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Truly Standing Out Takes GutsTuesday, December 6th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Your school has a campus, classrooms, professors, dorms, a cafeteria, a student center, and so on just like every other college and university in the country.

Are all those things the same at every institution? I don’t think so. Sure, a lot of colleges offer similar experiences, but there are also many differences between you and your competitors. Despite that fact, so many admissions departments are still much more comfortable following the norm and looking/sounding like everyone else (your website, your comm. flow, your campus visit) versus figuring out a bold move that will truly make you and/or your school stand out.

If you’re a client of ours or you and I have ever had a conversation before, 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 research we conduct is they struggle to understand, aside from the actual dollar amount, what makes school A different and better than school B and C when it comes to fulfilling their wants and their needs. They crave a reason to choose a college based on the unique selling proposition it offers them.

Before I offer 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 fall with admissions counselors and directors…plus it ties in with this article and I just believe it’s that important. Making a bold move and truly standing out takes real guts. I think many people in Higher Ed and college admissions are scared to overhaul a process, or move forward with an unconventional idea, because of a fear of failure. For many people, there’s a fear of failing in front of someone else (your boss, a colleague, a peer at another institution) and hearing “I told you so”, or being made to feel bad for trying something different. Making a change individually or recommending change within the office isn’t easy, but if you want different results, it’s the solution.

Once you’ve accepted the fact that it’s okay to be different, I encourage you to also remember that not every prospective student and family are one in the same. This means that 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 with their prospects:

  • Brochures, letters, emails and other communications. Study after study says that this generation of students no longer reads things from cover to cover. 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 the materials that colleges send, 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 and so forth. 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 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 in the short amount of time that is 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 more and more students tell 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 pointing out 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. I don’t have to remind you how powerful social media is with this generation. Unfortunately, students continue to tell us that most colleges, in their opinion, don’t know how to use SM effectively. The argument I hear from the admissions office 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. How about looking into using a brand ambassador to engage on Snapchat or using Facebook Live as an introduction to your campus or a way to show unique events that happen throughout the year? The possibilities are seriously endless. Just remember, real and raw wins over forced and fake a hundred times out of a hundred on social media. Here’s one more that I just heard about the other day. In addition to traditional acceptance letters, some colleges have begun sending students a congratulatory acceptance “snap” that goes straight to their Smartphone.
  • How you recruit others around your prospect (primarily the parents). Have you ever stopped and 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 for your recruit throughout the process…but they’re not always the only one. When it comes to the parents and cultivating a strong relationship with one or both of them, why not create a separate comm. flow 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 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.
  • Talking about fear. This is one of the biggest points I’ve being trying to hammer home in 2016. 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? Last week during a workshop discussion in Tennessee, I asked the group of tour guides (11 freshmen and 2 sophomores) to raise their hand if as a high school senior they remembered being scared of something at one or more points during the college search process. All 13 hands went up. Then I asked how many admissions counselors at any college they spoke with or visited ever asked about their fear(s). Not a single hand was raised.
  • Re-package your negatives. Instead of avoiding them, tell a different story about the same negative aspects that you can’t control. Your buildings and dorm rooms aren’t as new as some of your direct competitors? Don’t talk about that. Talk about what makes your campus community unique and how they welcome new students. Then talk about how they’ll receive a personalized education from professors who truly care. 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 why the cost difference between you and College B is worth it in the long run, and offer a detailed explanation of why. 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 you and/or your institution stand out from the crowd. I just gave you a handful of ideas that have helped many of our clients create a unique recruitment experience for their students and families.

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 your colleagues need to do it. That takes guts, but an amazing idea executed well can be a game changer.

Right After They Visit Campus You Should Be…Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

…(Fill in the blank). If I asked you what those next few words should be, what would you tell me? What do you think your admissions team, specifically counselors, should be doing right after a prospective student visits your campus?

I’m asking you this question because in my conversations with admissions directors and counselors this fall, many of them have told me that while they put a ton of time and energy into getting a student to visit campus and making sure the visit goes well, very little time is actually spent on developing a post-visit strategy…and by post-visit strategy I’m not talking about sending a “thank you for visiting” note. There’s more to it than that.

Too many admissions counselors tend to slip into the mindset that once a prospect has completed their visit to campus, all of the prospect’s questions have been answered.

Our research continues to show that your prospect has a completely different mindset after their campus visit than they do both before and during.

That means what you say to them after they visit, and the types of questions that you ask them, can not only help set you apart from your competition, but it can provide you with some of the best information possible during a critical point in the recruitment process.

In many 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 “effective 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 that first week following their visit? It depends. Recruiting is situational. You know that, and I know that. And because that’s the case, you’re going to have to rely on your instincts in terms of when to ask certain questions after the campus visit.

For example, if you’ve had all of the following: consistent back and forth conversations with a prospect, it’s the second time they’ve visited your campus in the past 12-15 months, they clearly demonstrate a high level of excitement on the visit, and you’re able to speak 1-on-1 with them after the tour/meetings. Then, you should 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 in the past 4-6 weeks and it’s a big group setting during the visit, and they haven’t said much to you or anyone else during their time on campus, you should give them a few days to process everything before following up and asking some of the questions I’m about to recommend to you. Do however go ahead and set up a follow-up phone call with them before they leave campus.

Here are some examples of “effective questions” that we’ve recommended to our clients that have produced valuable, usable information (both positive and negative). Again, let me reiterate that recruiting is situational and that should dictate the types of questions you ultimately ask.

Questions you might ask your prospect:

  • Can you walk me through what happens next for you?
  • What are two or three 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?
  • 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 we need to talk about before you will consider taking that next step? (Ex. applying)
  • What do you want to see us talk about next?
  • Are you feeling like you’re ready to commit to our school?

Questions you might ask the parents:

  • What advice did you give _____ after the visit?
  • What did you talk about the most as a family on the way home?
  • As his/her parent, what were the big positives that stuck out to you about your visit to our campus?
  • If _____ ended up picking another college, why do you think that would be now that you’ve visited our campus?
  • What surprised you the most about our campus?
  • As his/her parent, what do you see as the next step in the decision making process?

If you need clarification on any of these questions, just email me at jeremy@dantudor.com

Each one of them holds the possibility of really giving you some valuable insights into how your prospects and parents are viewing, not only your institution, but for that matter you. Based on their answers, you can then develop what your next set of actions with that prospect and family needs to be.

Good luck!

P.S. If you have an effective question that works really well would you mind emailing it to me?

P.P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your colleagues and friends

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.

An Important Campus Visit Question You Need to AnswerTuesday, October 4th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

It’s October and that means high school fall break weeks are fast approaching.

From seniors who are getting a late start to juniors who want to stay on track because of changes to the FAFSA timeline, many of your prospects are trying to decide right now which college visits to pencil in. Is your school going to be one of the lucky few?

I say few because the ongoing focus group research we do with colleges and universities (big, small, public and private) nationwide continues to produce the same results. Over the past year, 65.2% of freshmen students have told us that during the college search process they only visited between 1 and 3 schools.

Now you might be thinking something like, “Jeremy, we’ve consistently sent personalized communications, I’ve been to their school and I’ve talked to them on the phone. Why wouldn’t they want to come and visit?”

Even though a campus visit would seem to be the next logical step in the process for those prospects, I’m here to tell you that in many cases it’s far from a sure thing. Being consistent with your messaging, building the relationship over time, and inviting them to a campus visit event won’t always be enough to persuade prospects and their families to take time out of their busy schedules and invest a day at your institution.

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 “fit in” so easily. Statements about a school being the “right fit” for a student get thrown around all the time. If you haven’t had detailed discussions yet about these subjects with your prospects, it’s going to be a lot harder for them to justify why they should spend their time and money traveling to your campus instead of the competition.

Now, on to that important campus visit question that you need to answer – Have you given your prospects a reason to visit your campus? 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?

Again, your prospects will rarely visit a campus without a good 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.

If you’re in agreement with me, here’s another question you might need to ask yourself along with one vital point I want you to remember as you make efforts to get this next group of prospects to visit campus.

Next question – Have you laid the foundation for the visit?  As I touched on earlier, consistent messaging that tells stories, gets them to visualize, and creates anticipation is extremely helpful. The same can be said for building trust and cultivating the recruiting relationship over time. From the scenarios we’ve tracked involving clients that we’re helping to deal with this situation, asking for a visit to soon in the college search process is something that isn’t recommended. You have to be patient, let that recruiting relationship build, and then ask. Otherwise you run the risk of that conversation being unnerving and overwhelming for your prospect. You need to give them glimpses of what different parts of your campus and the surrounding areas are like. Those are some of the key elements our research has uncovered as to what triggers that anticipation in the minds of your prospects when it comes to committing to a campus visit. And in case you’re wondering, getting to that point doesn’t have to take months if you’re doing it the way that we’ve discussed before.

Vital point to remember – You need to have a “because.” 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. I want you to really focus on the idea of selling a personalized experience where both they 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” and how coming there will help prepare them for the next phase of their life. Bottom line – What your prospects need is what we all need to prompt action from time to time:  A “because”. Do you consistently have one?

When the visit date finally arrives, make sure you and your admissions team avoid making any of the common mistakes that many colleges fall victim to during the all-important campus visit.

Last thing: If you’re struggling to consistently get prospects on your campus and you want more even more help, all you have to do is ask. Email me and I’ll send you an important question to ask your prospects.

4 Facts That Matter to Your Prospective StudentsTuesday, June 7th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

You throw them around all the time.

You use them to sell your college or university, and you brag about them in an attempt to separate your school from a competitor.

Facts.  We’re talking about facts.

But which facts are worth talking about, and which ones just take up space in your messages to prospective students?  Furthermore, are some facts that you present actually hurting your recruiting efforts?

While this generation of students does rely on facts about a college or university to form their overall opinion of the school, we’ve found that it’s most effective when admissions recruiters tie those facts directly to a benefit the student will receive.

This is a very important distinction that admissions counselors need to begin implementing.  Again, when you state a fact as a selling point of your institution, it is vital that you take the extra step in explaining to your prospect exactly how they will personally benefit from that fact.

Why is that worthwhile? Our ongoing research continues to find that many prospects don’t usually “connect the dots” between the benefits that your school offers and what it means for them personally. They also, as I’ve explained many times before, rely largely on feelings to help them make their final decision.

When you’re able to communicate facts that will personally benefit a prospective student, and get them to understand those selling points, you win, more often than not. Good feelings about your school coupled with these personalized facts are almost impossible to ignore.

Here are 4 facts that we’re seeing recruits rate as very important in their decision-making process:

  • Your on-campus housing. Interestingly, you don’t always need the newest and biggest dorms or apartments to win.  Instead, you need to make sure your prospective students understand how they will have fun living there and how easy it will be for them to make new friends, “fit in”, and enjoy campus life. By the way, your current student’s opinions and personal stories go the furthest in selling your on-campus housing to your recruits.
  • The food on campus.  Prove to prospective students that they will eat well, and you’ll have an advantage over your competition just about every single time.
  • How a degree at your school will trump a degree at another school.  Every admissions counselor in America loves to talk about the academic strengths of his or her school.  I’m here to tell you that you’d better be ready to prove it to your prospect (and their parents) with real-life examples as to how your school is going to better prepare them to find and successfully start a career.
  • How the admissions staff, and how current students, treat them during their campus visit. Regardless of location or school size or type, these two factors rank at or near the top on almost every single focus group survey we’ve done over the past year. Today’s generation of students can easily spot the difference between those who are acting friendly and welcoming, and those who truly are. We see quotes all the time that contain phrases like, “everybody was welcoming and you could tell they really love their school”, and “the student ambassadors were super friendly and could answer or give a polite response to all of my father’s hundred questions!”

The improper use of facts is a major problem in student recruitment.  We see and hear about it almost daily.

If your admissions and enrollment team commits themselves to taking the extra step of stressing facts that prospective students care about, as well as finding how best to tie those facts personally to those students, you’ll gain the upper-hand over your competitors who are content with reading this research and then choosing not to change the way they are telling their story.

Tudor Collegiate Strategies can help you formulate your strategy when it comes to presenting facts about your school that get attention.  We can take our research and put it to work for you making a big difference in your overall recruiting efforts.  To learn more, simply contact me directly 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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