you will make the right decisions. According to a study by Interaction Associates, 82% of employees say being able to trust their managers is crucial to their work performance. Successful leaders also set realistic goals. Having an achievable goal that can be measured gives people something to shoot for and allows you to rate their performance at the end of the day. Lastly we have your mood. Regardless of how crazy your daily schedule may be or what personal issues you might be dealing with, your staff shouldn’t have to walk around on eggshells because they have a moody boss. It will negatively affect productivity and staff morale.

Remember that everyone is different. The worst mistake that good managers make, in my opinion, is treating each member of their staff the same way. As a leader it’s your responsibility to understand how to effectively manage the different members of your team. Getting to know your staff on an individual basis allows you to understand how they communicate and what motivates them. It will also help you to recognize strengths and provide high potential people with more freedom and decision-making opportunities. As a young college coach I learned this valuable life lesson rather quickly. Some of my players responded well to direct criticism, while others felt they were being attacked and as a result began to lose focus. Realizing this I created a personalized management style to address my players’ varying personalities. You can do the same thing with your counselors. Developing different strategies will result in your entire staff working smarter and more confidently.

Communicate clearly. Communication is essential to any relationship. If your staff is receiving mixed messages when it comes to expectations and performance, it will result in confusion and undesirable results. You can gauge whether or not your messages are being received clearly by asking specific questions during both staff and individual meetings. The responses will let you know if your directions or messages need to be conveyed thru a different approach, or even redesigned.

Create a career path. As I previously mentioned, many admissions counselors enter the field and quickly discover there’s a lack of information about possible career paths.  As a manager it’s beneficial to designate time during the year to discuss professional goals, both short and long term. Talk to them about the admissions career pyramid. Staff members who have a path set before them that may lead to promotion will create internal motivation. Plus, when an employee knows their boss has a genuine interest in them and their professional development, they’re more likely to perform well.

Mentoring. Setting up a mentoring program for your staff members who are new to the admissions field, or those recently promoted to a leadership position, is a great way to show you care about their well being. Mentors can transfer knowledge and help their mentees set and achieve career goals, while also introducing them to different networks of people in the admissions field. Additionally you will be giving the mentors ownership of something, which demonstrates confidence in them.

Ask for input and listen to new ideas. One of the easiest ways to develop trust with your staff is to ask for their input when it comes to making decisions that will affect them. Your team is the boots on the ground for your office and their insight is invaluable. Even if you choose not to implement their suggestions, simply listening will make your team happy and is a sign of mutual respect. Remember that when a staff member comes to you with an idea or a solution to a problem, it’s a sign that they care.

Ownership. Motivation comes through ownership, and ownership comes from engagement. The most effective workers are those who take ownership of their work. If they feel that an assignment or task is theirs they are more likely to demonstrate responsibility. Make sure that you delegate effectively. Clearly communicate who is the decision maker on a project. Giving your team ownership will create a more positive working environment.

Recognize professional achievements. Your team wants to feel that you as their boss value and appreciate their efforts. Talk is great, but public recognition is better. Numerous studies show that employees who don’t feel valued are unhappy and less productive.  Having a reward program in place or acknowledging them at a group setting is an easy way to show your gratitude. It doesn’t have to be a major achievement. Focus on even the small victories. We all enjoy receiving compliments.

Team building activities. Organizing a team outing particularly after a hard week is a great way for everyone to relax and let off some steam. It helps with work-life balance, which is something your staff wants and needs. You will be amazed at how something as simple as a nice dinner will recharge their batteries and build team camaraderie.

Reflection Time. Each member of your admissions team has impacted the lives of young people. It’s useful every once in a while to take some time to reflect on both the successes and the failures, because each can teach you about what works and what does not. It also allows people to see the fruits of their labor, and may even result in some great ideas for the future.

The admissions profession is full of challenges and frustrations. Finding ways to keep your staff motivated and engaged is an ongoing battle. If you follow these suggestions you could have a team that will be more self-driven and motivated to continually make every effort to achieve the enrollment goals of your institution.

Our Admissions Recruiting Advantage program focuses on what other admissions consulting groups often fail to address: Training your admissions representatives how to be effective, consistent sales professionals who can effectively communicate with your prospective students and help guide them towards a commitment to your college.  We identify your staff’s strengths and weaknesses and then develop training to specifically meet their needs in conjunction with your admission department goals.  Are you ready to let us help you?  Email Jeremy Tiers directly at jeremy@dantudor.com to start a conversation about how we would do that for you and your office.

10 Ways to Improve Phone Calls to Prospective StudentsMonday, November 10th, 2014

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I’m a frequent channel surfer. It’s a bad habit I know. During halftime of a recent college football game I came across the sports movie classic, Jerry Maguire. For me the 1996 film is one of those movies that I can watch over and over again. The key message in the film centers on personal relationships. At its core, the college admissions process is about making those same types of connections.

As college admissions professionals you are continually counseling prospective students on the admissions process and opportunities available at your institution. In this day and age a bulk of that guidance will occur primarily through phone calls and emails. I’m sure each of you has a preference, but remember that a well-balanced mix of communication is key.

One of the questions I always ask a college-bound student is whether they would rather receive an email or a phone call from a college that they’re interested in. Regardless of where the student is at in the process nearly all choose a phone call. Their reasoning is simple. It’s more personal and to them demonstrates genuine interest.

In talking with numerous admissions counselors and enrollment managers, engaging with prospective students on the phone is an all too frequent frustration. Most secretly admit they don’t enjoy it, particularly if it’s the first time in the admissions process that they’re interacting with the student. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that they’re not alone. The teenager on the other end often feels disconnected, in large part due to poor communication and lack of enthusiasm during the call. Too often admissions counselors become so focused on selling their school that they fail to display any personal attributes that would separate them from their competition.

Where do we go from here then? Just like in the movie it starts with forming that connection and showing a more likeable human side to your recruits. Here are 10 areas that you and your staff can target to help improve phone conversations and yield the results you’re looking for.

Etiquette. Eating, chewing gum, having music on, hearing other phones ringing in the background, or worse, other people yelling on their phone while you’re on a call are all impolite. Find a quiet area to make your phone calls from where you can be totally focused. Another common etiquette issue is speaking volume. Some people just don’t know how loud they are. Finally if you’re going to put the other person on speakerphone let them know.

Slow down and speak clearly. I’ve done my share of public speaking over the years. Early on I received some great advice. Speaking slower doesn’t make you boring but just the opposite. Slowing down makes you appear more articulate and knowledgeable, but be mindful that low energy will bore the other person. This is a skill that takes time to master so don’t get frustrated. Enunciating is also critical in conversation. You want to make sure there’s no chance that the other person didn’t understand the information you’re sharing.

Put them at ease right away. It’s a documented fact that speaking to an admissions counselor is a stressful experience for most prospective students. They really want to attend your school and are fearful that one wrong sentence could jeopardize their chances. Remind him or her that your job is to help them manage the college selection process. Your goal needs to be to get the other person comfortable enough to open up, ask questions, and then maintain a steady dialogue. One way to accomplish this is to have talking points prepared ahead of time. These need to be questions that focus on the student – not your institution. Showing genuine interest in them is more important long term than trying to get an answer to where your school ranks.

Questions, questions, questions. Most students who indicate that phone calls are helpful as part of the college selection process have similar reasoning. It allows them to ask questions, and more questions.  In short it personalizes the call.  Your counselors can also get a feel for the other person’s comfort zone by introducing a topic they want to discuss in a neutral way. Then it’s time to sit back, listen, and take notes. You will be amazed at the volume of information students are willing to share if they feel in control of the conversation.

Avoid information overload. Research shows that although our minds can amass limitless amount of information in our long-term memory, we can only focus on a small amount of information at any given time. The worst thing you can do is start spouting off facts about your school. This will overwhelm the other person, and as we just mentioned, students won’t remember everything they’re told anyways.

Short vs. long. As a college basketball coach I always found it helpful to ask a recruit about their recruiting experience once they had committed. What I consistently discovered was that prospects got bored with recruiting calls that dragged out. A few recruits even went so far as to tell me that with some colleges they found themselves putting their phone on speaker and playing video games or watching television while the coach continued to chatter on. So, how do avoid the boredom and that lull? Feel things out. If a recruit is asking questions there’s nothing wrong with letting them dictate how long. Asking questions means they’re intellectually involved in the conversation, so don’t cut them off. If you sense that the other person is no longer engaged, be willing to wrap things up even if you haven’t had a chance to convey your selling points.

Handling objections. Objections are inevitable. Always remain calm and don’t become defensive. Students can tell when your tone changes during a phone call. Even if you have facts and figures to prove your school’s business degree is better than that of college “X,” if a recruit says they believe the opposite, meet that objection with a question to find out why. Once you’ve done that, listen to their entire reasoning and then you can present a solution and lay out facts to support your point of view.

Stop trying to be a mind reader. I’ll admit it. I’m guilty of doing this more then I should, especially with my wife. We’ll be having a conversation and I assume to know what point she’s trying to convey. More often than not, I’m wrong. When your recruit makes a statement you infer to be negative or questionable, don’t jump to conclusions. Instead write it down and gather information to determine if the statement is sound and justifiable. You can then determine if reasoning exists to support your assumption.

If you don’t know, just say so. There’s no shame in telling someone that you don’t know the answer to a question. Convey that you will get an answer as soon as possible. As I’ve said in previous posts, the last thing you want to do is exaggerate the facts only to have the recruit discover you did so.

Parents. When mom or dad answers the phone and says their son or daughter isn’t home, what do you do? Believe it or not this presents a great opportunity. Parents are not only more involved in every aspect of the college admissions process today, but in many cases their child wants and even values their input. Therefore, my advice is you must be comfortable talking to your prospect’s parents. Mom and dad can provide you with useful information, and studies are showing that more parents are actually doing a bulk of the work for their child during the admissions process.

 Near the conclusion of Jerry Maguire, Jerry and Rod Tidwell embrace and show how their relationship has progressed from a strictly business one to a close personal one. For your office to secure enrollment, that same relationship needs to be cultivated between prospective students and your staff. It’s imperative that phone calls are more about the student and less about the college.

 Try following these simple but proven communication strategies the next time you or your staff picks up the phone to talk to a prospect. They will help deepen your connection.

 Our clients get even more advice and direction on an ongoing basis.  Want to have access to one-on-one expertise as you approach this next recruiting class?  We’re ready to help.  Click on the link for all the details, or email Jeremy directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

How Collaboration Can Increase Efficiency and EnrollmentMonday, November 3rd, 2014

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Last year a good friend of mine became a college head coach for the first time. My initial words of wisdom for him were simple. Immediately get to know your athletic secretary, and make sure you find at least two good team managers. Creating a partnership with those people are vital for success, largely in part because each, whether they know it or not, can have a huge impact on recruiting and player development. Likewise, colleges and universities will find it hard to achieve their enrollment goals if the offices of admissions and financial aid cannot or choose not to function as a team.

Helping a prospect overcome sticker shock remains arguably the biggest issue for admissions offices. In the 2014 Inside Higher Ed survey of college and university admissions directors, 77% said they believe their institution is losing applicants due to concerns about student debt. For private schools that number jumped to 89%. As you well know, how your office addresses the anxiety that is paying for college will largely determine whether or not that prospective student chooses your institution.

Let me start by asking you a couple of questions. Can you and your staff each name three people that work in your school’s financial aid office? For those of you that passed, I offer my congratulations. Now, when is the last time you stopped by their offices and said hello? To those still thinking, don’t worry you’re not alone. Here’s why that needs to change, though. Financial aid officers have knowledge and data that can empower you and have a large impact on enrollment. For that reason alone, nurturing a positive relationship between admissions and financial aid throughout the recruiting cycle is imperative. The result will be the ability to provide students with all the information they need to make an informed decision about the fit of your school.

Here are a few keys to collaborating with your financial aid teammates that will be mutually beneficial. Even though both offices have different goals, at the end of the day each is trying to provide excellent customer service and meet the changing needs of its students.

Cross training. Start by having the financial aid office identify commonly asked questions that admissions counselors can address when they meet with families. Topics could include an explanation of the FAFSA and other financial aid programs offered, as well as payment options. Have them also teach admissions how to give financial aid estimates. Conversely, your counselors could train those in financial aid with regards to conducting prospective-student visits as well as highlighting key dates in the application process. Taking things a step further, why not have members of both offices shadow each other for a day. Cross training such as this will ensure a smooth campus visit no matter which counselor a recruit meets with. It will also provide an opportunity for counselors to expand their skill sets and use their time more efficiently.

Face to face problem solving. Alliances look great on paper and in name, but many fail to achieve measurable results due to a lack of follow through. Creating a committee and assigning duties is only the beginning. It has to be more than just lip service. Sitting down and talking face to face to effectively solve problems is a tool that many of us need most and are trained in the least. During meetings there must be a shared respect even though both offices have different goals and report to different people. Each department leader needs to be present and reinforce the expectations and the value of this collaboration. Meeting face to face also provides an opportunity for both parties to practice listening.

Sharing data. The offices of admissions and financial aid collect data and typically analyze it each year. Imagine what could be learned if both departments shared this information. For starters, schools could determine how the amount of aid they award positively or negatively effects enrollment. Also, think how much easier it would be if your admissions counselors could check on the FAFSA status of a prospective student themselves rather than pointing a family towards the financial aid office. Being able to address how a recruit will finance their education and what debt they may incur would give that student and his or her family a better idea of affordability as it relates to your institution.

Build that trust. This is a building block of any successful collaboration. Without trust it’s hard to have productive working relationships. Having said that, remember that developing and earning trust takes time. You must first understand the goals and position of each department. There has to be willingness for give-and-take, particularly from the managerial component.  A good example is the sharing of resources. Once trust is established and success occurs, celebrate your achievements together. Failures also provide an opportunity for growth if everyone is willing to identify the problem and focus on creating a solution rather then assigning blame. Trust can make the difference between an employee who is engaged and all in, and one who is unmotivated or even destructive.

Each of these four concepts has a common foundational element – communication.  Both sides can be on board with collaboration, but to achieve the desired goals communication must always be clear. It begins with listening, a skill that all of us constantly need to hone.

Collaborating with financial aid will lead to greater efficiency and produce a more confident group of employees. Counselors in both departments will be able to share their knowledge with one another and thus enhance the student recruitment experience. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to reach out to your financial aid counterparts and begin the process of collaborating to build a stronger enrollment team.

Need help in creating a strategic game plan for your next class of students?   You can bring Jeremy to campus to work with your admissions department this year.  If you have questions, email Jeremy Tiers directly at jeremy@dantudor.com.  

Making Sure the Admissions Travel Season Doesn’t Turn Into Groundhog DayMonday, October 27th, 2014

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

My first introduction to life on the road occurred as a 22 year-old Recruiting Analyst working for a basketball scouting service.

Over a four-month span known as the “AAU season,” I traveled from state to state attending events where I would spend between 12 and 14 hours a day in high school gymnasiums. My goal was to evaluate as many of the nation’s top high school boys recruits as I could, and compete with other media entities for information from these teenagers on their college recruitment. I moved from hotel to hotel, ate way too much fast food, drank way too much Red Bull, and a couple of times even slept in my rental car.

By this point you may be asking, “What does this have to do with admissions?” It’s Fall, and that means we’re currently in the midst of “travel season” for college recruiters. My question is, “Are your admission counselors learning how to become road warriors or reliving the same day (Groundhog Day) over, and over again like Bill Murray’s character did in the movie?”

I’ve heard many of you describe the “travel season” in admissions as Groundhog Day. You wake up, drive to several high schools to meet with prospective students, or sit in a chair and man a booth better known as a folding table at a local college fair. The day essentially consists of trying to show recruits, counselors and parents the unique educational experience your school offers while also evaluating the high school and its students to see if they’re a good fit. You then return to your hotel and get ready to do it all over again the next day. I’m curious, though. At the end of the day, do you or your staff sit back and spend a few minutes evaluating how the day went and whether or not you worked towards accomplishing the goals of your institution’s recruitment strategy?

In 2013, studies showed that the average four-year private institution spent nearly $2,500 to recruit each new student. As you all know, a large portion of that cost is dedicated to travel. That means it’s vital for recruiters to make the best use of their time.

It starts with when and where travel should occur. This should be decided based on your aforementioned recruitment strategy in conjunction with data that has been collected including which students scheduled a campus tour and who applied to and ultimately enrolled at your school. This will ensure recruiters’ time on the road is well spent.

Once travel begins, it’s time execute the game plan. Along with hard work and positive thinking, here are 7 additional tips that I believe will help the representatives of your college work smarter, more confidently, and not look at tomorrow as Groundhog Day.

  1. Know your school, not just admissions. How much do your admissions’ counselors really know about their school? It’s important to be current on new developments or recent policy changes not just in admissions, but other offices throughout campus. Cultivating relationships with other departments, in addition to attending sporting and art events, will also allow counselors to use more specific personalized examples when discussing something with a recruit. Ask yourself which sounds better. “Our business major is very popular,” or “A lot of freshmen really enjoy the first-year Business Ethics class that Dr. Leif teaches as part of the Business major.” Finally, if your counselor doesn’t know the answer to a question, just say so. The last thing you want them to do is stretch the truth, only to have that student make a campus visit and see something different.
  1. Get prospects to visualize. Last week I wrote an article on why personalization is the secret to increasing enrollment. High school visits and college fairs provide many opportunities for your staff to paint a picture that will lead prospects to visualize themselves as part of your campus community. Start with unique traditions. Indiana University has Little 500. Occidental College has the Birthday dunk. Every school has something. Your staff can also provide stories about dorm life or popular activities off campus.
  1. Be the early bird. Getting on the calendar early at high schools can be beneficial. Students won’t be into the “meat” of their academic course-load yet, which means they’ll be more attentive and less stressed out. Plus, as a counselor you will be fresher.
  1. Speak to the guidance counselor ahead of time. Doing legwork prior to your visit is time consuming. We’re all busy I get that. However, working with the school counselor(s) to communicate your upcoming visit and interest to prospective students needs to be a common occurrence. The school counselor is also a great resource in terms of gathering more behind-the-scenes information about recruits, their social activities and course selections. That knowledge will be helpful later on when admissions counselors are reading the prospects’ application.
  1. Take notes. As a College and Career Advisor I was always amazed at the lack of note taking on the part of college counselors when I sat in on school visits. Yes your staff member is there to make a presentation and answer questions about your school, and yes students will ask dumb questions that lead to frustration and the desire to speed up the visit. Still, the opportunity to have 5, 10 or even 20+ prospective students all in a room at once is a goldmine. Throughout the visit those students will convey information both verbally and with body language that needs to jotted down.  Posing a couple of questions during a school visit is also a great way to get feedback on students’ values and beliefs.
  1. Coordinate with your colleagues. Across campus coaches from your colleges’ athletic department are also driving and flying to conduct school visits at this time of the year. Check with them to see if you have similar stops and more importantly if a coach is traveling to a region which admissions doesn’t currently cover. Coordinate and ask if your colleague could deliver information packets to a few key high schools.
  1. Don’t forget to follow-up. While getting out and meeting new students is important, it’s just as imperative to solidify your connection with students you meet who demonstrate interest or may have already applied for admission. Counselors need to block time in their schedule for emails, phone calls, and hand-written notes. Maintaining communication is a key piece of securing that commitment you’re looking for.

With budgets tight and competition for new students increasing, I believe implementing some or all of these ideas will translate to your staff being extremely productive anytime they travel to visit with recruits.

One final thought. With plenty of travel comes fatigue. Taking care of your body is paramount not only for good health, but also productivity. Find time to take breaks. This also goes for your brain. Long days with a jam-packed schedule often result in mental exhaustion. While relaxing, remind yourself of your goals and if you feel adjustments need to be made to your presentations, don’t be afraid to do so.

Need more specific ideas for your admissions department?  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 staff on how to address the challenges you’re currently facing.  Click here for more information, or email Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services, at jeremy@dantudor.com

Personalization – The Secret to Increasing EnrollmentMonday, October 20th, 2014

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

You pull up your list of prospective students. How are you going to convince each one that your school is the right choice for them? Will you start by sending out a few of the old generic form letters, follow that up with emails as well as a phone call, and then cross your fingers? That’s one approach, but I think we both know that in the competitive market of college admissions recruiting you’ve got to do more. You have to convince each recruit that his or her name is not just a number. You have to personalize!

Personalization was one of the most valuable lessons I learned as a College Advisor. Each student had individual needs and goals, and some were more ambitious than others. One of the first questions I used to ask them when discussing post-secondary planning was, “If you were given $100,000 dollars right now, what would you do with it?” The answers were wide ranging to say the least. The bottom line, however, became clear. Not everyone would take the money and produce the same results.

College admissions’ recruiting is no different. Today’s student is busier then ever. If they’re going to spend the next 4-6 years on your campus, and in most cases make a significant financial investment to do so, they want to feel that the messages they receive are relevant to their interests and needs. This mindset however is not limited to just your messaging. Prospective students want the entire process to be personalized.

The first step is to understand your audience: what makes them tick, what motivates them, and what content about your college they will find most helpful. As you ask questions, it’s important to know the right amount of information to ask for. Doing so will allow you to create personalized content. Keep in mind, though, that you can also overwhelm the prospective student if you ask for too much information, especially early on. For example, you may discover that a higher income student cares more about lifestyle and the academic reputation of your college. Conversely, a lower income recruit might be more concerned about the surroundings, friendliness and what your school will do to make it affordable. There’s no doubt that listening is a challenging task for many of us, but it’s essential to form that connection and create a personal experience if your school is committed to increasing enrollment.

Here are a few ways that you can effectively use personalization during the recruitment process:

  • Direct Mail. When students narrow down their list of potential schools, they’ve told us that direct mail plays a big part. As a college coach, every one of my recruiting mailers had two things: A hand written note or comment on the bottom that was related to the message in that specific mailer and a hand written mailing address. Teenagers are constantly looking for something that sets your college apart, and this is a simple and effective way to stand out.
  • Creative and Relevant Content. If you’ve started to build a relationship with your prospects, you will have discovered things they like and things they don’t. Use this to your advantage when sending mail. It’s much more successful than the patch and blast approach. If you have a student who wants to major in Music, figure out who some of their favorite artists are. Then create a unique mailer that incorporates something about that artist, the prospective student and your school. Make sure the message is clear, concise and not too drawn out. This will grab their attention, especially if it’s tailored to their interests.
  • Tell a Story. Today’s admissions recruiting cycle starts a lot earlier. Because of this it’s important to develop a long-term strategy. Storytelling is a powerful method for building relationships with your recruits. Start by picking a key message. Then, break that down into bullet points and over time create individual letters that build toward your ultimate message. Make sure that your letters are relevant to the prospect’s needs and it will keep him or her engaged. It also shows them that you took the time and effort to craft a unique message.
  • The Campus Tour. Simply put, this one can make or break your school’s chances. When surveyed, prospective students consistently state that the campus visit is a top 3 or 4 factor in influencing their college choice. It starts as soon as your recruit checks in at the admissions office. Whoever greets them and conducts the tour needs to be friendly, extremely knowledgeable about your school, and have some basic information about the recruit and anyone accompanying them. At the very least this includes first names, where they’re from, and what the prospect’s interests are. Like it or not,  students and parents often make the mistake of discounting a great school because the person or people involved in the campus tour turned them off. It’s also important that at some point during the visit, the prospect spends some time with the admissions counselor involved with their recruitment.   This creates continuity and shows them your staff is committed to helping them find the right fit. If your visits are already getting high marks, then I encourage you to raise the bar. For example, if the student is a big football fan, why not take them on a personal tour of your team’s locker room. This makes them feel special and is an easy way to create a lasting memory.
  • Social Media. Social media and technology have changed the recruiting game. Let’s start with email. Over 140 billion of them are sent each day, and this remains the most utilized method for delivering personalized content. Your subject line is the key. According to our research, students will judge whether or not your message is worth opening by that subject line. Keep it short, don’t make it formal, and do something to create curiosity like asking a question. Next we have your apps. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram remain popular with the high school crowd. Your school can organize a private Facebook group for prospective students, or use Twitter to create virtual information sessions on a particular topic assigned with a hashtag. Now, let me touch on the next big things – Snapchat and Vine. Snapchat is image based and allows you to take pictures, record video and even video chat. “Vines”, as they’re known, are short video clips that can be used in many different ways including congratulating students on getting accepted to your school. It is also very easy to embed your “Vines” on websites. Regardless of which method of social media you use, remember that recruits want you to show the personal, behind-the-scenes personality of you and your program.

The common theme with each of these methods is they’re more time intensive and involve some extra creative thinking. It remains a proven fact – students make decisions based on the level of personalized attention and immediate service they get. If you want to stand out amongst the crowd, I encourage you to make them a part of your next recruitment plan. Use personalization correctly, and your staff will be able to deliver effective communications that entice recruits to choose your institution.

Jeremy and the experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies can help you develop research-based personalized messaging for both your current class and your future recruits. Want to learn how? Email him directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

Creating a Good First Impression for Your SchoolMonday, October 13th, 2014

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

You meet someone for the first time. Immediately after that stranger sees you, his or her brain makes a thousand computations: Are you someone to approach or to avoid? Are you trustworthy, competent or likeable? Studies say all of this happens in the first seven seconds of meeting.

With the competition to attract prospective students at an all time high, colleges and universities across the country have been forced to brainstorm new ways to improve student recruitment.  It’s also a fact that recruits are starting the process earlier and they now apply to an average of a dozen schools to assure acceptance.

In most instances, the first contact a prospective student has with a school is through an Admissions Counselor. Believe it or not, many of those students are hesitant to reach out to your staff because as one high school senior put it, “it’s scary.” Being approachable and memorable then, whether it’s at a college fair or during a high school or on-campus visit, is vital for admissions staffs.

It takes both verbal and non-verbal skills to make a great first impression. Here are some tips that will help separate you from the competition.

  1. Greet people by name.

Research indicates that people like to hear their own name. Instead of saying “Nice to meet you,” or “Good to see you again,” include the person’s name. If someone begins a conversation and doesn’t tell you their name, simply ask them. It will make a favorable impression.

  1. Listen more then you talk.

It’s a fact – people like to talk about themselves. By listening you will pick up pieces of information that allow you to expand the conversation and begin to build a relationship. Listening also shows that you’re genuinely interested in the other person’s well being.

  1. Smile.

It seems easy, but for some it’s also potentially uncomfortable. However, any successful business person will tell you, when you are willing to put a smile on your face, you become more engaging, likable and it helps put the other person at ease.

  1. Eyes on the prize (literally).

Eye contact is extremely important during the first meeting with anyone. Too often people look away and that creates the impression that they’re either not listening or they really don’t care about what’s being said.

  1. Say it like you mean it.

The power of positive thinking. Speak with confidence. It’s not just the words you say that matters it’s the clarity and tone with which you say them. If you’re excited about something, it shows.

  1. Put the phone away.

It was estimated this past year that there are now more mobile devices than people on the planet. The problem – respect has gone out the door. Think about how many times you’ve been in a conversation with someone only to have it halted when the other person answers his or her cell phone. Turn it off, or put it on vibrate. Voicemail will get it. Giving your undivided attention goes a long way.

  1. Thank you.

Two simple words that people often forget. Not only are you ending the conversation on a positive note, you’re also demonstrating that you appreciate the time and effort of the other person.

As the old expression goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Being memorable and likeable will go a long way in peaking the interest of prospective students, and subsequently result in them wanting to learn more about your institution.

Next time you sit down with a recruit or their parents, implement these proven techniques into your conversation and I’m convinced you will come out a winner.

Communicating effectively is a key factor in successful recruiting. That’s why we’re making sure our clients get one-on-one attention and the best training possible during our On-Campus Workshops. Our Admissions Recruiting Advantage (ARA) program will provide your staff with the tools to recruit more effectively – and more confidently – than they ever have before, because they will know the right messages and strategies to use based on our proprietary research and training techniques. 

Want to learn more?  Schedule a time to speak to Jeremy by emailing him at jeremy@dantudor.com It’s more affordable than you may think, and the results are turning heads on campuses across the country. 

The Balancing Act – Parents And ProspectsMonday, October 13th, 2014

During much of my career as a college basketball coach I held the title of Recruiting Coordinator. That meant it was my responsibility to organize and helping execute the “campus visit.” When I put together the information packets, I always made sure that the parents received something unique that was tailored towards them. Why, you ask? The role of parents in the recruiting process has drastically changed over the past ten to fifteen years.

Across campus it’s no different. Parents are now more involved in every aspect of the college admissions process.   Finances are a big reason why.

The campus visit has become a balancing act. Your staff must successfully meet the needs of your prospects, along with their parents. It’s a hard act to master, and while there’s no “perfect mix,” because every prospect and parent is unique, there are some important rules that you can use to build a better campus experience for all involved.

In his article, “Balancing Parents and Prospects During Their Visit to Campus,” author, speaker and founder of Tudor Collegiate Strategies, Dan Tudor, offered two important rules that you and your staff can use.

  1. Separate the prospect and their parents.  Not too soon into the campus visit, find a way to separate the prospect from their parents.  The reason is simple: Each party will usually have a much more memorable visit, and your staff will get more information from both the recruit and his or her parents.  Useable, actionable information that will help increase your school’s chances of winning over that recruit.
  2. Send parents on the traditional admissions tour, and send the recruit off with a different member of your staff, and possibly a current student.  There are mountains of data from all of our focus group surveys we’ve done with clients over the years, helping them design winning recruiting visits for their prospects. That data, largely comprised of feedback from current college athletes reflecting back on what they liked and didn’t like about their visits to college campuses, tells us something that boils down to this main point:  When you separate the recruits and the parents while they are visiting your campus, they are both free to speak their mind.  Parents can ask questions that they might not normally ask around their son or daughter. Recruits can relax and be themselves around their peers, instead of awkwardly deferring to those over-eager parents who gladly jump in to answer the question that you just tried to direct to their son or daughter.  The long admissions tour? The parents will be much more receptive than their kids – who, by the way, would love the chance to just hang out and play Xbox with other students as a way to determine whether your campus feels best to them.

Yes, there are many potential twists and turns you could implement into those two basic rules.  The possibilities are almost endless, depending upon the needs and personality of the prospective student coming to campus.

However, these two rules are big keys to a good foundation from which to build a solid campus visit.

Want us to be on your campus in the coming months?  We’re setting our visit schedule to campuses around the country, and we’d love to come work with you and your Admissions team.  Learn more about how we help schools recruit more efficiently. Click here for all the details or email Jeremy Tiers directly at jeremy@dantudor.com to ask him for options and potential workshop dates with your staff.

Will They Choose You?Friday, October 10th, 2014

It’s a hard thing to crack – the mind of a teenager. If you can figure out why 17 and 18 year-olds make the decisions they do, I encourage you to write a book because it’s a safe bet that you’d become a wealthy person.

Admissions staffs across the country are constantly trying to understand how their recruits make their final decisions. Many believe that it’s based on factors that they don’t have any control over. Actually you do…but hold that thought.

We hear the same stories from our clients all the time as to why their prospect chose another school that was a “better fit.” A few common ones are:

  • They choose with their hearts and don’t look at the big picture
  • They rely on other others to help them decide
  • They use random statistics to justify their actions

How then can you overcome this unfounded behavior? Tudor Collegiate Strategies founder, author and speaker Dan Tudor has some techniques that will improve your success rate.

  • Make your case with more passion than the other guy. If your prospects are using emotion to make their decision, go ahead and show the same kind of passion and emotion. And remember, passion isn’t a budget related item that your competitor has more of (unless you let them).
  • Challenge them: Tell them that they are going about all this the completely wrong way.  Once you have their attention, make your case that they need to reconsider how they’re deciding on a school.  Get them to take a second look.  Compel them to continue the conversation with you…but start it off by contending that they are doing it wrong right now.  Get their attention!
  • Ask them, “Is that the smart way to do it?”  Maybe the answer is yes.  Or maybe it isn’t.  Asking that question and actually getting them to think about everything in a new light is one of the most productive challenges you can issue during the admissions recruiting process.
  • Always include the parents and high school counselor.  Clue them in on what you’re talking to the prospect about, and why it’s important that your point of view should be seriously considered.
  • Exude a confidence – even if you’re not feeling like you have any! – That tells them they’d be CRAZY not to choose you.  No explanation needed.  The only thing I’ll tell you is that your prospect and their family are looking at you closely, and trying to figure out if you really believe what you’re selling.

We’re beginning our planning sessions with new clients for this next recruiting class.  Want to talk to us about working one-on-one with you and your staff to develop a rock-solid recruiting plan?  Contact Jeremy Tiers directly at jeremy@dantudor.com so we can set up a time to discuss how we do it, and why it works.

Repetition And RecruitingFriday, October 10th, 2014

My 5-year old daughter recently learned how to ride her bike without the training wheels. Our message to her was simple – you fall down, you get back up. At times I’m sure we sounded like a broken record. Repeating those words however was key to her success.

When it comes to promoting your school, repetition is a necessity. Repeating key phrases or strengths of your college over and over helps prospective students recognize you and sets you apart. The more consistent you are, the more easily recognizable your school becomes over time. You also increase the likelihood that recruits will hear those key points you want to make about the value that you offer.

Which brings us to your recruiting message…

The trend we see most often when it comes to how colleges tend to communicate with their recruits involves cramming as much information about the school into one email or letter.  There’s a better way to do it.

Tudor Collegiate Strategies founder, author and speaker Dan Tudor has several rules that he emphasizes which have proven effective for helping our clients create a consistent, interesting recruiting campaign for their recruits.  Use them to develop your own brand of repetition and consistent messaging for this next recruiting class:

  • Make sure you are communicating foundational, logical facts to your prospect every six to nine days.  Without this first point in place you risk inconsistent recruiting results.  Our research solidly 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 make the judgment that your school is interested in them, and values them.  Those feelings are what you should want your recruits to feel.
  • If you have negatives associated with your school or big objections that many prospects bring up in the recruiting process, address it early and often.  Don’t run from it, and don’t wait for them to bring it up (or sit back and hope they don’t bring it up).  Consistent, early discussion about it gives you the chance to re-define that objection.  And, it gives you a greater chance to turn their opinion of you around.
  • Short, logical, fact-based repetitive messages.  That’s what your prospect needs in order to get to the point of being able to choose you over your competitors.  Instead of cramming all that information into one message, take a single concept and address it from many different angles.  Spend a few weeks talking about one topic and take your time in repetitively making your point to your recruit.
  • Repeat your name and your college name often.  Advertisers have followed this psychological principle for decades.  Why?  Repetition of who you are, and associating that with positive connotations, produces results.
  • Mix it up.  Your recruiting campaign needs to feature a regular flow of mail, email, phone contact, personal contact and social media.  This generation reacts to a good combination of all of these facets of recruiting.  If you focus only on one or two communication methods with your recruits, you are leaving the door open for a competitor that will utilize all of their communication resources.  Our studies show that this generation of students wants – and needs – a variety of communication types.
  • Social media is personal. Be careful how you repeatedly use it.  The shiny new toy for college recruiters that is social media is ripe with possibilities – and pitfalls.  Communicating with them the right way on a consistent basis is one of the best ways to form a personal connection with that recruit.  Social media is very personal for most kids, so doing it the right way means a faster way to connect with those recruits. Show the personal, behind-the-scenes personality of your school – that’s what recruits are looking for.

Repetition is one of the least used – and most effective – strategies that you can utilize in your recruiting message.  Follow these rules in creating a consistent, ongoing conversation with your recruits and watch what happens when it comes to your results.

Want to find out if your current recruiting message is an effective one? Contact Jeremy Tiers at jeremy@dantudor.com to speak one-on-one and learn more about the research-based message that our Admissions Recruiting Advantage programs can provide.

Competing Against The Big GuysFriday, October 10th, 2014

John Schnatter’s first job in high school was at a pizza place named Rocky’s. He started as a dishwasher and worked his way up to making pizzas. He quickly noticed there was something smaller pizza joints could provide that seemed to be missing from national chains – a quality pizza delivered with excellent service right to the customer’s door.

After graduating from college, John returned home to learn that his father’s business, a local lounge called “Mick’s,” was struggling. To save his dad’s small Indiana tavern he knocked down the broom closet, bought $1600 in used restaurant equipment, installed an oven and started selling pizzas out of the back of the restaurant. Papa John’s pizza was born! Despite facing tough competition from national chains such as Pizza Hut and Domino’s, “Papa John” moved his vision forward and when 2013 revenues were released earlier this year, the company announced a cool $1.4 billion.

How does this relate to College Admissions recruiting? Simply put, big name colleges find it easier to get the attention of a prospective student in the early stages. There are a handful of big name institutions that instantly command the attention of most. If your college isn’t one of those big name schools, this article is for you.

As an Admissions staff, I’m sure you’re well aware of the benefits and challenges that your school faces when it comes to convincing teenagers to join the student body.  And sometimes, it’s hard to get the attention of a student that’s sought after by some schools with big names. You have two choices:  Give up, or compete.

If you’re someone who wants to compete, we’re going to give you a few key points of emphasis as you develop a strategy for going after those recruits that aren’t excited about your college.

Based on years of research, Tudor Collegiate Strategies founder, author and speaker Dan Tudor has three primary points that he recommends the “smaller name schools” need to do.

  1. First and foremost, you’d better be consistent. I realize that for some of you who are clients or have had us on-campus for a workshop, this advice is something you’ve heard before.  But let me underscore the importance of a consistent message when you are competing with a big name rival:  We find in tracking the interest levels of recruits being contacted by a variety of programs – large and small, big-name and not so big-name – if a smaller, lesser known program is more consistent than their bigger rivals, that program has an excellent chance of competing for, and winning, that recruit.  Consistency proves that you are serious about them in the most tangible way possible, through regular emails and written letters (really, really important in proving that you’re interested in them).  Even if they don’t read your materials right from the start, they’re noticing that you are contacting them regularly.  And over time, that will make a difference in how they view you.
  2. Act like a big dog. This one is tough for a lot of people at smaller or lesser-known schools, mainly because it involves a little bit of acting.  One of the things that most prospects are looking for from a smaller, lesser-known college is confidence.  If you aren’t confident on the question of why they should take you as seriously as a big name school they’re looking at, we find that this generation of recruits will sense that weakness and almost immediately relegate you to second tier status.  However, if you jump in and confidently and somewhat aggressively lay out the reasons they should pay attention to you, and develop a plan of action for them to follow as the recruiting process starts, you should be pleasantly surprised at the results.
  3. Explain why being the smaller name is the smarter choice. One of the critical elements that you will need to address as a college recruiter is explaining to your recruit why you, as the smaller, lesser known college or program, are going to be the smarter choice for them.  That line of reasoning could be based on anything that would make sense to build a case around at your college: The academic reputation at your school, the smaller class sizes and individual attention…whatever makes the most sense for you to stress to your recruit.  The point is, it needs to be something.  Your prospect, who is considering a bigger name school and has probably already assigned their “story” to that competing school, needs a logical reason about why they should keep you in the game.  Fail to give that to them, and watch how hard it is to get their attention later in the process.

One more thing to add to the to-do list is – Start early. Smaller, lesser-known colleges should make a point of targeting prospects as early as possible for two reasons.  First, recruiting is happening earlier and earlier, so you don’t want to be late to the game.  And second, you’ll get the chance to define yourself before some of your larger competitors begin the process.  In both instances, we’ve seen that approach work for the clients that we serve.

If you are finding yourself going head-to-head with some bigger name schools, this game plan can help.

Want to bring our team of experts alongside you and your team to help you achieve the recruiting results that you need this year?  Email Director of Admissions Services, Jeremy Tiers, at jeremy@dantudor.com and ask him to explain the Admissions Recruiting Advantage  and how it can work for your department.  It might be the difference maker as you prepare to win this next class of recruits!