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How to Persuade Them Through Small WinsTuesday, November 13th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

It’s important to take your time and lead prospective students through the process of understanding all the different reasons why they should want to choose your school over the other colleges on their list.

That involves persuasion and patience…sometimes a lot of patience. Always remember though that the college search process for a student is exactly that, a process.

Too many colleges right now are trying to skip steps and accelerate a student’s decision-making process. They’re pushing them to visit campus and/or complete their school’s application before the student feels ready to do so. Sometimes that works, but typically those students struggle after they’re admitted to understand what really makes that school different from their other finalists. They end up being the students who tell you things like, “I need some more time to think about it,” or “I’m not sure yet.”

Along with persuasion, you need to begin to lay the groundwork for agreement in the early stages. Consistent messaging and personalized communication are one of the most effective ways to do that. Another is by asking effective, targeted questions each time and then listening closely. Both involve patience.

Patience is also at the heart of this next strategy that I want you to adopt if you’re not doing it already – Gaining agreement through small wins, or as I refer to them in workshops, “little yeses”.

When you get a prospective student (or their parent) to offer agreement to something and give you that “little yes”, versus you telling them what they should do/think, they’re more likely to move forward in the process and complete their next step.

Here are some examples:

  • You get the student to reply back to an email with the answer to a question you asked
  • You get the student to agree to set up a phone call with you
  • You get the student to agree to talk to their parents about visiting campus
  • You get the parent and student to agree to have the cost/paying for college talk
  • You get the student to agree that your college’s location is going to be a plus
  • You get the student to agree that filling out the FAFSA now can be beneficial
  • You get the parents to agree that your campus is a safe environment, and you have programs in place to help their child successfully transition to college life
  • You get the student to agree on what the next step in their process will be

I would classify each of those things as small wins.

Think about how you can gain at least one “win” every time you interact with a prospective student (or parent). If you do, it will make asking for the big yes (their commitment/deposit) much easier and less stressful because they’ve already given you a bunch of agreements along the way. In some cases they may even be persuaded to pay more.

There’s proven research behind this idea. Develop a plan to implement it, or let me know if you need help. This is another way for you to stand out from your competition.

They’re Everywhere! More Recruiting Tips From My TravelsTuesday, May 29th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

What a way to end my spring travel. Last week started with 48 hours in Atlantic City during which I gave the keynote speech at NJACAC and presented a breakout session. Then it was home for 12 hours to sleep in my own bed and have breakfast with my wife and daughter. And then it was back to the airport to fly to the opposite coast and Spokane, WA for 36 hours to speak at PNACAC. I had so much fun connecting with many of you in person!

When I travel, my eyes and ears are always paying attention. Why? Because there are people all around you that can teach you really valuable recruiting techniques. So, when I see or hear something of note, I add it to a Word document and then eventually I pass it along to you in an article like this one.

Here are nine things to think about if you want to become a more effective recruiter and communicator:

  • Earning trust. We have a lot of options when we fly. Last week during my layover at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport I met Captain Mark and First Officer Jason who work for Delta. Prior to boarding our flight, both of them were walking around the gate area striking up conversations with many of the passengers…including me. Not having seen others do this before, I asked Captain Mark about it. He told me that in his mind it was extremely important to earn the trust of customers before they flew with him. Plus it was another way to personalize the traveler experience. Without either, he said, how was he or the airline he flew for any different than the rest? My question to you is, how are you earning the trust of your prospective students and their parents?
  • Perfecting your approach. Have you noticed that more bartenders are asking you for your name? Some like Robert in Wichita, KS and Nate in Peoria, IL, will even go so far as to describe how the food is prepared and why the food at their restaurants is better than the rest. It’s all about how they first establish contact with a new customer. That sets the tone for the customer relationship even if it’s only for a few minutes. When done correctly, it increases the likelihood of repeat business. How much time do you put into figuring out what your approach sounds like to prospective students?
  • Using compliments. It’s a simple thing with a massive ROI. Compliments help you make a connection and cultivate a relationship. They also show that you care, which is something that prospective students tell us they’re actively looking for.
  • Pay attention to body language. Are you aware that your body language reveals things to total strangers including prospective students and their parents? It’s true. Why does that matter? It might surprise you to know that research indicates over 65 percent of our communication is done nonverbally. In fact, studies show that nonverbal communication has a much greater impact and reliability than the spoken word. Therefore, if a prospective student’s words don’t match with their body language, you’d be wise to rely on body language as a more accurate reflection of their true feelings.
  • Prove that you can solve their problems. It’s crucial that you possess the ability to both discover problems and develop solutions. Remember, you’re dealing with young people who want to have their problems (specifically – how to pick the right college and how to pay for it) solved. It starts by asking effective questions. If you can’t do that, you’ll miss out on opportunities to solve problems and separate yourself and your school from your competitors.
  • Know what your competition has to offer. How much do you really know about the three or four schools that you constantly compete with for students? Without that knowledge it’s hard to outline the differences between your student experience and theirs. Let me clarify. I don’t want you to focus on negative recruiting. Instead, I want you to be able to passionately explain why your school is a better fit. Are you able to consistently do that in a professional way?
  • It’s how you say what you say. In other words, the “feel” of the language you use with prospective students is even more important than the facts you’re relaying to them. As I’ve said before, our research clearly shows that this generation of students is focused more on how you make them feel. That’s one of the big reasons we focus on the overall tone of the messages and recruiting strategy that we help develop for our clients.
  • Are your letters and emails speaking the right language? Stop worrying so much about everything being “on brand.” Your communications, specifically the letters and emails you send, need to be shorter, and they need to be all about them. Use language that we all speak every single day. And most of all be consistent.
  • Do they understand why, how, and when to take action? And if the answer is yes to all three but they’re still not moving forward, what’s holding them back? Your prospect is always moving in one direction (towards you) or the other (away from you). They never stay neutral.

Looking for more ideas that can help you in your day-to-day? Reply back to this email and let me know what you need help with.

P.S. I want to give one more big shout-out to NJACAC President-Elect Carlos Cano and everyone else from Jersey for their hospitality last week. What an amazing group!

If They Choose Another School You ShouldTuesday, April 24th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

Sometimes even your best isn’t going to be enough to convince an admitted student that your school is the “best fit” for them. The reasons will vary. Some will be legitimate, and some will make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Anytime you lose a student it’s important to self-evaluate and figure out the why behind that student’s decision…especially if it’s someone that you had penciled in as a “yes.” That’s what I’m going to help you with today.

In some cases the why will be something that’s out of your control. But more often than you might think, the answer has to do with changing your approach, improving a certain skill set, or correcting a bad habit. Figuring out the why and coming up with an effective strategy for the next time around is something that will help admissions professionals who are looking to climb the ladder.

Let me start by giving you three basic tips to help you deal with rejection:

1) Don’t overreact and become argumentative with the student (or parent).

2) Congratulate the student on their decision. Professionalism always matters. Word of mouth (i.e. a positive experience even though the student didn’t pick your school) is king and it can help lead to future deposits.

3) Never let rejection get you down. I see this happen a lot with admissions counselors during their first cycle, to the point where some develop a negative attitude and begin dreading future conversations. Always keep in mind they’re not rejecting you personally.

Now, let’s talk more about how to determine the why behind a student’s decision. I’ve talked a lot in this newsletter about what kind of questions to ask at different stages of the recruitment process. If you missed last week’s article about questions to ask undecided students, click here.

Determining the why behind a “no thanks” can easily be done if you ask the right kinds of questions. Often times the answers to those questions can be even more insightful than the ones you ask a prospective student before they’ve made their final decision.

So, here are seven questions you can ask a student right after they tell you they’ve chosen another school. I want you to ask them exactly like you see them below.

  • What was the number one reason behind you choosing that school?
  • Tell me about the feel of their campus and how it compared to when you visited our school.
  • Was there anything that almost made you pick our school?
  • When did you actually know that our school wasn’t the right fit for you?
  • What did your parents say about our school and your decision?
  • Did our school communicate with you too much, not enough, or just the right amount during your college search?
  • Can you tell me one thing that I could have done better to make your college search process less stressful?

Analyzing a recruitment process that ends unsuccessfully can provide incredibly valuable information that will be useful during future cycles. I encourage you to make time for this important step.

If your recruiting results this year aren’t what you expected, and you’d like help figuring out WHY, I’m happy to assist and get you some cut and dry answers. It won’t cost you anything but your time (no, me offering free help is not a misprint). Reply back to this email, and we will set up a time to connect.

Thanks again for spending a couple of minutes with me today!

Important Recruiting “Tiebreakers”Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Here’s something interesting that I continue to both hear and read about. There comes a time towards the end of the college decision-making process where students (and parents) start to think about, and discuss, how much of a sincere interest each school that has made the final cut has taken in them (or their child). This is especially true for student-athletes.

Caring more than your competition is something that I’ve talked to you about before. Our focus group research continues to show that the treatment an admitted student receives from a college’s admissions staff, current students, faculty, and anyone else they come in contact with during the process is a very important factor in their final decision…including sometimes helping to break a tie.

Demonstrating that you care conveys reliability, and it helps to builds trust. Beyond that, it’s also something that you completely control.

“Recruiting tiebreakers” as I like to call them can sometimes be something insignificant to you as an admissions professional but important in the eyes of the student/family. Be mindful of that. I’d also encourage you (if you haven’t done this already) to ask your admitted but undecided students what things they’re planning to use to help them break a tie between two schools if it comes to that, which by the way is a situation that happens quite frequently. You could ask them that question as a call to action in an email or during a phone call.

Here are two other things that a large majority of students tell us they need if the recruiting tie is going to be broken in your school’s favor:

  1. Emotional connections. For most young people, emotion often outweighs logic and facts. Students trust the feelings they get throughout the college search process. Those include the feelings you create through your recruiting communications, the recruiting relationship you develop (or don’t develop) with the student and their parents, and the feelings they get when they visit campus or watch videos on your social media pages or your website. How are you capturing their emotions and creating emotional connections between them and your campus community? Those emotional connections create a feeling of comfort, they create trust, and they offer a sense of acceptance and belonging which is what a lot of students are scared they won’t be able to find at a college. And if you haven’t already done so, now is also a great time to connect your undecided students with current students, specifically your freshmen as they recently went through the same tough choices and dealt with the same sorts of feelings that your undecideds are dealing with right now. Hearing how a current student made that same tough decision and how your school has helped them excel during year one could easily be the deciding factor.
  2. A clear understanding of HOW something at your college is truly different and WHY your college is worth the investment. You have small class sizes, professors that care, a welcoming community, or you’ve got all kinds of options because you’re a larger institution…it’s too general! Plus, virtually all of your competitors are saying the exact same thing. It’s time to offer more detailed stories that explain both the how and the why. Your value can be communicated logically and emotionally, and you need to do both. I would also add that you shouldn’t present the same case or the same exact stories to every single student. Sure, there will be common threads, but part of executing this point correctly is having a clear understanding of the wants, needs, and fears of your admitted student and his or her family.

You may have noticed that I didn’t mention cost. That doesn’t mean price isn’t important and won’t in some cases be the biggest tiebreaker for a student/family. Your goal should be to extract that information (i.e. asking targeted questions) as early as possible by starting a conversation about paying for college long before your school releases their financial aid award. When you employ that strategy you allow yourself (and your school) all kinds of time to prove your value and overcome the cost objection.

Good luck!

P.S. I know May 1 is approaching fast. If you’ve got a recruiting scenario that you’re looking for advice on, or you could use a couple last minute questions to ask your undecideds that will help you yield vital information on their mindset, go ahead and send me an email. Free help, no strings attached.

Are You Creating the Right Kind of Urgency?Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

The topic for this week’s article is the result of a recent phone call I had with an admissions counselor who also happens to be a frequent reader of this newsletter. She reached out to me looking for ideas on how to create urgency and not pressure with her admitted students.

Her fear was that she was pressuring many of her undecided students too hard and that was having a negative effect on both future conversations (i.e. getting them to continue to engage with her) and the final decision. All she wanted to do, she told me, was to remind those students how much her school wanted them and to see when they felt they would be ready to make a decision.

Does any of this sound familiar? It’s a common challenge for admissions counselors, which is why I want to spend a few minutes today talking about some easy things that you can do to correct your approach if you’re facing a similar problem.

Let me start by saying that both Dan (Tudor) and I continue to see a lot of colleges and universities really push their internal timelines on prospective students, which in many cases creates bad pressure that ends up driving some of them away.

When you push a deadline on someone without having a prior discussion about it, it almost always comes across as you pressuring that person and creating an atmosphere of you versus me. That could include saying something like, “I need an answer by (insert date).” Now, I’m not saying that you won’t get students to deposit when you do it that way, but I would argue that your chances for melt significantly increase.

I talk a lot about being a partner in the college search process with a student/family because there is strategy and psychology behind that approach. You create the right kind of urgency by setting clear, long-term timeline expectations for the prospect as early as possible in the process.

For example, as you start to have early conversations with high school juniors in the coming weeks, I want you to help those students build out the next 8 to 10 months and what that will look like. It doesn’t have to be exact, and it’s okay if together you edit that timeline at some point. Just make sure that both you and the student/family are in agreement on the timeline. I would even go so far as to ask them after you build it out if they’re in agreement with everything you’ve discussed.

And if you’re near the end of the process and you haven’t built out a timeline with one of your undecided seniors, I would strongly encourage you do so immediately. You could talk to them about the timeline goals of your office, and ask what they feel is needed before a final decision about your school can be made.

Let me add one more thing. If a student isn’t willing to build out a timeline with you, I would start to question just how serious they are about your school and ask a few targeted follow-up questions.

Remember, it’s about the way they want this process to go, not the way you need it to go.

So, in addition to building out those clear, long-term timelines, here are four other very simple things you can do to create the right kind of urgency.

  1. Explain the WHY behind the urgency. Help the student/family understand why it’s in their best interests to keep the process moving forward. Give them logical reasons such as additional stress and having to complete multiple tasks in a much shorter timeframe.
  2. Ask them what big question marks still remain. This is particularly useful late in the process with admitted but undecided students. Go ahead and ask the student, or his or her parents, “What are the big question marks in your mind about our school that are making it tough to make a decision?” I’m not about to tell you I know what answer you’re going to receive because the reality is this could go off in a number of different directions. Whatever feedback they give you, analyze it and deduce if this is an objection that you can overcome or if the student is just having a hard time telling you “no.” You could also ask something like, “On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of being close to making a decision, where are you at?” If they tell you they’re at an 8, then get them to verbalize why they’re an 8 and what they see as the final stumbling blocks or question marks.
  3. Talk about their next steps and be a problem solver. Building on #2, take the feedback you receive and come up with a solution for them or at least the next step. You could also tell the student you’re thinking it might be helpful for them to talk to someone who was in the same position recently (i.e. one of your freshmen) and faced a similar challenge. Ask them if making that connection that would be helpful…most will say “yes.”
  4. Use the right words and phrases in your recruiting communications. There are plenty of words and phrases that you can use in your emails, letters, and text messages to help you create urgency. They include – Fast, quick, close, soon, approaching, deadline, never, and don’t miss out. Each one of these will cause their mind to think urgently over time.

Was this article helpful? I’m always interested in hearing what you think. And, if you have a question about urgency or any other aspect of student recruitment, let’s start a conversation (or at least get one scheduled on the calendar). All you have to do is reply back.

P.S. Have you seen #TiersTalks on Twitter? I started it in 2018 as a way to give you a behind the scenes look throughout the week at key themes and insights from conversations I have with admission and EM professionals (including when I lead a workshop). You can check it out here.

Are Your Admits Giving You These “Buying Signals?”Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

It’s that time of year again for college admission professionals…aka crunch time.

Everybody has their list of admitted students who have yet to deposit, and if you’re like most, you’re trying to connect with those students and figure out if your school is at or near the top of their list.

Let me start there first. If you’re burning up the phone lines trying to reach these students and you’re getting the silent treatment, click this link for your answer why, as well as some ideas on what you can do to change that.

Now, let’s talk more about your conversations with those admitted, but undecided students. What really surprises me when I talk to admissions counselors is how few of them are actively looking for signs or “buying signals” from students. Instead, they’re waiting for the student to offer up a direct statement one way or the other as to where things stand. Because of that, they often miss the signals that students create, many of which are in the form of questions and statements.

I want you to be able to pick up on those signals as early as possible which is why we’re spending time on this today.

With years of research data collected on how prospects make their final decision, Dan (Tudor) and I have identified several reliable signals that are given by a student who is either extremely interested in your school or ready to deposit/commit.

Before I share that information with you, let me reiterate the importance of being an active listener in your day-to-day conversations. Listening is such an important skill for all of us. And as it relates to this topic, the better listener you become, the easier it will be to spot these “buying signals” that I’m about to share with you. Here they are:

  1. The parents reveal what’s going on behind the scenes. During conversations with you they share details about other colleges they’ve been talking to or anything else related to the process of making a decision on whether or not your college is the “right fit” for their child. We’ve found that in a lot of cases the parents take an overly active role at the end of their child’s decision-making process with colleges they’re seriously considering. This is yet another reason why it’s so important to establish early and consistent contact with the parents of prospective students.
  2. They ask questions about cost or your school’s financial aid processes. That could be direct questions about payment processes at your school or even comments wondering how they would afford the leftover cost at a school like yours. This also includes objections or subtle arguments about cost as well. Each one of those questions and comments (by students or parents) is a serious sign that they are actively trying to figure out how they can afford your institution. If your school is no longer a serious option they won’t invest the time and energy into debating with you. Again, students who aren’t seriously considering your school will rarely, if ever, bring up cost. Students trying to picture themselves at your school will always bring up cost.
  3. They ask about upcoming Admitted Student Day events or other opportunities to come back to campus. When they do this, this is their way of telling you that your school made the final cut. It’s an especially strong sign if they go out of their way and ask to see specific things or talk to specific people during such an event.
  4. They ask the same question multiple times or in multiple ways. If they ask you to repeat something that you told them earlier, or if a subject comes up a second or third time during multiple conversations with them you should strongly consider “asking for the commitment.” This is almost always a sign that they’ve been mulling over a decision that’s in your favor.
  5. They ask detailed questions about a specific aspect of your school. These questions are somewhat rare, so when you get one, I would recommend you accelerate the process to whatever the next step happens to be. It might be a question like, “What percentage of your undergraduate students end up doing their Masters program at your school?” Or, it could be a “How do I” question like, “How do I know what my final cost will be?” Students rarely ask positive questions like these unless they’re already picturing themselves as a student on your campus.
  6. They ask if you can connect them with a current student. Typically this means they’re looking for confirmation to make them feel good about a decision.
  7. They give you other verbal “buying signals.” Parents in particular are really good at this. During an admitted student day, campus visit, or phone conversation, listen for comments like “Wow, I didn’t know that.”  Or, “Great, that’s what I thought.”  Statements like those are signs that they’re engaged mentally with what you’re saying and what they’re seeing.
  8. They ask you what the next step is. When a person is ready to make a decision they often won’t wait for you to tell them what the next step is. They’ll just come right out and ask you something like, “So what would I do next?”

Speaking of next steps, the next step once you get one or more of these “buying signals” is to act on them right away. That action plan could include either what I’ve referred to before as a “trial close,” or if you get a really strong signal, your next step should be to ask them if they’re ready to deposit/commit. If this part of the process is something you need help with, email, call, or text me and we can set up a time to chat.

Beyond that, if you’re struggling right now with a specific subset of students, or you’re looking for ideas/strategies on a specific admissions/EM topic, go ahead and connect with me. The advice is free! I’m here to help you if you’re willing to ask me.

Good luck!

P.S. If you didn’t take the 1-minute survey that I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, please do that for me right now by clicking this link. Thanks so much.

8 Keys for Your Admitted Student Day EventTuesday, February 27th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Application and admit numbers are up over last year. That’s what I’ve been getting told this winter from a lot of admissions/EM leaders.

The excitement seems to quickly get replaced, though, with cautious optimism.

At the end of the day, they know what you and I both know. Conversion (yield) is the number that matters the most.

So, what’s your school’s plan as we enter the home stretch with this next class of students? More specifically, how are you going to make sure your admitted student day (ASD) events pay off?

More and more I’m hearing admitted students describe these events just like they describe a lot of college communications and campus visits – they all look and sound very similar. Admitted students get to sit through a bunch of meetings, namely ones about academics, financial aid, and orientation; they meet a few staff members and current students; they tour campus; they eat lunch; and then they go home and try to make sense of what was a six to eight-hour whirlwind.

A growing problem students and parents tell us is many of these events have become so big that it unfortunately leads to a less personalized feel.

So, let me ask you the same question again but in a different way. What’s your school’s plan to make sure that your admitted student day event doesn’t mirror everybody else’s, AND doesn’t feel so big that students (some of whom are still undecided) walk away feeling frustrated and/or confused? This generation wants and needs to see, hear, and feel something different. And they want the focus to be more on them as an individual student/family.

Armed with that knowledge, today I want to offer you eight key things to think about as you and your admissions staff colleagues discuss upcoming on-campus ASD events.

  • The first 30 minutes. The start of your event can make or break the rest of the day. What kind of initial feeling is your school creating from the time a student/family parks their vehicle, to when they check-in, to when your welcome session or first block begins? It needs to be a smooth, low-pressure process that’s welcoming and gets them excited about what they’re about to experience.
  • Weekends are fine, but what about weekdays? Most colleges have their admitted student day events on a Saturday. How many students and families are you missing an opportunity with because that doesn’t fit their schedule? Consider adding a weekday offering. It won’t appeal to everyone, but if I told you that making this option available could result in another 3, 5, or even 10 students enrolling, what would you say?
  • Figure out your biggest problem. Building on the last bullet point, have you ever asked yourself what the most annoying/frustrating part of your admitted student day event is for your admits and their families? Maybe it’s your parking situation, or lack thereof. Maybe your campus is hard to navigate. Whatever “it” is, become a problem solver on behalf of your audience. And if you’re not sure what “it” is, I would argue that trying to get that information via a post-event survey isn’t a great strategy. Instead, consider social listening (i.e. searching social media to see what students and others said/thought). Social listening can provide actionable insight. If you’re looking for help in that area, check out what our friends over at Campus Sonar are doing.
  • Give them information sessions that are different. Academic breakout sessions, talking about financial aid, and learning how to register for housing/classes are important. I’m not arguing any of that. However, when you have admitted students who still don’t know if it will be easy or hard to “fit” into your campus community, I strongly encourage you to go a little deeper in these sessions. For example, when it comes to those academic meetings, what kind of opportunities for true engagement are you creating between your admits and your faculty? Developing a level of comfort with a faculty member who may actually teach them at some point is a big positive. And what about offering a session for students that focuses on the freshmen experience (or transfer experience) and what your school does to help new students acclimate both academically and socially. A topic like that one is on the minds of most students, so why not alleviate some of their fears and take the mystery away.
  • Separate the student and their parent(s). I’ve talked in previous articles about the importance of doing this at some point during the campus visit. The same value exists during an admitted student day. You need to create an unforgettable experience for everybody. Again, one of the biggest things that every single student wants is a “feeling” of fitting in. It’s hard to make that happen if the only student interaction they have is with their tour guide or with a student panel. The more current students they meet and have an actual conversation with (outside of a scheduled session), the greater the chance that they’ll connect on a personal level. Being able to ask questions of current students without mom, dad or an admission staffer around can give them that. I’ll even go so far as to tell you that allocating some time during your event where your admitted students literally do nothing but “hang out” with your current students will be a positive. On the parent side, make sure financial aid isn’t the only topic you cover in detail. Consider more in-depth discussions on topics like safety, academic advising, and outcomes.
  • Create an emotional moment or connection. When it happens, that moment or connection is something that a student will remember when they make their final decision. Are you creating an atmosphere during your ASD that makes an emotional moment or connection possible? Here are three quick examples that I’ve seen work on different campuses. The school President has the students and families over to his or her house to play games and socialize not only with him or her, but other people in the community such as recent graduates and influential business leaders; A carnival type party with various activities and competitions, food trucks, a DJ, and more; An interactive family feud type event.
  • Strategic 1-on-1 time with an admissions counselor. Allotting specific time for an individual meeting between a student/family (especially any undecided students) and their admissions counselor (or at worst an admissions staff member) is critical. And just to be clear, I’m not referring to small talk that occurs throughout the day. Now, from a time standpoint I understand that it’s highly unlikely you’ll meet 1-on-1 with every student/family that attends your ASD. It’s about being strategic. Some need extra love and attention from you more than others. Do you know who they are?
  • Remind them they’re a priority, and ask them if they’re ready to commit/deposit. In my article last week I talked about “closing” and how you can make it less stressful. Click that link if you missed it or want a quick refresher. A lot of counselors continue to assume that once a student has been admitted it’s obvious how much their school wants them. That isn’t always the case. They need to hear it again…now more than ever, actually. If you’ve built a relationship with a student/parent(s) and you know that the student has all the information they need (both from your school and other colleges still being considered) to make an informed decision, go ahead and ask them if they’re ready to submit their deposit/commit/become a (insert your school mascot’s name). How you ask is up to you. I just want to make sure that you ask. Please keep in mind, though, that if you haven’t consistently communicated with the student, and you don’t have a feel for their timeline, then the student may not be ready to be asked.

Admitted student day events are a key component of the college recruitment cycle. Consider having a discussion in your office about one or more of these ideas today.

If you have a question about today’s article, go ahead and email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

Establishing a Timeline With Prospective StudentsTuesday, January 23rd, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of emails and phone calls from Directors and Associate Directors who describe the following scenario. Their school is getting ready to deliver financial aid awards, and call campaigns are about to commence. In many cases, there’s been minimal or inconsistent contact between the admissions counselor and an admitted student/family up to this point. As a result, the Director or AD is worried that these phone calls will come off as transactional instead of personal.

On top of that, I’ve also heard from a number of admissions counselors who tell me they’re lacking confidence to make financial aid phone calls because they don’t have a good feel for where those admitted but undecided students are at in their college search process.

The end result is usually one of the following:

  • Because they don’t know which students are ready to end the process (I promise you that every counselor has one or more students who are ready to do just that once they get their FA package) the admissions counselor misses a huge opportunity to “close” those students. Oftentimes simply reiterating to a student that they’re a priority for your school and then asking them if they’re ready to commit/deposit is all it takes to get the student to take action.

OR

  • If the admissions counselor does ask an admitted student if they’re ready to commit/deposit and the student/family isn’t ready to decide just yet, there’s a chance the counselor will come across as pushy and overly aggressive. In many cases that makes future conversations between that counselor and student/family more difficult. And if the student does happen commit because they feel pressured, I would argue there’s a greater chance for that student to melt later on because in their mind that decision wasn’t made on their terms.

The easiest way to avoid a situation like this is to ask each student as early as possible in the process what their timeline is for making their college decision.

As I explain when I lead an admissions training workshop, establishing a timeline that your prospect or their parents have set in their mind for making that final decision is critical for you to effectively manage the entire recruiting process (and all those names that a counselor has in their territory). It also gives your prospect a checklist to follow early on which we’ve found helps to alleviate some of the stress they’re feeling during the early stages of the college search.

Furthermore, this strategy will establish you as the person that will be guiding them through the college search process. Note that I said guide –  not trick, force, or pressure. You do that through consistent communication, effective questioning, establishing logical “next steps” throughout the process, and continually providing them with smart reasons (i.e. storytelling) that prove your school is the “best fit” based on their wants and needs.

Now, if you ask them about their timeline and their response makes it clear that they have little to no idea how to navigate this process, that again provides an opportunity for you to insert yourself as the expert guide who has helped countless families who were in the same situation as they are.

As you’re walking the student/family through all the key steps and stages of the college search process, make sure the timeline you’re establishing is a mutually agreed upon one and not one that you’re telling them they have to follow. I can’t emphasize that point enough!

Let me also add that if you establish a timeline with your prospect during their junior year of high school (or even their sophomore year), ask about their timeline again every six months because there’s a good chance that their answer will change. If this were the start of their senior year, ask at least every three months moving forward just to make sure that everyone remains on the same page…which brings me back to where I started this article.

If you haven’t established a mutually agreed upon timeline with your admitted, but undecided students yet, during that next phone call I want you to ask a question like, “Jeremy, have you and your parents talked about when you’re going to make your college decision?” The response you receive will not only tell you where they’re at in the process (and probably reveal any objections/concerns they have about your school), but also what your next step with that student/family needs to be.

Do you have a question about this article? Email me right now by clicking this link. I’m happy to discuss it further with you.

P.S. If you want even more tips and strategies like this one that you can use in your everyday recruiting, bring me to campus this spring or summer to lead our popular admissions workshop. You can get in touch with me here to check on available dates, or click here for all the workshop details.

I Want You to Assume the FollowingTuesday, January 2nd, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

“Optimistic” seems to be a popular word choice for a lot of college admission leaders over the past month.

Application numbers are up year over year and so is the number of admits in many cases.

Students are telling admissions counselors, “You’re one of my top choices” or “Yes, I’m still considering your school,” and it cements the idea that the student is being honest and up-front about what’s really going on behind the scenes.

Here’s the thing. I’ve seen a lot of cases where that good-hearted optimism leads to a greater level of complacency. The final result isn’t what the college hoped for, and a lot of people are left scratching their heads as to what went wrong.

Remember, you’re dealing with young people who like to please, often change their mind in an instant, and frequently make completely illogical, irrational decisions.

Let me be clear. I’m not saying that you don’t have a number of prospective students or admits who have you at or near the top of their college list right now. What I’m saying is, I’ve heard a lot of stories the past few years about assumptions being wrongly made, which then leads to the wrong recruiting approach being used.

My goal today is to help you avoid many of these situations. What I want you to do is make some worst-case scenario assumptions about your prospective students.

I want you to assume the following:

  • Assume that you have a group of admitted students who are ready to commit/deposit once they receive their financial aid package from your school. My question for you is, do you know who they are? And do you also understand that some students will NOT be ready to decide the moment that package is delivered? Both are equally important.
  • Assume that just about every single prospect is extremely stressed and feeling more than a little overwhelmed. According to our research, the majority of students become increasingly tired of the college search process the longer it goes on. They get tired of the phone calls, texts, and emails from colleges as well as the questions from family members (even though they can fake it pretty well). And they have little to no idea how to truly differentiate between colleges with the same profile (ex. small, private, Liberal Arts). If you assume that they’re stressed, it will lead you to change the language you use in your messaging and conversations and how long you delay moving them forward to whatever their next step is. Choose to not assume this, and it increases the risk for letting a prospect become so stressed that they lose focus on what you want them to do.
  • Assume that most parents will vote to have their child stay close to home, go to the college that’s least expensive, or the one that has the biggest name recognition. Reverting to the “safe choice” is often what occurs when people are under stress. How are you making the parent(s) a valuable partner in this process, while at the same time discovering their fears and coming up with a plan to alleviate them? You need to clearly explain why your school is the smarter choice and then reiterate those things moving forward.
  • Assume that each student has one or more questions they want to ask you but aren’t because they don’t want to sound stupid. During your conversations try and avoid just asking them if they, “have any questions,” and instead come up with specific, targeted questions about their process, timeline, wants, needs, fears, etc.
  • Assume that it’s your job to create curiosity throughout the recruiting process. A core part of student recruitment, along with consistent contact and telling a great story, is to create curiosity. For example, how do you make students look forward to your next communication? The admissions counselors that assume they need to weave in curiosity to their overall recruiting message always seem to be the ones who hit their territory goal.
  • Assume that each of your prospects will be putting themselves first.Very few are interested in hearing why you think they’d be crazy not to choose your school. Assume that they’re looking at everything from their perspective, not yours.
  • Assume that in more cases than you want to admit, you have families that can afford to pay more for their child to be a student at your school. They just don’t understand why they should want to adjust their finances and pay more, and they’re not going to come out and tell you this. One of the questions that we asked graduating high school seniors in a survey we conducted with CollegeWeekLive last July was, “Did you choose the least expensive college?” Out of 548 responses, over 54% said no. Could you clearly explain your college’s value proposition and tie things in with a specific family if you had to?
  • Assume that you need to continue to provide specific reasons why students should be excited to attend your college after they commit/deposit. Otherwise your chances for melt will increase significantly. Your committed students will still get communications from other colleges after they decide, and some of their undecided friends will still ask them to join them on a campus visit to another school. Make sure you have a separate track of communications for this group that reminds them why they made a great decision and what they have to look forward to when they get on campus.

If you have a specific question about this article, I want you to click here and email it to me.

P.S. Have you noticed the new hashtag #TiersTalks that I created on Twitter? It’s something new for 2018 that I’ll be using on both my Twitter and Instagram (which by the way allows you to “follow” specific hashtags now).

Something Different That I Need You to ReadTuesday, December 19th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

It’s 11:53pm EST on Thursday night and I just pulled out my MacBook in-flight on my way home to Indianapolis.

You won’t read this article for a few days but I just can’t get these thoughts out of my mind, so I’m going to start typing while they’re fresh.

“Why do you care so much?” That’s the question an admissions counselor asked me this week during our 1-on-1 meeting that accompanied the workshop I led. The older I get, the more I’ve actually found myself thinking about this whole notion of a “kindness gene.”

Why do some people care more than others and how is it that a lot of those same people are able to cultivate trust with a complete stranger (and get them to take action on something) after a single conversation?

You can go to Google and find all kinds of studies about character traits, but in a nutshell, there’s a lot of evidence that suggests there is empathy in our genes.

I’m bringing this topic to your attention today because as this generation of students searches for their “right fit” college or university, caring more than your competition continues to significantly impact a student’s final decision.

I have over 3 years of survey data from college campuses nationwide that shows how the admissions staff treats a student and their family throughout the college search process influences their final decision more than factors like affordability, location, and the prestige of a college’s name.

One of the survey questions we ask is, “What was the deciding factor that led you to pick <College Name>?”

  • “My admissions counselor’s motivation to make sure that I knew everything I needed to.”
  • “How much care admissions counselors took in making sure I had all the information I needed, and financial/scholarship plans.”
  • “The contact I had with my admissions counselor throughout the decision process and other staff members whom I spoke to more than once and remembered me.”

Those direct quotes came from surveys at schools in Texas and Minnesota that I visited this week. Just about every time I do a workshop there are similar quotes from other students in a school’s survey.

I would argue that, in many cases, consistently demonstrating you care more than your competition can help a family overcome the cost barrier, the fear factor, and a whole lot more.

As we get ready to enter 2018, I thought it was really important to remind you of this.

You have the ability to show how much you care every single day in every single interaction you have with other people. And it’s easy for another person to tell when you genuinely care versus when you’re trying to act a certain way because you know it’s part of your job.

By the way, if you’re wondering how you can show students and families that you care more than your competitors, here are two easy ways.

  • Listen more to them
  • Stay in consistent contact with them throughout their entire process

Before I sign off I want to again thank you for being a loyal reader of this newsletter. I’ve met so many of you IRL (in real life) this year and the stories you shared about the impact of an article I wrote, a strategy you tried that I had suggested, or just telling me you shared something from my newsletter with a colleague means the world to me.

The exciting news is, I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface yet on what I have to give! At the same time, it’s hard for me to do that without your feedback…a podcast, video from a workshop I lead, posting a talk or keynote I give…these are a few suggestions I’ve already received but you tell me what you want.

Click this link and send me a quick email right now. I’d love to hear your comment or suggestion (positive or negative).


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