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12 Strategies That Will Help You Deliver Exceptional Customer ServiceTuesday, February 9th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

We all know that today’s prospective student has choices when it comes to higher education…thousands of them actually. So, if you know that students and families are your customers and they have a massive amount of colleges and universities to choose from, then you need to constantly be coming up with ways to get and keep their attention and ultimately exceed their expectations. If you don’t consistently do that, then you can’t consistently expect to increase enrollment. Translation: You need to deliver exceptional customer service.

Two weeks ago I was able to spend a couple of days with a good friend of mine. He and his brother entered the restaurant business about 18 months ago in a small town that my family used to live in. On the way to dinner I noticed that a popular, well-known national sports bar chain now resided in town. I had always maintained that if this particular restaurant came to that town, it would flourish. My friend proceeded to tell me that the exact opposite was happening. Despite the big name and national reputation, the customer service at that restaurant was very poor, and that was translating into a lot of hit and miss business.

So, I want you, the admissions counselor, to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself these questions: “Would I trust me?” “Would I come to me for help?” and ultimately, “Would I buy from me?” Those are tough questions that need to be asked and shouldn’t be answered without some serious thought.

If you’re in a management position (VP, Director, Assoc. Director) when was the last time you evaluated not only yourself and your enrollment team but also anyone else a typical student interacts with on your campus during the college search process. In this day and age where many complaints are aired on social media, all it takes is for one person in your campus community to come across as unpleasant, can’t be bothered, or heaven forbid down right rude and…well you know the rest.

Today I want to share with you 12 strategies that will help you and your team stand out and consistently meet the needs of all of your prospective students and their parents.

  1. Listen more than you talk, especially with younger students. We know counselors mean well when they try and talk about every ranking and positive statistic during that initial conversation with a prospective student. The problem is your recruits tell us it’s not helping. Instead, when you listen, your recruits and their parents will share all kinds of information about their wants and needs. You can then take that useful information and build a worthwhile relationship. Listening and giving your undivided attention are both chiefly important to your customer.
  1. Constantly look for ways to engage. Remember the teacher that read things word for word from the textbook? Boring, right? If you’re sending long, wordy mailings or always asking yes/no type questions in person and on the phone, are you really gaining their interest? It’s hard enough for young people to focus on something for more than a few seconds. How are you engaging them and creating that anticipation?
  1. Become the “go-to-person.” I use this phrase all the time during On-Campus Workshops. Whether you like it or not, a large part of your job is to be a problem solver. You must provide your recruits and their families with the information they want and need to make an informed decision. For example, right now many families are trying to navigate through financial aid. Do they understand how to complete the different kinds of financial aid paperwork? Do they understand that many schools prioritize who gets funding based on deadlines? The more you do for them, the more they’ll look at your school as the logical choice. As that “go-to person” some of you will even find that prospects and parents will call you when they have questions about other schools they’re considering.
  1. Provide your customers with a clear, concise message.  Keep your recruits informed from start to finish and do so with simple messages that are easily and quickly understood.
  1. Always tell them what’s next.  If you can, narrow it down to one thing.  Make it straightforward. Your prospects and their parents both want and need to know how each part of the college search process works. By doing this, you will increase their comfort levels and minimize what can otherwise easily become a stressful time in their lives.
  1. Ask the parents of your recruit how they’re coping with the college search process. That type of question is one of the “15 Great Questions” we usually recommend to college coaches during our On-Campus Workshops. You need to understand how the process is affecting them and what obstacles it creates when it comes to considering your school.
  1. Make appointments. I’m still amazed by the number of schools whose counselors pick a bunch of names off their call sheet and then wonder why only one or two answer. Setting up a date and time to speak with your recruits takes the guesswork out of phone calls. It also helps you remain consistent. Be sure and have a system in place for tracking these calls because the worst thing you can do is either forget to call or mix up one recruit’s information with another (yes that still happens).
  1. Don’t just deliver, but over-deliver. How you ask? Start by being sincere when you communicate with them. Then, deliver more than what they’re expecting specifically during the campus visit. Focus more on why things matter to them during the tour and provide additional opportunities for personal interaction with your students. If you exceed their expectations in those areas, you’ll win almost every time.
  1. Gain agreement along the way. I often refer to these as “little yeses.” I want you to gain agreement that they like what they’re hearing about your institution and that they understand why it would be a “good fit” for them. Agreement along the way makes that next phone call and that next step much easier…especially when it comes time to “ask for the sale.” It will allow you to stay connected with your recruit during each part of your recruiting strategy.  Plus, your recruit will actually appreciate your efforts to keep them in the loop along the way versus having to guess what’s going to happen next.
  1. Talk about deadlines far in advance. Reiterate when they need to submit specific paperwork, and explain to admitted students, for example, why sending in their deposits in a timely manner once they’ve been accepted is important. Deadlines help to keep everyone focused on the task at hand.
  1. Be where your customers are. Almost all of your prospects are using social media. If you’re not on it, they wonder why. Having an admissions page is great, but just like our customized recruiting com flow has the counselors’ names attached to each letter and email, I want you, if you’re a counselor, to have a personal page to use for engagement. Providing behind the scenes content via Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and other platforms is something your customers both want and appreciate.
  1. When a recruit chooses another school. Sometimes no matter how great your customer service is your prospect will choose to go elsewhere. The reasons rarely make sense, but that’s the reality. When this happens, send them a personal note wishing them well. Tell them you’re even excited for them. That kind of service will pay dividends when others around them inquire down the road about your institution and the overall experience that they received from you.

If you want a team of proven recruiting experts to help you improve your customer service, bring us to campus! Email me directly for more info: jeremy@dantudor.com

Are You Asking Effective Questions After the Campus Visit?Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

One of the biggest questions that admissions directors approach me with is how to deliver a campus visit that exceeds a prospective student’s expectations. The reason for that is simple. A visit to your campus, and more specifically the “feel” of your campus, is the most important factor for just about every student on your list when it comes to making their college choice. Our ongoing focus group research on college and university campuses around the country confirms that statement time and time again.

Today, I want to focus on a part of the campus visit that can be extremely valuable for admissions counselors – asking effective questions after a student visits campus.

Most admissions counselors that we’ve worked with tend to slip into the mindset that once they’ve had a prospective student on campus all of the student’s questions have been answered. Wrong.

What you say to them in the first week after they visit, and the information you ask them, can not only help set you apart from your competition, but it can give you some of the best information possible during a critical point in the recruitment process.

In most cases, your recruit is ready to reveal an entirely new set of information and feelings to you following their visit to your campus…but only if you ask them.

Here are 4 key questions we would recommend based on the focus group research we’ve compiled with this generation of students. I encourage you to use these going forward if you want to gain a deeper understanding of exactly what your prospect’s mindset is after they leave your campus.

“Walk me through what you see happening next for you in the college search process.” Our work with admissions departments indicates that in many cases once your prospect has visited your campus their internal agenda changes. What they thought they were going to do and how they felt before the visit has probably now changed. Smart recruiters should want that information so that they can adjust their recruiting strategy accordingly.

“Can you tell me a couple of big things that you wish you could change about our campus now that you’ve been here.” The temptation for some counselors will be to let the student take a pass when they say something like, “I don’t know,” or “I’m not sure.” Don’t give in. Have them define what they would change about your campus now that they’ve seen it in person…even if they think it’s something small and meaningless. We’ve seen recruits use small discomforts at the end to justify why they aren’t going to choose your institution. It’s important that you have a firm grasp on what those are and then work to change your recruit’s mind through consistent recruiting communication.

“What did your parents say they liked about our campus and the visit?” The parents, as you know if you read this newsletter regularly or have had us on your campus to explain the details of a family’s decision making process, are key. You absolutely need to understand what they liked, or didn’t like, about the visit. Then you can develop a strategy as to how you’re going to recruit the parents during the late stages of the process.

“What other colleges are you talking with seriously at this point?” Don’t assume you know even if they told you a couple of weeks ago prior to their visit. Recruiting can change daily as does the mindset of a typical teenager. I want you to double check because many times we find that the list has changed.

Each of those four questions is important. Asking them after the campus visit will allow you to gain some incredible insights into how your prospects and parents are viewing, not only your institution, but for that matter you. Based on their answers, you can develop more effective questions that will help you determine what your next set of actions needs to be.

If you don’t ask any questions after the campus visit, you risk wasting all of your hard work up to that point. Oh, and if your school already does a post-visit survey that’s great, but I would still recommend you ask your recruits these kinds of effective questions. When you ask them personally it will help you build trust and continue to cultivate that all-important recruiting relationship.

WANT EVEN MORE? If you’d like some effective questions I’d recommend that you ask the parents after the campus visit, simply email me: jeremy@dantudor.com

The NFL Rulebook and Your Recruiting CommunicationsTuesday, January 26th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Colin Cowherd is one of my favorite radio/TV personalities. If you’ve ever watched or listened to “The Herd” you know that Cowherd is very transparent. He isn’t afraid to share his thoughts on sports, politics and business regardless of how unpopular they might be. I respect him because of that.

Just recently, Al Michaels the legendary announcer was a guest on the show.   One of the topics Cowherd questioned Michaels about was his knowledge and comfort level with the ever-changing NFL rulebook. Long story short, Michaels responded by saying that the rulebook, which is written by lawyers, has way too much confusing language in it. He went on to add that most of the rulebook is so convoluted that you can read it multiple times and still not be sure, for example, what constitutes a catch.

So, what can the conversation between Cowherd and Michaels about the NFL rulebook teach admissions recruiters? Keep reading because I’m about to tell you.

Not enough college admissions departments appreciate the need for using the right language in their recruiting communications to teenage prospects. I’ve reviewed letters that use the same small font, wording and letterhead from 20 years ago. I’ve reviewed emails from counselors that bounce from subject to subject without any kind of connection. Yep, stuff like this is happening all across the country, all the time.

This should be a strong warning to all college admissions departments and force some serious reflection on how their individual letters, emails, social media posts, and even the questions their counselors ask recruits on the phone are constructed. Oh, and if your school has an admissions marketing team, that doesn’t get you off the hook. Winning teams constantly collaborate, evaluate, and aren’t afraid to make changes.

Today I want to help you make sure that your recruiting communications are clear, effective and successful. Here are 6 tips:

  1. Understand your audience. If you want to appeal to your current group of recruits, which aren’t one in the same, I encourage you to “put yourself in their shoes.” Understanding your audience helps you to determine how you should arrange your information and what kind of details will be important for a specific segment of your group. It also influences the tone of the text.
  1. Less is always better. The worst thing you can do, especially with new inquiries, is try and explain everything about your college or university in those early letters, emails, and even during a phone call…if you want a response that is.  The tendency for many of us when we write and speak is to use not only more words but as many big words as possible. Our research with your students clearly shows that today’s teenagers are most apt to respond out of curiosity instead of information.  When you’re trying to explain something, less really is more. Again, use short, logical, fact-based repetitive messages where you leave room for their curiosity to take over. That’s a winning strategy.
  1. Word choices matter. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to revise your letters and emails to ensure your prospects read them, it’s all about word choices. While many of you might immediately add more descriptive adjectives ex. “We’ve got a really beautiful new student union!” I’m going to recommend a different approach: Verbs. Verbs are action, while adjectives are descriptive.  Action beats description every time in the minds of your prospects. Verbs also give your prospects a positive feeling and do a much better job of giving them clear ideas as to why they should want to be a part of your school’s student body.
  1. Tone matters. When we have a face-to-face conversation with someone we use the other person’s body language, tone and facial expressions to assess how he or she feels. Letters and emails don’t allow for such a determination, and that means we can’t tell when the other person misunderstands something. In addition to your word choices, which I just covered, both punctuation and capitalization matter. As an example, exclamation points can be used to express excitement. They can also easily be misinterpreted. Ask yourself, “Is there a chance that your message could be misunderstood without visual cues?”
  1. One topic per paragraph. Limiting paragraphs to one idea or topic is essential for clarity. When you do the opposite, it’s not only confusing but, also in many cases, downright overwhelming to your prospects (and their parents).
  1. Be clear about what you want them to do next. First, narrow it down to just one thing. Make it simple like “can you send me an email and tell me how this sounds,” versus complicated and rambling. When you ask for a laundry list, you’re complicating things. The rambling email is often unstructured and unclear as to what the sender is really after. In the early and middle stages of the recruitment process your goal should be to get and keep a back-and-forth conversation going, and let the relationship (and their interest) build from there.

Every admissions team wants a competitive edge when it comes to building relationships with their prospects. The best place to start? Well, you can have us help create your letters and emails of course. However, if you were going to tackle that project in-house, I’d recommend a full review of your recruiting communications. You can make small changes today that can lead to big results this spring.

Tudor Collegiate Strategies works with admissions departments big and small, at public and private institutions around the country. We give them research-based strategies and custom designed recruiting communications that gets results. Want to know more? Just send me an email: jeremy@dantudor.com

How You Can Successfully Climb the Admissions LadderTuesday, January 26th, 2016

counselor-brianThis is the second post in a series from a college counselor attempting to navigate the current admissions recruiting cycle. He is Brian Switay, a second year admissions counselor at Stevens Institute of Technology, a private research university in Hoboken, New Jersey.  His stories are intended to provide an inside look at the challenges he faces as he aspires to grow and advance in the profession.

In his first post, which you can read here, Switay talked about keeping up with the inquiries.

 

By Brian Switay:

Ascending in the admissions profession can be as easy as changing a light bulb, or as lengthy of a mission as putting up Christmas lights. When I started as an admissions counselor at Stevens Institute of Technology in 2013 I had images of immediately learning the CRM, getting to know all the important people on campus, becoming versed in all the majors available here, and much, much more! It’s definitely been an interesting journey so far.

I’ve had some admission counselors tell me they thought this job would involve hanging out on campus, watching their school’s sporting events and eating lots of free food at the cafeteria. Some counselors have even said they were told that admissions is a way to delay leaving college and getting a real job (yes, I have been told multiple times to get a “real job” from disgruntled parents). It’s not that at all. You have very little free time. There’s a “travel season” and a “reading season,” not to mention the constant running back and forth to campus every other weekend to hold open houses for prospective students. From September to March voicemail and email are constantly full and overflowing. Some days you wonder if you’ll ever be able to recover and catch up to all those messages.

The first couple of years you are a “Yes (Wo) Man, Sponge.” You agree to cover different college fairs (outside your travel territory) and information sessions, not to mention prospective student interviews for colleagues. You become used to living out of your car and hotel rooms, and Netflix is now your best friend when isolated on the road. You conquer how to file your expense reports and get your reimbursement, which by the way is not as easy as you think it is. Weekends off are rare, and it seems like you’re always telling your significant other/family what time you will be home and where you will be that evening.

You do all this and more in an attempt to learn what it takes to become a strong leader and move to the next rung on the admissions ladder.

I want to share with you ways that you can improve your stock in your office and within your university. They’ve worked for me and can do the same for you if you’re new to the admissions profession.

  1. I became a member of NACAC and my states affiliates, NJACAC and SACAC (since I cover Florida). Becoming a member has led me to countless email group chains and involvement in discussions I never could have imagined. Just by being on the server chain I have learned of a ton of different changes, thoughts, concerns and everything else in-between.
  1. I have volunteered to become a more integral part of NJACAC (or your local affiliate). I have become part of the planning committee for the Annual NJACAC Conference. Being behind the scenes gives you an amazing networking opportunity. I can happily say that I have found many new friends just from being involved in NJACAC.
  1. I asked for a mentor from NJACAC (I am sure each affiliate has this option). This is another great way to network and meet with someone who has been in your shoes before. My mentor is a great individual and we set up times to discuss changes in the landscape of admissions, where our goals are at (professionally and personally) and just to catch up and keep me on pace to achieve my goals. I would highly recommend you look into this option if your affiliate has this.
  1. Set up a logistical and sound proposal to submit to your boss for you to attend the NACAC National Conference, which will be in Columbus, Ohio this year. The sessions are about an hour to an hour and half and the information you receive is incredible! It will be worth the money to send you out to learn any and everything you can. Become a sponge! Not to mention the amount of people you will meet. (I am looking at you, Phil Trout, NACAC President! Pleasure sitting next to you and your wife at the Keynote speech of Sal Khan this year)
  1. Submit a proposal for your local affiliate’s Conference. I just submitted my first proposal with a group of admissions counselors that I met on the road during my travels. I am honestly thrilled to wait on the decision. I feel like a student waiting on a collegiate decision! But, while I am waiting for my proposal to be decided upon, I have been asked to present proposals for other conferences. It becomes a life of its own, which looks awesome moving forward and up the ladder.
  1. Social media has become my friend. I follow #EMChat (Thursday Nights at 9pm on Twitter). Here you learn from different professionals in the field about how they are using different tools on their campuses as well as meeting and chatting with different levels in command. Everyone from counselors to Associate Directors, Deans, Directors and Vice Presidents of Enrollment Management participate in the conversation. I love it! I also use social media to connect with current and prospective students. I like to tweet out when I am on the road what high schools and college fairs I will be attending that coming day. Students have direct messaged me as well to ask questions about their acceptance.
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I have built, and currently am still building, a long list of colleagues.  Every time I reach out with a question I have always received a response, even from people I have met only once while at NACAC.

These are just a few things that I hope you can incorporate moving forward.

I now have a question for you. What are ways you get involved? I would love to connect and chat with you. Tweet me @brianatstevens

Hopefully I will meet some of you at the NACAC National Conference, #EMChat on Thursday nights, or at a local affiliate’s conference.  Good luck!

How to Successfully Have the “Money Talk” With Prospects and ParentsTuesday, January 19th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Lately I’ve heard a lot people refer to it as the “money talk.”

Talking about paying for college is a stressful and complex topic for most families. In our focus group recruiting surveys on college campuses across the country we ask freshmen students which of the following three things was “most stressful” for them during the college search process – Thinking/talking about paying for college; Filling out applications; Waiting for decision letters/emails. The number one answer every single time (68% overall average) is thinking/talking about paying for college.

This past weekend while watching our local high school basketball team I got into a discussion with a friend of mine whose son is a senior. His son has narrowed it down to two schools, both of which happen to be private institutions with a COA of between $40,000-$50,000 per year.

What happened next is why I’m writing today’s article. The parent knows what I do for a living, so during the conversation he asked me when they should expect the schools to start talking about financial aid. No, that’s not a misprint. It’s the middle of January and no one from either admissions office has initiated the “money talk”…unless you count sending reminders to fill out the FAFSA and other aid forms (which I don’t). The unfortunate part is this isn’t an isolated incident.

Having a useful discussion on the subject of paying for college continues to be a challenge for many college admissions counselors. It’s one of the most frequent topics I’m asked advice about during my one-on-one counselor meetings that accompany our On-Campus training Workshops.

I want to share with you some strategies that we’ve seen work over the past few years that will lead to positive dialogue with families of this current recruiting class.

  • Start the conversation early. Too many counselors do the exact opposite. Why? Most are worried about getting an objection. The worst thing you can do is hope that by avoiding any real discussion about cost or financial aid it just magically takes care of itself. Not going to happen. If your admissions team is not prepared to talk about money with your prospects, it’s going to be hard to secure their commitment. Waiting on your financial aid team to do it is a risky strategy. Instead, your ability to clearly explain the process early on will lead to a greater comfort level and a lot less questions down the road when you try to convert those admits. I would also strongly recommend, if at all possible, you have that talk with the parents, not the parents and your prospect together. It’s a sensitive topic, and we find that your prospect’s parents will be more open with you if their son or daughter is not involved.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Many families may be reluctant to share details about their financial circumstances. Plan on having the conversation with every family and student regardless of what you “think” you know about the family.
  • Ask the parents what kind of challenges this process creates for them. That type of question is one of the “15 Great Questions” that I recommend to admissions teams during our On-Campus Workshops.  You need to understand how this crisis is effecting them and what obstacles it creates when it comes to considering your school.  By engaging the family in that conversation, you will help them connect the dots which is something they value. The parents can then also become your allies.  Considering how important their feedback is in their child’s decision, you cannot afford not to reach out to them.
  • Focus on what you can offer them instead of what you can’t. Our latest focus group research also showed that more often than not, multiple other factors rank ahead of “being more affordable than other schools” in terms of their importance of influencing your recruit’s final decision.  The “feel” of your campus, how your admissions staff and students treated them on their campus visit, the perception of the college as a whole, and other non-monetary factors play a huge part in choosing a school.  Are you directing your conversation with your recruits back to those factors?
  • Frame the decision making process for your prospect.  By that I mean I want you to make sure your prospect and his or her parents aren’t using money as the final determinant.  I think it’s fair to ask them, for example, “Is it smart to make a decision that will effect the next 30 or 40 years of your professional life on who has the lowest price tag?” It’s your job to show the value of your school’s diploma, and the benefits that will come as a result of the experiences they will gain during their time on your campus. When done correctly, you will be able convince many of your recruits and their parents that cheaper isn’t necessarily better.
  • Guide them step-by-step and always emphasize what’s coming next. We’ve talked numerous times in previous articles about how important transparency is with this generation of recruits. The college selection process is both confusing and stressful. You and your admissions colleagues need to be their guides from start to finish. Be sure and reiterate key dates and deadlines well in advance. If you want to avoid “sticker shock,” explain to them how the bottom-line total is calculated and why that’s the important number to remember. As an honest guide who makes the details easy to understand, you will gain their trust.
  • Collaborate with your school’s financial aid staff. The days of directing all “money” questions to your financial aid office are coming to an end. If you haven’t already done some cross training with the folks in financial aid, now is the time. You need to understand what financial aid officers look for and how they make their decisions. Be able to navigate your school’s financial aid website because if you can’t do it, you can guarantee your prospects won’t be able to either. Cultivating these relationships will make a tangible difference. Remember that both offices are working towards the same goal of enrolling the “best fit” students.

At the end of the day there will be times when, despite your best efforts, you won’t be able to overcome the reality that some families just cannot afford your school without taking on what they consider significant financial debt.

If you start the conversation earlier and focus more on the value of your institution and not the dollar amount, watch how different your conversations are with each of your recruits and their families.

Want personalized help in creating a better recruiting strategy? CLICK HERE for more about our Admissions Recruiting Advantage options that schools around the country are using.

Helping You Evaluate Your Recruiting Phone CallsTuesday, January 12th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

When you hear the word evaluation, what goes through your mind?

I have friends, as I’m sure each of you do, who are content with their current position at their place of employment. They’re good people who show up every day, do what’s asked of them, go home, and come back the next day to do it all over again. They’re happy with where they’re at and in many cases are fearful of change.

I’m not one of those people. That’s just not my mindset. I know that I’m going to make mistakes, and I’m okay with that. Now, don’t misinterpret what I just said. While I can accept that I will make mistakes, when one happens, I’m going to get to the bottom of it because I want to know why. I believe that constant evaluation is the only way that I can best serve you, the readers of this newsletter, as well as our clients at Tudor Collegiate Strategies.

So, if you want to get better today at what I believe is a key component of successful recruiting, (phone calls with prospective students) keep reading because I will help you analyze the content of your recruiting calls and determine what you can do better the next time.

When Dan Tudor and I ask our clients about recruiting phone calls we find that they either love them or hate them.

Regardless of which group you fall into, very few admissions counselors adequately evaluate their recruiting calls. Let’s change that.

I’ve developed a list of fifteen questions that will help you build the foundation for effective recruiting phone calls. Many of these can be asked regardless of where the student is at in the college search process.

  1. At some point during the phone call, did you make them feel wanted? I harp on this all the time when I lead an On-Campus Workshop. Successful counselors never forget that it’s not about what they want, but rather the wants and needs of their recruits. Having said that, if your answer to the question was yes, how did you accomplish that?
  1. How much talking did you do vs. them? If you spent a lot of time bragging about different aspects of your school or telling them all the reasons you’re better than school B and C, you risk boring your recruit. Also don’t be shocked if they forget key pieces of information that you discussed during the call.
  1. Did you start the phone call with a weak, non-specific phrase? In the same way that we recommend your letters and emails be original and have a strong opening sentence, the same holds true for your phone call.  Some common phrases that you should avoid include, “I was just calling to see if you had any questions,” and “I’m just calling to follow-up on that stuff I sent you.” Those sound weak and they don’t set-up the rest of your vitally important recruiting call for success.
  1. Did you give them the chance to ask questions? You need to create opportunities in each call that allows your recruit to open up and respond to your questions, as well as ask questions of their own.
  1. Prior to your phone call, did you communicate the call would be happening? If you didn’t and they still answered their phone, understand that you got lucky. If you don’t set up your phone communications with your recruits you’re missing an effective way to get them comfortable with the idea of talking to you.
  1. Did you make them laugh? If you didn’t, research shows that you failed to engage one of the primary ways we connect with each other.
  1. Were you able to get any missing information that you needed? Things like their transcript or other application supplements, parents’ email address, etc.
  1. Did you ask him or her what they view as the next step in the process? This is a big one! When we begin work with an admissions team, one of the first questions that we’re often asked to help with is determining where each of their recruits is at in the recruiting process.  Believe it or not the easiest way to do that is…ask them.
  1. Did you ask them what other colleges and universities they’ve spoken with lately?
  1. Did you tell them why you needed them to come to campus soon? If you did and they indicated that they might be open to that, did you nail down a specific campus visit event or other weekend to do so? And if they’ve already visited, did you ask if they’d be interested in coming back again?
  1. Were you confident throughout the phone call? Did you sound like you knew what you were talking about, or did you jump around and not finish sentences and thoughts clearly? If you don’t exude confidence and you don’t speak clearly and thoroughly, don’t be surprised if you hear crickets on the other end.
  1. Were you able to come away with talking points for future recruiting calls, letters and emails, or were you trying to multi-task during the phone call? (ex. respond to an email) Details matter! Always give your recruit your undivided attention.
  1. Did you remember to send a follow up email or text message to your recruit after you talked to them? The vast majority of your recruits tell us that they wonder if you “liked” them after the call, and would love to hear feedback from you.  Oh, and if you’re going to text them remember there are rules you should follow.
  1. Did you tell them what’s coming next? Where will the next communication come from? Should they be watching for a letter, an email or something else? You need to tie it all together for your recruit.
  1. If you’re at the point in the process where they’ve visited campus and have applied and been accepted, did you “ask for the sale?” Most counselors would answer “no” to that question, so don’t stress. Just realize that more prospective students than you might think want the process over and done with at that point. Students that we conduct focus groups with consistently say that when a school asks them for a commitment, it signals to them there’s no doubt that they’re “wanted.” Beyond that, asking for a commitment will give you an indication of where the recruit stands in their decision-making process.

That’s a list of fifteen common things that we would love to see more counselors talk about with their recruits. Why?  If a counselor covers each area that I just listed, it almost guarantees that they will be the most interesting admissions representative that the student is speaking with.

Regular evaluation is an invaluable tool to improve your communication skill set. You now have a research-based checklist to work from as you get ready for your next round of phone calls.

Questions? I’m just an email away at jeremy@dantudor.com

Talking With Parents: A Crash CourseTuesday, January 5th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Let’s get right down to business today!

You know that the parents of just about every single prospect and admit on your list will have substantial influence in their child’s final decision making process.

You also know that the cost of attending college continues to go up, not down.

Go ahead then and put yourself at your recruit’s kitchen table for a moment…because you and I both know these kinds of conversations happened across the country during the holiday break.

As a parent, would you let your 17 or 18-year old son or daughter pick a college using their own judgment and discretion?  Hardly.

Not without talking to you, their parent, first.

You’ll understand then why it baffles me that many talented, smart college admissions recruiters still have not spoken to one or both of the parents of this next class of recruits.

As a serious recruiter trying to gain the trust of a family during the recruitment process, not making the same efforts to contact and develop a relationship with the parents as you do with a recruit is a losing strategy.

Easier said than done, I know.

The two most common questions I get from counselors and directors alike when helping an admissions team improve their parent interactions are, “Where do we start” and “What do we say to them?”

Talking with parents needs to happen as early as possible. In most cases your first opportunity to speak with them is probably going to take place over the phone.

To help get the ball rolling, let me suggest several questions and talking points that we’ve seen work well recently.  In addition to establishing credibility, asking these kinds of questions will get parents to open up and allow you to determine just where your school stands at this point in the process:

  • “What are you trying to get out of this whole college search process?”
  • “What is it about our school that makes it a potential good fit for your son/daughter?”
  • “What are you trying to get your son/daughter to focus on at this point?”
  • “Have you crossed any specific schools, or types of schools, off your list at this point?”
  • “What’s your biggest fear as a parent as you help your son/daughter look at colleges?”
  • “What are two big questions that I could answer for you right now?”
  • “Has your family talked about a timeline for when you would see him/her making a final decision?”

If these questions sound like things you’d ask a recruit, that’s not an accident.  We find that most parents view themselves as equal partners in the decision making process. Furthermore, most kids not only want that to be the case but expect that to be the case.

Let me add one more thing about those seven questions. Any place that you see son/daughter or him/her I would encourage you to use their child’s first name.

Your goal in talking to the parents is simple but important: Establish the beginnings of a relationship, and let them reveal things to you instead of you selling things to them.  If you do that, you’re going to notice an immediate change in the interest level of your recruit and their family.

Next, I want to give you some additional facts about parents that we’ve gathered from our research and focus groups:

  • Parents want honest answers about how your school is different from the competition. The college brochures look the same, the websites look the same, and the message is largely the same. How are you different from your competition?  I mean really different The counselors who can communicate those real differences to parents will earn their trust.
  • Parents value information on cost, ROI and safety. Your recruiting communications must clearly address each of these three “wants.”
  • Consistency matters to parents. Once you make contact with parents it’s vitally important to know that they expect you to communicate with them in a consistent manner just like their son or daughter.
  • Enthusiasm about their child goes a long way. Parents want to see you pay consistent, serious attention to their kids.  The more passion you show will, over time, cement the idea that you want their son or daughter more than anyone else.

By this point I’m sure you can see why we place such an important emphasis on communicating with the parents as early as possible. You need to become okay with talking to your recruit’s parents, sometimes even in place of your recruit.

Sending parents an occasional email and talking to them during the campus visit is not a winning strategy. Take that approach, and you’ll be hard pressed to discover what the parents of your recruits are really thinking. Plus, you’ll probably become frustrated at the power you ultimately see those same parents having on their child’s final decision.

The last thing that I would recommend if you want to develop a winning communication strategy with parents is separate messaging. I’m talking about a recruiting com flow plan specifically designed for parents that goes beyond your phone calls and emails. Are you doing that now? You should be. We do it for our clients because it results in parents viewing them as the school that respects their opinion and input and sees them as a valued partner in the college decision-making process of their son or daughter.

Want to learn more about the parent messaging we create for clients or maybe you’re curious about other strategies that we recommend to help colleges stand out in the minds of parents?  Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

12 Ways to Keep Your Admissions Team MotivatedTuesday, December 22nd, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I want to start this week’s article by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas! It sounds like those of us in the central and eastern states may experience record-breaking warm temperatures. Crazy, I know!

Over the next few months, admissions staffs everywhere will review mountains of applications looking for those students who best fit their institutional profile. Counselors will also be tasked with staying on top of their emails, making phone calls to inquiries, prospects and admits and meeting the additional, never-ending requests of what is commonly described as a grueling profession.

Working in college admissions is a demanding lifestyle where the pressure to achieve specific enrollment numbers increases stress and causes frequent frustration, specifically among the young professionals who are the face of most admissions teams. Their list of responsibilities on campus keeps increasing despite less funding and compensation. At the end of the day, 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. When those days occur I encourage you to remind yourself, and your colleagues, that the objective they’re working towards is greater than any individual.

Here are twelve suggestions (in honor of the 12 days of Christmas) 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. If you’re unpredictable it’s going to 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. Let me also touch on 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.

Communicate clearly. Many problems and failures are a direct result of a breakdown in communication. 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 through a different approach or even redesigned. Focusing on communication can be even more important when communication isn’t the problem. If a staff member makes an honest mistake, discussing the problem in terms of communication makes it nobody’s fault yet still addresses the fact that a problem occurred.

Productive meetings. Use that time wisely. Too often people have meetings just so they can say they had a meeting. These interactions need to be productive. For example, if there’s a push in your office to convert more inquiries into applications, open the floor up for feedback so as a group you can come up with a strategic solution that benefits each staff member and the overall team.

Remember that everyone is different. The worst mistake that I constantly see good managers make 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. For example, some of your staff members will respond well to direct criticism while others will view it as an attack on them and lose focus. Developing different strategies will result in your entire staff working smarter and more confidently.

Goal setting with follow up. “Lack of clear direction” is among the most common complaints in a dissatisfied workforce. The team members don’t understand the framework or value of what they’re doing, so they can’t get excited about it. Successful leaders set realistic goals and clearly define them, both team and individual. This not only gives people something to shoot for, but it also allows you to rate their performance. Also, don’t forget to follow up periodically to see how each staff member is progressing.

Create a career path. We all know that 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 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 in 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 unity.

Take time to reflect. 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.

If you’ve got a few extra minutes now or over the holiday break and want to learn how we can give your college or university enrollment team an INCREDIBLE EDGE with recruits, click the links below!

Admissions Recruiting Advantage Program

On-Campus Training Workshops

Read This Before You Text Your RecruitsTuesday, December 15th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Texting. It’s been a hot topic lately during calls with both clients and other admissions leaders.  Many of the counselors that I’ve spoken with lately continue to get reports from prospects that they’re receiving “recruiting texts” from competing institutions. Hold that thought for a minute.

Let’s begin with the facts. We all know that today’s teenagers use text messaging more than any other mode of communication. Well, why is that? Your prospects tell us in our surveys that they like short bursts of information that get to the point plus it’s convenient for them. When it comes to the college recruitment process, many say there’s “less pressure” texting than there is with a phone call. Your recruits also tell us that phone calls with admissions counselors, too many of which are unexpected and not planned in advance, distract them from what they’re doing and always seem to take longer than promised.

It’s easy then to assume that text messaging might just be the answer to your phone call problems with recruits. In the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend!” Teenagers haven’t abandoned phone calls (nor should you). “Text messages are cool, but kind of impersonal. I prefer phone calls because the conversation moves faster and there’s less misunderstanding.” That recent quote is one of many that still pop up all the time on our recruiting surveys. Want more proof? A recent Pew Research Center survey of teenagers finds that phone calls are an important way that teens connect, particularly with their closest friends.

So, where do you go from here? There’s no doubt that texting has a place in today’s recruiting communication flow. Let me start by telling you that our latest research with students says both emails and phone calls rank one and two as preferred methods of communication with admissions. The gap, however, between text messages and phone calls has closed significantly.

Now I want to circle back to the beginning of this article (where I asked you to hold that thought). Understandably, counselors are calling and emailing to ask if they should be sending text messages that contain recruiting content.

The short answer is NO. I want you to resist the temptation to recruit via text message.

Let me define what I mean by “recruit”:

  • Giving your prospect facts and information about your college or university
  • Giving your prospect any kind of “sales message” about your school
  • Making the text message look and sound like one of your regular recruiting emails or letters

Under no circumstances should your text messaging with a prospect include anything that would remotely look or sound like one of those three bullet points. Spread that word to your colleagues in the office, but let your competitors keep doing it (because believe me many of them are).

Text messaging isn’t used to “sell,” it’s used to communicate and hold conversations.

If you want to utilize texting the “right way,” which is the way that your prospects want you to use it, here are three things you need to keep in mind:

  • You should ALWAYS ask your prospect for permission before sending him or her a text. Many will be okay with it, but there will be some who tell you not to. Never assume.
  • Text messaging should be used to casually communicate back and forth during the recruiting process. Be concise and specific. Sending reminders, for example, is effective. “Most students from this generation would rather receive a quick text reminding them of something rather than a phone call.” That’s another direct quote from a recent recruiting survey with a client of ours. These could include, but aren’t limited to, reminding them of your upcoming visit to their high school, a visit to your campus, or a deadline reminder.
  • Your wording and sentence structure matters. You need to make it easy for your prospect to actually reply to your text message. If that doesn’t happen, it might mean that you aren’t “sounding” like you’re easy to talk to, which you need to be with this generation.

Again, let me be clear. Texting is not a “one size fits all.” For many of your prospects in this current recruiting class it will be a great way to reach and engage them if you go about it the right way. Remember, though, just because your prospect gives you the green light to text doesn’t mean you can or should eliminate phone calls with him or her.

I want you to be the admissions counselor that knows how to effectively use every single communication platform to your advantage. Good luck!

Did you know that our team of experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies gives our clients an incredible competitive edge when it comes to getting the attention of, and communicating with, their prospects? It’s true. This in turn leads to measurable increases in YIELD. Email me at jeremy@dantudor.com to have a conversation about how we can do that for your institution.

I’ve Got a Recruiting Secret I Need to Share With YouTuesday, December 8th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Have you ever asked yourself, “What are my recruits thinking after they read that latest recruiting letter or email from us?” It’s an important question, and quite frankly in today’s recruiting environment, you can’t afford not to ask it.

During our ongoing research with students, we ask them to offer feedback about the communications they receive from colleges. I’m guessing you want to know what their answers are, right? Here are two recent responses:

  • “Create an outreach that is personal. Not just generic messages that are sent to 1,000s of students.”
  • “We get hundreds of emails during senior year. Make it shorter and actually interesting because everything sounds the same and we get distracted easily.”

Both of these responses echoed sentiments that we hear quite frequently. So today I’m going to add another job responsibility to your title:  expert recruiting message writer.

It’s not an option any longer.  If you don’t create great letters and emails, you risk not only losing the attention of your prospect but also not having the opportunity to start a relationship with them at all.

So, how can you craft messaging that is personal yet distributed to the masses and still generates a high level of responses from your prospects? Hint: Putting your recruit’s name at the top of the letter or email isn’t the answer. That kind of personalization will get your prospect’s attention at first, but when they see the same letter with a different name on it at their friend’s house or on a classmate’s social media page, the novelty will wear off.

Over the years, our team of experts has developed some tricks and techniques that help us to break through that occasional writer’s block hurdle. There’s one secret in particular that I want to share with you today: Forget the rules.

You heard me correctly. I want you to forget the rules – the writing rules that is. Believe it or not, all of those letter-writing rules you’ve learned over the years are preventing many of you from truly connecting with this current class of recruits.

Instead of worrying about the rules you learned in high school and college, I want you to focus on your prospect while also recalling how a typical conversation plays out when you’re in the company of friends. Think, “If I were in a room with (insert your recruit’s name) and needed to get his/her attention, engage him/her, and present reasons why he/she should attend (insert your school’s name), what would I say?” Then let the conversation flow naturally out of your fingers to the keyboard or to your pen as if you were talking to them one-on-one.  Less formal and more conversational. That’s the key.

For some of you reading this article, the strategy of forgetting the writing rules will be hard. I mean really hard…to the point where it might even be a non-starter because you’re afraid the end result will look “funny,” or not sound academic/professional enough.

Every now and then we have new clients who express those same concerns after they receive their first set of custom recruiting messages from us. The tone of the message is different than they’re used to, and seeing a sentence begin with the word “and” or “but” causes them to worry. About a week or two later I’ll get an email from the school’s director telling me everything worked out just fine. The counselors are getting a lot of responses and in many cases having conversations where prospects tell them exactly what their top priorities are.

Every admissions team wants a competitive edge when it comes to building relationships with their prospects. Changing the language and tone of your letters and emails can yield the results you’re looking for.

Different works.

Do you want another effective selling technique that you can use right now in your recruiting communications? Simply email me at jeremy@dantudor.com with the subject line “I want more.”

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