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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!

Admissions Recruiting AdvantageWednesday, October 8th, 2014

What is the Admissions Recruiting Advantage program?  

It’s an advanced recruiting training and message development system provided by the team of collegiate recruiting and marketing experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies.

When we implement the Admissions Recruiting Advantage (ARA) program with a college admissions department, we focus 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.

Since 2005, we have been the recognized national leader in training athletic coaches how to recruit more effectively.  Admissions departments have requested our help for years, and we have now started serving them with the same proven techniques that have revolutionized college athletic recruiting. Here is how it works:

  • We conduct extensive proprietary focus group research with your student body to determine what messages work, what you should focus on in your messaging, and how best to communicate with them specifically during their decision making process.   We then match that with our national database of information on how this year’s class of seniors is making their decisions.
  • We teach your staff what communication techniques work – and which ones don’t – when you are hosting campus visits and speaking with visiting families.
  • We will show your admissions counselors how to be effective with their time, how to ask questions that stimulate conversations with teens and their parents, and why they need to communicate through multiple channels to tell your school’s unique story.
  • Your staff will be taught what a prospective college student is looking for and how they should make their case as to why your school is the best option.
  • We can develop a two-day intensive plan to work one-on-one with your admissions staff, or couple that with consulting with your staff for the entire year. During that year we will help them develop their message and ensure that the right message and correct sales techniques are being used at all times as they sell your campus to your prospects.

We offer multiple plan options that will best fit your needs and your department’s budget. You will start to see a difference in the way your staff recruits your next class of incoming students beginning immediately!

Want to learn more about the different ARA program options and see examples of the type of messaging that is created for new clients? Contact Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services, at jeremy@dantudor.com

Effective Strategies for Bridging the Gap Between Admissions and AthleticsMonday, June 25th, 2012

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

* Full disclosure before I begin: Front Rush offers a product that handles the issues we’ll be talking about below, but this is not a sales pitch…rather a justification for why we have such a product that addresses this problem.

The future of recruiting – especially in Division II and Division III – is going to be much more integrated with admissions.

Here’s why:

Current recruiting applications and packages allow for coaches of the same staff to be on the same page by providing a solution that has all of the recruit data in a single place. These applications replaced the old model where coaches would have their own excel sheet or binder and would be limited in sharing information with other coaches on staff. The problem that we see today is not that coaches aren’t “on the same page”, but that they are completely separated from admissions even though the goals of the admissions department very close parallel the goals of athletics, at least from a recruiting perspective.

There is a tremendous overlap with the number of prospects being recruited by coaches and admissions yet very little information sharing. We have seen some schools attempt to solve this problem by using an admissions application that has some of the same tools that an athletic recruiting application offers. However, these software applications fall short on the coach side and leave coaches handcuffed and wishing for more. This is exactly why companies like Front Rush exist…admissions applications are built for admissions type users and lack any focus for coaches. With this in mind, its our thesis that there should be a bridge between coaches and admissions and this bridge should be automated and seamless.

Coaches are collecting highly qualified data on recruits that any admissions officer could use for their own recruiting initiatives. An athlete may fall short in their athletic ability and may not be a fit for their respective sport but at the same time that does not mean that they are not a fit for the university as a whole. The university could benefit greatly by having access to that vital recruit information. Similarly, if the recruit is a fit for the team and the university, the combined efforts of the coach and admissions officer could help improve the probability of actually recruiting that athlete. Then from a coaches perspective, they could leverage admissions data to help focus their efforts. For example, it would be great if a coach knew immediately when a recruit’s academic status changed from applied to accepted.

The tools that are being built now have this ideology as the focus. The fragmentation that currently exists between athletics and admissions is the problem that is being solved. These two departments share extremely similar goals and the historic barriers that have kept the two from communicating efficiently are being torn down. The future of recruiting is fully integrated from the bottom up. The software that the coaches use will speak directly with the software that the admissions departments has at their desks even if they are built by completely different companies.

If a recruit is added for a coach, admissions will be immediately alerted and the data can be pre-qualified to make sure it fits the caliber that the admissions department requires. Data will be passed back and forth so coaches can know the status of their top recruits in real time. This data passing is happening now and will only become more seamless and more detailed as time progresses.

That’s what coaches have been asking for, and now it’s ready to be delivered.  Click here for more details, or email me at sdevlin@frontrush.com so I can answer your questions one-on-one.