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How Are You Really Different?Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

That is one of the biggest questions that prospective students want you to answer for them during the student recruitment process.

Just about every college and university has a campus, classrooms, professors, residence halls, a dining facility, a student center, and so on. Are all those things the same at every school? I don’t think so.

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

The problem is, too many colleges continue to look and sound the same in the eyes and minds of most prospective students (your website, your communications, your campus visit, etc).

Instead of just saying you have “professors who care,” start providing concrete, detailed examples of how they care. And if you have a “friendly, welcoming community,” then give some more context that allows your prospect to connect the dots and understand why that kind of atmosphere is important and how it will make their experience at your school more enjoyable and worthwhile.

If you’re a client of ours, or you’ve had me on your campus to lead an admissions training workshop (or you happen to follow me on Twitter), then you know how much I constantly stress the importance of being unique, original, and even surprising when it comes to how you approach and handle student recruitment.

One thing we continue to hear from students in the ongoing survey research we conduct is that aside from a college’s profile (small, private; large, public, etc) and the actual dollar amounts in their financial aid award, they struggle to understand what makes school A different and better than school B and C when it comes to fulfilling their wants and their needs. This generation of students is craving a reason to choose a college based on the unique selling proposition it offers them.

Before I give you some ideas on how to be different and stand out, let me back up for a second because I want to quickly address something that’s come up a lot in conversations I’ve had this year with admissions counselors and those who hold positions of leadership…plus it ties in with this article and I just believe it’s that important.

Truly standing out takes real courage! I would argue that a lot of college admission and Higher Ed professionals are scared to overhaul a process, change their approach, or move forward with an unconventional idea because of a fear of failure.

Making a change individually or recommending change within the office isn’t easy, but if you want different results and you want to stay ahead of your competitors, it’s what needs to be done. Nobody bats a thousand. We’ve all made mistakes, and we’ll all make more mistakes down the line. Without those mistakes, it’s hard to achieve real growth.

If you’re in agreement with me, I also encourage you to remember that not every prospective student and family is one in the same. Sometimes a great recruiting idea that generates results with one student or segment of students might not be effective for another. And always be mindful of the fact that the execution of an idea doesn’t always happen seamlessly the first time around. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea that won’t produce the results you want.

Here are a few aspects of the student recruitment process where we’ve helped schools take a different approach and subsequently make a considerable impact:

  • Emails, letters, brochures and other communications. Study after study says that this generation of students no longer reads things in their entirety. Why then do so many colleges still take the long-winded, cram every fact and statistic about their school in small font approach in their efforts to reach students and families? If you know that your prospects scan everything then go ahead and make your communications shorter in length and have them focus clearly on just one idea. Then have that communication set up your next message and so on. As far as the language you use, if you want to create a reaction and get engagement from your reader (so you can find out what they actually think about what you just shared with them), you need to forget the writing rules. Take a less formal and more conversational approach. That approach does not, I repeat DOES NOT, make you or your school sound unprofessional. It actually makes you more relatable, which makes establishing a relationship with a prospect or parent much easier.
  • Campus visits. More and more I’m hearing stories of students feeling overwhelmed by all that they see and hear during a campus visit. That’s not the feeling you want them to have considering how important the campus visit is in a student’s final decision. Let’s start with your information/welcome session. Most colleges offer a quick overview of their campus along with information on academics, financial aid and scholarships, as well as the application process. Be honest. Do you find your current presentation riveting? Start by offering separate sessions for both students and parents. Each group values different things so come up with topics accordingly. For students, how about a current freshman or sophomore talking about “living with a roommate” or “how I not only survived freshman year, but thrived”. You want it to be something that grabs and keeps their attention, offers value, and is memorable. Speaking of separating students and parents, would it surprise you to know that some students have told us they think the campus visit would be more impactful if students and parents were given the same tour but in different groups? And then there are your tour guides. Do you treat them as part of your admissions team, and do they understand the important role they play in the student recruitment process? When they give tours are they just reciting a script and discussing the history of various building on your campus, or do they understand the importance of storytelling and how to effectively do that throughout a tour?
  • Social media. Students continue to tell us that in their opinion most colleges don’t know how to use social media effectively. The argument I hear a lot from admissions and marketing professionals is that creating great content on social media is extremely difficult and time consuming. I disagree, and here’s why. You’re over thinking it. For example, stop spending hours and hours trying to create fancy videos that look like a movie and are narrated by someone your prospects don’t know and can’t relate to. Whether you like it or not, it almost always comes across as forced and fake. If you really want to showcase your school’s personality, then go document. Have real students and real people (faculty, admissions staff, food service people, RA’s, etc) document what a normal day on campus looks like through their eyes as it happens. It’s okay if the hair isn’t perfect and there isn’t music playing in the background because that’s real and raw. And instead of posting picture after picture of the exterior of buildings on your campus, why not showcase what happens inside those walls. There are so many great stories just waiting to be told if you’re willing to do so, but don’t forget to explain why what you’re documenting matters. Do you know what Instagram influencers are? You need to because you have some on your campus right now that I’m betting would be more than happy to help you with free content. Just remember, real and raw wins over forced and fake a hundred times out of a hundred on social media.
  • How you recruit others around your prospect (namely their parents). Have you ever asked yourself who’s recruiting your prospects for you when you’re not? It’s an important question. Our ongoing research continues to show that parents are the most important outside influence during the recruitment process…but they’re not always the only one. When it comes to parents and cultivating a strong relationship with one or both of them, why not create a separate communication plan for them? We do it for our clients and it continues to pay dividends in a big way! Now, let’s discuss everybody else that matters in your prospect’s life. This may include their siblings, best friend, girlfriend/boyfriend, high school counselor, pastor, or possibly another mentor, coach, or teacher at school or in the community. If you want to be different, it’s time you started connecting on various levels with each of these influencers so they too understand the value of your school and why it’s the best option for that student.
  • Having a discussion about fear. I have done everything I possibly can in 2017 to hammer home not only how important it is to discuss fear but why it’s a difference maker. Every single one of your prospects is scared of something when it comes to the college search process and the transition from high school to college. What are you doing to alleviate that fear?
  • Re-package your negatives. Instead of avoiding them, tell a different story about those negative aspects of your school that you can’t control. Your buildings and residence halls aren’t as new as some of your direct competitors? Don’t talk about that. Talk about what happens inside those walls and what makes your campus community unique (and then mention that choosing a college based on the newest buildings and facilities is the wrong way to choose where you get an education). Is your college the most expensive option for that student? Explain to them your value proposition in a way they can truly understand. Use detailed outcomes and provide examples of recent graduates who also paid more but felt it was well worth the investment. Whatever the story say it confidently, and repeat it over a long period of time.

Here’s the great news – I believe that anyone, if they work hard enough, can come up with a truly amazing idea that can help them and/or their school stand out from the competition.

The next step once you have an amazing idea is arguably the hardest for a lot of people. Go and execute it, or go and present your case on why you believe you and/or your colleagues need to do it. That can take some courage, but an amazing idea executed well can make all the difference.

Think about it, and enjoy the rest of your week!

P.S. I thought you might enjoy this sunrise picture I took in North Dakota last week during my travels there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the Campus Visit, It’s Important to Do ThisTuesday, November 14th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

If I asked you what the “this” is, what would your answer be?

What do you think an admissions counselor should do right after a student from the territory they manage visits campus?

Developing a post-visit strategy is imperative. And by post-visit strategy I’m not talking about sending a handwritten “thank you for visiting” note. That’s a nice touch, but there’s more to it than that if you want to help your prospect and his or her family keep the process moving forward.

Too many admissions counselors slip into the mindset that once a student visits campus, all of their questions have been answered.

Our ongoing focus group research shows the exact opposite usually occurs. Not only do most prospects leave campus with more questions, they also tell us they have a completely different mindset after their campus visit than they do both before and during.

That’s why it’s important for admissions counselors to ask effective, targeted questions. Doing so will provide counselors with some of the best information possible during a critical point in the student recruitment process.

In most cases, your prospect is ready to reveal all kinds of new information about their timeline as well as new feelings (both likes and dislikes) they may have following their visit to your campus…but only if you ask them the right kinds of questions.

Now, you might be wondering when I say right after do I mean immediately after the walking tour before they leave campus, or am I referring to those first few days following their visit? It depends. Recruiting is completely situational. And because that’s the case, you’re going to have to rely on your instincts in terms of when to ask certain questions.

If you’ve been talking back and forth with a prospect that is a senior or a transfer for months now and you’ve established trust and rapport, I would argue it’s okay to be a little more aggressive with your questions before they depart campus.

On the other hand, if it’s a new inquiry or prospect that you just started communicating with recently, you might want to consider giving them a few days to process everything before following up and asking some of the questions I’m about to recommend. Do, however, go ahead and set up a follow-up phone call with them before they leave campus.

Below are some questions that I’ve recommended to our clients that have produced valuable, actionable information (both positive and negative).

Questions you might ask your prospect:

  • Can you walk me through what happens next for you?
  • What are one or two things that you wish you could change about our campus now that you’ve seen it?
  • What did your parents say about the visit during your trip home?
  • Do you feel like there’s something you’re going to try and pay attention to better on your visit to another school?
  • Did your visit to our school change anything about your timeline?
  • Are you planning to visit any other colleges right now?
  • What do you think the best part about living on our campus would be?
  • Are you interested in coming back to campus later this year for another event?
  • If you came back for another visit here, what would you want to see or experience again?
  • What are your parents telling you to do at this point in the process?
  • What do you want to see us talk about next?

Questions you might ask the parent(s):

  • What advice did you give (child’s name) after the visit?
  • What did you talk about the most as a family on the way home?
  • What were the biggest positives about our campus that stuck out to you?
  • What surprised you the most about our campus?
  • What do you see as the next step in (child’s name) decision-making process?

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

Let me add that it’s also important to develop one or two follow-up questions that align with your original question. A good follow up question will force your prospect to expand on, or attach additional meaning to, the answer they give you.

Good luck, and enjoy the rest of your week!

P.S. I thought you might enjoy this picture I took at sunrise yesterday as our plane was descending into Atlanta.

About That College Information SessionTuesday, September 26th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

If I asked you to rate the information session that your college offers as a part of your campus visit on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 is amazing and 1 is not very good), what number would you tell me?

During my travels this summer, I asked that question to various admission counselors, directors, and campus visit coordinators. What I found interesting was that most of the numbers the directors and campus visit coordinators gave me were between 7 and 8.5. Counselors, on the other hand, the ones who often lead these sessions, generally rated it between a 6 and a 7.

The bigger question is, what do prospective students and parents think of these information sessions?

I’ve read more critical feedback the past 6 to 12 months than ever before. Too many colleges are failing to differentiate themselves with these sessions that have been described as “immensely boring,” “extremely repetitive” and “the Power Point presentation of doom.” Those are direct quotes made by parents and students that I pulled from recent newspaper and blog articles.

Add it all up, and it’s clear that more attention and discussion about the topic is needed on a lot of campuses…especially considering what we know about the campus visit and the role it plays in a student’s final decision.

Today, I’m going to share some ideas on how these information sessions can provide more value to students and parents.

  • Shorten it. Some information sessions last as long or even longer than the college’s walking tour of campus. If this is the first thing a prospective student and their parent(s) do when they arrive on your campus, what kind of first impression and excitement is it creating? Keeping people in a room or your gymnasium with a bunch of strangers and no bathroom breaks for an extended period of time is a bad idea.
  • Spend the first few minutes creating rapport. Remember, most if not all of the people in the room don’t know each other and probably don’t know the counselor of whoever is giving the presentation. Spend the first few minutes calming their nerves by outlining the agenda and touching on the college search process as a whole (and how it’s hard, confusing, and at times scary). Validate those things and let them know that the goal of everyone on your campus today is to help each family walk away with a clearer picture of not just your college, but also the college search process as a whole.
  • Incorporate social media into your presentation. According to the latest Pew Research Center statistics, 95% of Americans own a cell phone of some kind, and for 77% of them, it’s a Smartphone. The numbers are even higher when just looking at young people. If just about every single visitor to your campus has a phone and can’t put it down for an extended duration of time, why not incorporate some audience participation into your presentation…turn it into a unique contest with prizes. Keep in mind that what a student finds interesting and what a parent feels is helpful aren’t necessarily one in the same.
  • Update your topics. Thanks to the internet and social media, less and less students and parents are coming to your campus for the first time knowing little to nothing about some of the “basics” of your college – academic majors, location, financial aid and the application process. When you repeat some or all of this information verbatim from Power Point slides it quickly becomes boring and offers no explanation of what really makes your college unique and different from your competitors. If you want to get and keep the attention of your visitors, namely the students, give them more information about things you know they’re thinking about but don’t want to say. Consider talking about fear and how your school helps new students adjust both academically and socially. Explain how to go about finding external scholarships to help offset the cost of college. Have a current freshman speak about what it means to live with a roommate. Have an upperclassmen talk about how your college is helping prepare him/her for a successful career after graduation. Have a parent of a current student touch on how the financial aid and admissions staff at your college helped make the entire process less stressful for their family. There’s no reason to wait until an admitted student day to have these discussions and create these interactions. Furthermore, I would argue there’s value in splitting up prospects and their parents for a short time and speaking on different topics with both groups…and then you reconvene.
  • More storytelling by your speakers. The reason students and parents tell us they feel information sessions are completely scripted is because they usually are. Most counselors, tour guides, and other guest speakers need to be taught how to become better storytellers. Encouraging them to contribute personal examples is great, but not everyone knows how to turn an event or situation into an impactful story. Explaining the importance of visualization, especially when it comes to things the student or parent is about to see and do during your walking tour throughout campus is also important.
  • Create 1-on-1 opportunities for families to ask questions specific to them. Believe me when I say every single student and family has questions. Many just don’t feel comfortable putting things out there in front of another family or group of families also visiting your college. Create individual situations for those questions to be answered by an admissions counselor or tour guide during the visit versus asking if anyone has questions towards the end of the information session like every other college does.
  • Give them a quick break. Incorporate about 10 minutes in between the end of the information session and the beginning of the walking tour around campus. Offer your visitors a snack, a beverage, and the chance to use the restroom. It’s something little that has paid big dividends for our clients who have implemented it.

Are you already doing one or more of the 7 things I just recommended? Has it been beneficial? Whether the answer is yes or no, I’d love to hear about it if you’re willing to share. Drop me a quick email by clicking this link: jeremy@dantudor.com

Enjoy the rest of your day!

If You Want Them to Visit Campus, Do These ThingsTuesday, August 15th, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

You and I both know how important the campus visit is for this generation of students. In many cases, it’s the make or break moment when your school moves up the list or falls out of contention.

All of our ongoing research at Tudor Collegiate Strategies (and that of many others in the higher ed industry) continues to show that the campus visit is where feelings are developed and connections are made that students ultimately use to help them make their final decision.

Now, let me give you some data from our work with colleges and universities across the country that may surprise you. Over the past year, 55.1% of incoming freshmen students have told us that during the college search process they only visited between 1 and 3 schools. And that percentage creeps even higher (into the low to mid 60’s) when only considering schools located in a small town or rural area.

What it all means is this – Time is at a premium for both adults and young people today. Everybody has bigger “to-do lists” and more things that they view as important to them.

Even though a campus visit would seem to be a logical and important step in the process for prospective students, we’re finding that colleges now more than ever need to make a stronger case. Just being the local college or the big name school in a state that sends out communications encouraging students to visit doesn’t consistently produce the same yield it once did.

We continue to find that many of your prospects want and need to understand WHY you want them to become a part of your campus community and HOW your school will help them transition and “fit in” so seamlessly.

Statements about a school being the “right fit” for a student get thrown around all the time. Having the academic major that a student is interested in will get their attention, but there needs to be a more detailed discussion for many to justify why they should spend their time and money traveling to your campus instead of a competitor’s.

I want you to ask yourself and your colleagues this question – Have you given your prospects a reason to visit your campus? Again, other than you being interested in them and having a campus that you think is awesome and they’d be crazy not to want to visit, what have you really given them?

Your prospects need a reason that is solidified in their mind – either one that they came up with on their own or a picture that you and your school have painted for them over a period of time. For example, if a student is interested in the Engineering program at your school, how are the classes your school offers them and the faculty that will teach them different than your competitors? What kind of a future as an Engineering graduate holding your degree will they have? If you can help define things like this for students, things that they can’t necessarily find or see on your website, it creates more excitement and curiosity.

Let’s take things a step further. How else are you going to lay the foundation for a campus visit? Consistent messaging that tells stories, gets them to visualize, and creates anticipation is without question helpful. The same can be said for building trust and cultivating the recruiting relationship over time. In fact, from the scenarios we’ve tracked involving clients that we’re helping increase campus visits, asking for a visit too soon in the college search process is something that isn’t recommended. You have to be a little patient, let that recruiting relationship build, and then ask. Otherwise you run the risk of “visit, visit, visit” becoming unnerving and overwhelming for your prospect. And, by the way, developing a recruiting relationship doesn’t have to take months if you’re using some of the strategies that I’ve discussed in previous articles.

I want to share one more thing that our ongoing focus group research has uncovered. A big motivating factor in many prospect’s decision to visit campus was the idea that there was something important to talk about, or they were going to experience something big and unique during their visit. That means you need to really focus on the idea of selling a personalized experience where both the student and their parents will have the opportunity to sit down face to face with people that can help walk them through why your school is the “right fit,” how it can be affordable, and how coming there will help prepare them for the next phase of their life.

Quite simply, what many of your prospects need is what we all need to prompt action from time to time:  A “because.”

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your colleagues and friends. And as always, thank you for your time and attention!

P.S. After the campus visit is over, do you know how to determine whether your school moved up the list or is about to fall out of contention? Here’s your answer.

Recruiting Reminders During My Daughter’s Campus TourMonday, October 10th, 2016

College visit picYour perspective on effective recruiting techniques always reach a new level when you experience it personally, through the eyes of one of your children.

My daughter is a high school junior, and we took her to visit a college for the first time yesterday.

Statistics, research, and all the data we accumulate for college coaches and admissions departments is important, of course. But as we always teach, these decisions are about feelings. And perceptions. Or misconceptions.

And all of those things are defined, on purpose or by accident, by the individuals leading a visit and the tour of campus.

Now, let me just say, the college staff was organized, friendly, knowledgeable, and generally put on a terrific day. Still, it was interesting to listen to other parents and kids going through the visit, as well as the comments from the prospective students on the visit. And there were several good reminders of what anyone showcasing a college should be doing to effectively reach this generation of teenager – and their parents:

Parents are running the show. We have a pretty long article history of outlining our research and advice when it comes to incorporating the parents of your recruit into the process. That was on full display as I walked around campus with other families. Parents were leading discussions, prompting their kids with the right questions to ask, and generally handling all of the tougher topics related to choosing a campus. And, as our focus group testing has shown in the last several years, the kids were fine with that happening; they were looking for their parents to provide direction and help them make decisions about whether or not that particular school would be a good fit for them. So, as we continually ask, how are you incorporating the parents into the recruiting conversation, and giving them a lead role in the decision-making process?

The more crowded the visit, the less effective the emotional connection. Let me say first that large group visits on big recruiting weekends are sometimes unavoidable. One of your recruits in a large group on your campus versus no recruit on your campus? No contest, get the recruit there. However, I was reminded again how hard it is to emotionally connect to a place (or to a coach, or a new group of friends on campus) in a large recruiting visit or tour group. There were parts of the visit that were crowded, difficult to hear the guide, or see everything there was to see. And it didn’t prompt many in-depth, personal questions from those of us attending (most families don’t want to interrupt the flow of the tour with the questions they really want to ask, based on our research). Again, that’s no fault of the organizers, it was just a byproduct of the numbers in attendance. My recommendation? Aim for as many one-on-one visits as possible. They have the highest closing percentage rates, and give your recruits the best overall emotional connections that you need them to experience.

Go deep with your questions. Speaking of parents and your visiting prospects not wanting to answer your questions in big groups during a tour: It’s up to you to take your upper-tier prospects aside at some point during the visit, and ask them questions. Deep, probing questions. It was striking to hear, towards the end of the tour and visit day, how many parents were talking with each other about the questions they had that they needed to investigate further – even though they had college representatives standing ten feet away. Why? It wasn’t the right setting. Had they been taken aside privately and asked questions about their experience, what hurdles they saw as a part of the process, and other decision related issues. Unless you focus on 1) creating a private, one-on-one setting, and 2) asking questions that require deep answers, don’t expect to take most recruiting experiences to the next level. They need you to lead them.

Talk about money as soon as possible. One of the most interesting observations of the day came in the general recruiting fair, where all of the different college departments had tables set up in order to answer questions. The table with the least amount of traffic? The college’s financial services table. Wait, you may ask, “if parents are so gung-ho on talking about money, why wasn’t that the most popular table at the fair?” Simple. Parents want to talk about their specific situations, privately, over an extended period of time. For athletes, they want that to be with their coach as often as possible – at least to kick off the conversation as a transition to speaking with someone else in financial aid (assuming you’re a non-Division I that isn’t offering a full athletic scholarship). The point is, parents are looking for financial definitions sooner, rather than later. Don’t disappoint.

Nothing is universal when it comes to how every single visiting recruit coming to campus is going to react to how your visit actually is produced. But there are some definite general rules we see being effective over and over again in the work that we do with our clients around the country. Use these four proven concepts as a starting point for re-evaluating how you execute your recruiting visits, and what needs to change to accommodate this new generation of prospective families visiting your campus.

Our staff works with college athletic departments, as well as admissions staffs, to help them communicate their recruiting message more effectively. We work with hundreds of programs around the nation, and have for the last decade. If you’re a coach or athletic director, contact Dan Tudor at dan@dantudor.com, and if you’re an admissions professional contact Jeremy Tiers at jeremy@dantudor.com.

Strategies for Improving Your Campus VisitsTuesday, November 3rd, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

“I stepped foot on campus and turned to my mother and said I am coming here.” That statement appeared on one of our recent client recruiting surveys in response to a question about the impact of campus visits.

Our ongoing focus group research on campuses around the country indicates that the “feel” of campus, and how the admissions staff treats a prospect during the visit rank atop the list of fifteen different factors in terms of influencing enrollment. That same research also suggests that while some schools are experimenting with new campus tour strategies, many colleges and universities continue to deliver virtually identical visits.

With the competition to attract prospective students at an all time high, you can’t afford not to sit down as a staff and brainstorm new ways to make your campus visits the most effective ever.

Before we discuss some strategies that can make your tour memorable, create those all-important feelings, and maximize the time your prospect and his or her family members spend on your campus, I have an important question to ask you: “Is your admissions team clearly and consistently giving recruits a reason to visit your campus?” You being interested in them and having a campus for them to come spend the day at isn’t enough anymore. Further proof of that comes from our research over the past year. According to our recruiting surveys, most prospects are visiting between 2-4 schools.

In addition to giving them a reason to visit campus, here are 8 other strategies that we’ve seen turn good visits into amazing, one-of-a-kind visits…the kind that result in recruits saying things like the opening sentence of this article.

  1. Make the planning of their visit more collaborative.  Most schools dictate the campus visit itinerary from start to finish. Try a different approach. Let your prospects be a part of the planning process.  Ask them ahead of time what they’d like to do, and what they wouldn’t.  If you let them feel like they’ve helped design the visit, it should result in them feeling a little more relaxed when they arrive on campus.
  1. Minimize group tours. Your prospects have told us that an individual tour where the focus is on them and what they want is a big indicator of a college’s real interest in them. Regardless of your school’s size, you can and should aim for greater personal attention.
  1. Double up and then divide.  Some colleges have student led tours while other schools use the admissions staff. Our recommendation, which is something we’re seeing more schools do successfully, is to double up. By that I mean have both a current student (ideally a freshman) and an admissions counselor begin the tour together. Not too long into the campus visit, find a way to separate the prospect from their parents. It doesn’t have to be for more than a few minutes. The reason is simple: When you separate the two parties, both are free to speak their minds. Parents can ask questions that they might not normally ask around their son or daughter. We’ve also seen situations where the parents offer usable, actionable information that will help increase a school’s chances of enrolling that recruit. Recruits on the other hand can relax and be themselves around their peers instead of awkwardly deferring to over-eager parents who gladly jump in to answer the question that you just tried to direct to their son or daughter.
  1. Student interaction is extremely important. Our research indicates that one of the most powerful weapons you have as a recruiter is one that a lot of schools choose to bypass during a prospect’s visit:  Casual, relaxed “hang out” time with your current students. I’m talking about time outside of the tour that is non-structured where your recruit and a few of your underclassmen can just sit and talk.  No counselors, no parents, no structure.  Trust me, it works. Oh, and if you’re wondering what to do with the parents during this “down time,” how about organizing a discussion on a topic that parents ask about most: safety.
  1. Make lunch strategic. We’ve talked before about scheduling too many meetings during the campus visit as well as what I refer to as “non-impactful” meetings. Generally speaking neither works, nor do they factor heavily into the prospect’s final decision. If you want to execute an even more effective tour, invite that professor or staff member to join you at lunch. Instead of just sending the recruit and his or her family to campus dining, make lunch strategic. We’ve had clients do this with great results.
  1. Provide something of real, concrete value.  This is going to be defined differently by each of you. There’s no right or wrong definition of “value.” I want you to come up with something that you can give your visiting recruits (and their parents) that adds value. Maybe it’s a one-on-one meeting with your school President or a successful alumnus working in the field of study your prospect is interested in. What about an information session on money management. Be creative, and if you still get stuck, ask your current students for their thoughts.
  1. Set up selfie opportunities. Come up with a prize to give your prospects after they take and post a campus selfie on Instagram or Twitter. Be sure and come up with a hashtag campaign ahead of time so other prospective students can experience those real, authentic moments.
  1. Don’t forget to ask the right questions AFTER the visit. More and more admissions counselors are beginning to realize the importance of effective questioning after their prospect visits campus. 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 deliver some of the best information possible from your recruit during this critical point in the recruiting process. For example, you could ask your prospect, “Do you feel like there’s something you’re going to try and pay attention to better on your visit to another school?”

Want more specific strategies that will make your campus recruiting visits stand out from the competition? Part of our expanded workshop includes a student designed campus visit overhaul. Email me at jeremy@dantudor.com for more information.

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

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Developing Successful Campus VisitsMonday, December 8th, 2014

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I recently conducted one of our effective on-campus admissions workshops for a college in the Northeast.

When it came to recapping their focus group research the most impactful discovery was that 85% of the students surveyed said the campus visit moved this particular school up, or to the top of their list. Despite those numbers, one of the school’s senior counselors wanted to discuss ways they could turn a great visit into an amazing one-of-a-kind visit, the kind that creates that “feeling” all recruits rely on to help them choose a college.

Let me ask each of you a question. “When’s the last time your admissions office took a step back and evaluated your campus visit?” Some of you might be saying to yourself, “Jeremy we haven’t had any complaints about our visits, so why spend time doing that?” A visit to your campus is number one on your prospect’s list for determining if your school is the right one for them.  Our ongoing focus group research on campuses around the country indicates the face-to-face communication you have with a prospect will determine what kind of chances you have at securing their commitment to join your student body. Unfortunately, that same research also suggests that many schools are delivering virtually identical visits, and therefore not providing prospects with strong enough proof as to why their school is the right fit.

Lets back up for a minute. First and foremost, you have to give your prospects a reason to come to campus. It starts with your recruiting message. You must be telling a compelling enough story using a mix of communication that ultimately creates anticipation in their minds. Your prospects want to buy what you’re selling, but you need to give them a reason to do so. They will anticipate coming to campus if they’ve been given exciting peeks at what awaits them when they get there. This is an opportunity for you and your admissions staff to use creative thinking and paint them that picture.

O.k., back to auditing your campus visit. The first thing I encourage you to focus on has nothing to do with the tour route or your tour guide. During your walk across campus, look for things such as burnt out light bulbs, weeds, trash in stairwells and paint in need of touching up. We see little things such as these all the time when we participate in campus tours during workshops and client visits. If we see them, that means your recruits and their families notice them as well. They may seem minimal in the grand scheme of things, but I encourage you to reach out to your school’s physical plant and see if these small projects can be prioritized. The result will be more comments about your school’s “beautiful campus,” which again is something that contributes to creating that “feeling” for your recruits. The campus visit sets the tone for the rest of the recruiting process.

Now that you understand how critical every aspect of the campus visit is to successful recruiting, let’s discuss some common mistakes that colleges make when they’re hosting these visits. Keep in mind this feedback comes directly from our research with students just like those on your campus.

Too many scheduled meetings. The absolute worst thing you can do as a school is to cram as many meetings as possible into your prospect’s visit. All of that running around leads to exhaustion. Students can only take in and process so much information, so quality must be emphasized over quantity. They want to get a feel for how well they will fit in on your campus. A day full of meetings destroys that possibility. You need to carve out some down time for rest and self-exploration.

Non-Impactful meetings. I understand that certain departments at your school want to be involved in the campus visits. Here’s the problem. Students consistently tell us that sitting through a meeting with people they will likely never see again is a buzz kill. They become bored and never get a sense of how what’s being explained is beneficial to them. Most importantly, very few of these meetings factor into their final decision. One meeting I would however highly recommend you consistently block time for is with someone in your school’s career center. As the cost of higher education continues to rise, families want to know more about ROI (Return on investment).

The length of your campus tour. The average college campus tour lasts between 60 and 75 minutes. Our research, which again is feedback from students, consistently tells us this is too long. Make the time one day to join or follow a tour group and watch what happens after about 30 minutes. Students become uninterested and start to check their cell phones. Like it or not, that’s this generation of recruits. They have an extremely hard time staying focused, particularly after that first 30 minutes.

Your tour guide’s presentation. There’s two parts I want to address here. First off, your tour guides must be enthusiastic individuals who have no trouble engaging your prospects and their families. Delivering the campus tour in a dull, monotone voice is an immediate turn off. Furthermore the guide must be well educated on every part of campus, including any recent changes and additions. Finally, they must remember the importance of TMI. I’m referring to discussing social issues and personal experiences on campus that are irrelevant and inappropriate. The second key takeaway here is the worst thing your visit experience can offer a recruit is the exact same thing the last two visits they went on offered. Your tour guide’s talking points must be defined. If all they’re doing is talking about the renovation of this building, the history of that building, and so on, then that’s a problem.

Not highlighting the “why.” Every campus has the same things – dorms, a cafeteria, a place where students congregate, a library, etc. All of those things are great and they need to be highlighted, but not enough schools emphasize why each of those should matter to that specific recruit. Maybe your freshmen dorm room sizes are larger than most, or your cafeteria allows students once a week to fill up a container as full as possible with food and take it back to their dorms for later on. Wouldn’t it be worth pointing out why those things are beneficial?   Doing so allows your prospect to visualize, and as we’ve stated many times previously, that’s another part of helping create that “feeling.”

No personal touches. In a previous article we discussed how personalization is the secret to increasing enrollment. You must incorporate personal touches and create a genuine welcoming environment for families. That goes for your prospect as well as mom and dad because we all know how important a role they ultimately play in their child’s decision. Welcome signs, parking spaces with their name on it, and providing background information to others who will be involved in the campus visit are good places to start. This is another chance for your counselors to be creative.

Letting them leave campus without telling them what’s next. Here’s something we see happen all the time. A school hits a home run during the campus visit. Everyone’s excited. Mom and dad along with their son or daughter get into the car and start the long drive home or to the airport. As they finish recapping the visit, the question of what’s next always arises. Too often the admissions staff doesn’t clearly lay out that next step for the recruit before they leave campus. We also advise clients to ask the prospect if they can see him or herself as a student on your campus. Failing to do one or both of these means you’re missing a giant opportunity for your school.

If your school has recently evaluated and addressed any campus visit issues, minor or major, I applaud you. Let me challenge you now not to be afraid to re-tweak things going forward. If you’re in the majority that hasn’t done so, start dissecting your visits now. Do not wait until next year. You can make easy changes quickly and effectively that will improve the overall experience for your current group of prospects.

It’s also a great idea to ask your tour guides for their input on the campus visits. Ask them what you should do more and less of. They’ve recently gone through the process and have a better feel for what today’s student wants.

Need help creating a campus experience that will allow your school to stand out from the competition? Invite us to conduct an on-campus workshop with your school in the New Year. We can help! Contact Jeremy directly at jeremy@dantudor.com for more information.

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