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Student Recruitment TiebreakersTuesday, March 7th, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

It’s that time of year again…you know, the time when students take to social media and share how stressed and confused they are about making a college decision. One student even joked on Twitter this past weekend, “I give up I think I’ll make my college decision based on who has the better snapchat filters”…at least I think she was joking.

I know, playing the waiting game isn’t much fun for you these days. You’ve spent months, or maybe more than a year putting time and effort into recruiting all your students. Now the question becomes will those students, many of whom have been bombarded with information and sales pitches from other colleges besides yours, ultimately pick one of those schools for a less than logical reason?

Hopefully at this point in the process you and your colleagues have a good feel for how your undecided students will make their college decision. I talked about that in last week’s newsletter, and if you’re a first time reader, you missed that article, or you just want a refresher, go ahead and click this link.

These “recruiting tie-breakers”, as Dan (Tudor) and I have come to call them, can be something insignificant to you as an admissions professional but important in the eyes of your prospect.  With so many colleges and universities still looking and sounding the same, a lot of your prospects will break the tie in their minds by choosing something that appeals directly to them personally.

Before I jump into some things that will increase your school’s chances of winning those tiebreaker situations, I want to remind you what students continue to tell us when we do focus group research ahead of coming to a campus and leading a training workshop.

When asked to rate 15 different factors in terms of how they influenced a student to choose their college over the competition, the 2 most important factors continue to be:

  • The “feel” of campus
  • How the admissions staff treated me throughout the process

Now that you’re armed with that knowledge, here are two things that a large majority of students tell us they need if the recruiting tie is going to be broken in your favor:

  1. Emotional connections. As I’ve told you many times before, your prospects trust their feelings as they make their decision about your college or university. Those are the feelings you create through your recruitment communications, the recruiting relationship you develop (or don’t develop) with them and their family throughout the process, and the feelings they get when they visit your campus. How are you and your colleagues capturing their emotions and creating emotional connections between them and your campus community (students, professors, other staff)? Those emotional connections create a feeling of comfort, they create trust, and they offer a sense of acceptance and belonging which is what just about every single student is scared they won’t be able to find.
  2. A clear understanding of WHY your college is better than what they could get somewhere else. When I say “somewhere else”, that means everything from another 4-year institution, to a community college, to an alternate life course that doesn’t include college. If I asked you right now to make a clear case that what you offer at your school is far and away superior to those other options (outside of just saying you’re a cheaper option versus other colleges), could you? If not, that’s a major problem! Value can be communicated logically and emotionally, and you need to do both. I would also add that you won’t be able to present the same case 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 prospect and his or her family.

You may have noticed I didn’t mention affordability. That doesn’t mean price (or location as another example) isn’t important and won’t in some cases be the biggest tiebreaker for a student/family. But, and this is a big but, in a number of those cases where a family says they need you to increase your aid, they’re simply employing a negotiating tactic. I’m telling you, people are continuing to pay more when the value is there for them – Starbucks, Beats, Nike, Mercedes, Apple, and on and on I could go. Being able to sell the idea that your net price is higher than a competitor and that it’s actually worth the extra investment to be at your school is a recruiting skill that separates great recruiters from average recruiters.

Earlier in this article I touched on the focus group research we do with regards to factors that influence a prospect’s final decision. One of those 15 factors we list is affordability, and over the last two and half years its average finish on our surveys (regardless of a school’s location or public vs. private) is that 4-6 range.

Again, I’m not saying things like your location or price aren’t vital in the decision making process.  Different students have different wants and needs. The real challenge for you is to create compelling reasons for a prospect to see clearly that you are his or her top choice before it gets to the tiebreakers.

If you found today’s article helpful, go ahead and forward it on to a colleague. That way both of you can grow and win!

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Ask Your Undecided Admitted Students ThisTuesday, February 28th, 2017

ncrc3By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

The question came from a second year admissions counselor who had attended my presentation at IACAC Congress earlier in the day.

He found me during the conference social and asked if he could vent about something that was really frustrating him.

“I have all these admitted students and I’ve worked really hard to stay in touch with them but every time I check in and see what’s going on they don’t say much…I’m getting tired of waiting for them to make a decision or tell me they’re going somewhere else.”

My reply to him: “Have you asked each of them when they’re going to make their decision?”

He paused for about 3 seconds before telling me, “No.”

Are you facing a similar situation with admitted students right now?

All that constant wondering isn’t much fun, is it?

Here’s the good news – there’s no need to wonder about it. In fact, there’s a simple question that can help erase all the mystery when it comes to the decision making process of a prospective student:

“How will you make your final decision?”

I want you to ask it just like it’s written. You can put that question in a brief email you send (make sure you come up with the right subject line), or you can ask it during a phone call. Just make sure you ask it…don’t wait any longer! And if you’re saying to yourself, “Jeremy, I already asked that question (or a version of it) earlier in the process,” that’s fine, but I want you to ask it again. While you should definitely ask this question up front, you and I both know that this generation changes their mind all the time.

After the student answers, here’s an important follow-up question to ask:

“And then what?”

As the student begins to tell you more, I want you to ask, “And then what?” again. And on and on until you finally get a handle on the real source of their decision. Our clients, as well as others I’ve recommended take this approach, have found it reveals the undecided student’s current mindset, and it draws out vital information at this stage in the process (ex. I picked another school and was afraid to tell you; I’m waiting on other financial aid packages; I have a lingering concern or objection that I was afraid to bring up).

If you’re looking for even more reassurance that asking a question like this can pay off, I asked the same admission counselor that I mentioned earlier to put it to the test with some of his undecided admits.

The result? He got the answers and information he was looking for from every single student whom he asked how they would be making their final decision. He now had a better feel of what to do next with each of those students…one of whom told him he had picked another school.

I can’t stress how important this short series of questions is. It’s a key question for admissions professionals to ask when they want to understand how a decision is going to be made. And it’s a great question to ask if you’re constantly finding yourself wondering what your prospects are thinking.

If you have a particular question, problem, hurdle, or recruitment issue that you want advice on and are afraid to ask your colleagues, don’t hesitate to email me at jeremy@dantudor.com. You’ll get a response from me within 24 hours, guaranteed!

Are You Making This Mistake?Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

A couple of weeks ago I had a Director of Admission reach out to me. She was catching up on a bunch of my newsletter articles and came across one about recruiting communication plans.

I came to find out after the fact that she had been worried for a while about her school’s comm. flow plan. She thought a lot of their content was good, but she was concerned that the emails and letters were individual pieces that didn’t connect well, if at all, and on top of that she has a relatively young team of counselors many of whom are still learning how to manage their territories and improve their communication with families. My article had given her the push she needed to ask for an outside perspective on their communications plan.

Last Friday, I had a follow-up phone call with this Director. I offered some advice on the tone and language in their messaging, and we talked about how often (and through what channels) her counselors should be communicating at various stages. Then I expressed my concern about the gaps in their communications after a student is admitted.

That’s what I want to talk about with you today. Slowing down communications after a prospect is admitted is a big mistake, and it’s one that will impact your yield in a negative way.

During our On-Campus Workshops with admissions departments, I constantly talk about not only forming a meaningful connection with a prospective student and his or her family, but the importance of strengthening that bond throughout the entire recruitment cycle.

When discussing this communication issue with counselors during 1-on-1 meetings that accompany our admissions workshop, the responses I get usually go something like, “They already know everything about our school,” or “I don’t want to repeat the same things over again.” My response to those statements is simple. If you fail to continue to have meaningful conversations with your admitted students, don’t be shocked when many of them choose to enroll elsewhere. Let me take that one step further. If you’re having trouble coming up with things to talk about with this group of students, I’d wager to say you haven’t built a strong enough rapport yet.

Here’s the good news – If you’re making this mistake, there’s still time to fix it.

Below are three easy-to-implement ideas on how to effectively manage this crucial time period in the recruitment process:

  1. Please, and I’m pleading with you here, keep giving them reasons why your school is the “right fit.” This generation craves direction. Even after they get admitted, many of them are still looking for good reasons to ultimately choose your school. Make sure you’re giving those to them, and make sure you’re doing it on a consistent basis. Let me remind you that your prospects tell us they want a logical, foundational message about your school every 6 to 9 days. That doesn’t change after you admit them. And when I say a logical, foundational message, I’m not talking about reminders to fill out your housing form or sign up for an admitted student day event. There has to be more substance in your messaging. You need to continue to reinforce the idea that your college is the perfect place for them to spend the next four years…and here’s why. If you choose not to take that approach and instead wait until an admitted student day event to try and “close the deal”,” you’re significantly decreasing your chances for success.  Like it or not, other colleges will continue to send them letters and emails. And would it surprise you to know that admitted students have told us that they even start to consider new schools because they just aren’t 100% sure yet that they’ve found that “right fit?” You need to continue to cultivate your recruiting relationship with this group of students. Don’t just assume that they already know everything they need to know.
  2. Make sure you’re talking to the parents.  Why?  As most of you already know, our on-going research on how prospects make their final decision tells us that parents are the biggest outside influencer. That means if you don’t communicate consistently with them at this point in time, you leave open the possibility of unanswered questions or objections. We’ve found that a conversation with the parents during this critical time period can be very insightful. It guarantees that everybody is on the same page, plus parents will often provide admission counselors with usable information (assuming they ask the right kinds of questions) about their child’s thought process, “tie-breakers,” etc.
  3. Ask about their timeline for making a decision. If you’ve maintained consistent communication from the beginning, asking a question at this point and time such as, “Walk me through your timeline of making your decision,” will rarely be viewed as “pressuring” them. Conversely, if you’ve been inconsistent at staying in touch and reminding them you’re here to help, I’d advise you to proceed very carefully when it comes to this line of questioning. If you ask and the student tells you that they aren’t sure and they haven’t really thought that far ahead, you can explain that setting a reasonable deadline will help them see the end of what is a tough, stressful process. And you can even use something like a housing deadline to provide more logic. If the student still avoids a discussion with you on this subject, understand that there’s a chance they’ve already made a decision not in your favor, and they’re just too scared to tell you. On the other hand, if they start to share some details about their thought process, a great follow up question would be, “What are the big questions that you’re still wrestling with?” Getting your admit to set a reasonable deadline will give you a yes or no that will enable you to move forward.

Should you use these three guidelines?  If what you’re doing now involves you feeling like you aren’t in control of the process, if your prospect hasn’t returned your phone calls, or if you’ve stopped sending emails and letters that offer value and tell your school’s story the way you did in the early stages, then I think it’s a smart move.

My goal each week is to provide you with information and strategies that will help you become a better communicator and a more efficient recruiter/leader.  DID THIS HELP?  I’d love to hear what you think – jeremy@dantudor.com

 

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Do You Care More Than Your Competition?Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

jer2017by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

What’s your answer to that question?

I’m asking because what you do during the next month or two will in large part determine whether or not many of your undecided admits select your school.

If you’re wondering if “caring” more than your competition can actually impact a student’s final decision, look no further than our ongoing focus group research on college campuses nationwide. Students continue to consistently tell us that how the admissions staff treats them throughout the college search process influences their decision more than factors like affordability, location, and the prestige of the name of the school.

“I loved how my admissions counselor (counselor’s name) made a point to communicate with me and get to know me personally. It really feels like he cares about me and my concerns. And I feel like he made a point to not only know me, but also remember me from the first time he met me.”

I see quotes like that one all the time from students when we administer our recruiting survey as a part of our on-campus workshop with a college/university.

Your teenage prospects and their parents are trying to figure out if, and how much, you care. And it’s not that different for the growing population of transfer students. They’ve been through the process once before, and in most cases, they’re now paying extra close attention to your customer service.

Best selling author and business marketing guru Seth Godin makes the same point when it comes to what we look for as adults:

“We’re hyper alert to the appearance of caring. We want to do business with people who appear to care, who appear to bring care and passion and dedication to their work. If the work expresses caring, if you consistently and professionally deliver on that expression, we’re sold.

The truth is that it’s what we perceive that matters, not what you bring to the table. If you care but your work doesn’t show it, you’ve failed. If you care so much that you’re unable to bring quality, efficiency and discernment to your work, we’ll walk away from it.”

So, how can you show your admits, or any other prospects in your pool, that you care more than the competition? Here are five basic strategies that have consistently worked for our clients:

  1. Stay consistent and keep them updated. A lot of admissions counselors make the mistake of not communicating regularly with their admits during this nerve-racking time of year.  I’ve had counselors tell me that they can’t think of anything new to talk to the student about, or they don’t have anything of substance to say to the student until the financial aid package is completed. That’s fine, but you need to consistently give them an update on what’s going on.  Even if your latest update goes something like, “nothing new to report, but I’m calling over to the financial aid office every day and I’ll keep you updated.” I can’t stress this key point enough. When your admits (and their parents) see ongoing, regular contact from you, they make the judgment that your school has a greater interest in them and values them more.
  2. Give them examples of how you’re working behind the scenes to help get them the best possible financial aid package. The more that you can use this time to demonstrate how you and everyone else at your school are doing some heavy-lifting behind the scenes for that student goes a long way towards getting them to perceive that you care more.  Remember, what we perceive is even more important than what we’re doing in many instances (actually caring and working hard behind the scenes is important too, of course!)
  3. Ask them what objections or questions they need answered.  Just because you’ve been consistently communicating back-and-forth with your admits doesn’t mean they’re close to saying “yes”. Take this time to ask them these two questions: “Can you give me one or two big questions about our school that you’re still trying to figure out?” and “What do you see as the next step in this process?”  Those two questions might just open up a new conversation and even reveal an objection or question that they’re struggling with.
  4. Connect them with your current students. “Your students made me feel like they wanted me more than all of the other colleges combined” and “The more I talked to students the more it became clear that everybody is just one big community that looks out for each other.” Those two quotes hammer home a theme that I see often when we ask students what the deciding factor was that led them to pick their current college. Your current students, specifically your freshmen, just went through the same tough choices and dealt with the same sorts of feelings that many of your undecided students are dealing with right now. You need to create opportunities to help them understand how they will “fit in” on your campus.
  5. Use this time to get to know the parents (if you haven’t already). Yep, here I go again. Parents, parents, parents. All this month I continue to hear from, and have talked to, admissions counselors who tell me that they have admitted students whose parents they have yet to connect with. You cannot and should not expect a student to commit to your school if you haven’t spoken with their parents at least once…and honestly it needs to be multiple conversations. Not sure what to ask them? Click this link and email me right now. I will help you. Spending time with the parents is critical to setting yourself apart from other counselors who don’t have a deep relationship with family members.

If you have any questions about this article or the strategies that I’ve recommended, I’m happy to have a discussion with you. The next step is to send me an email.

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This Might Be Why They Didn’t Deposit to Your SchoolTuesday, May 3rd, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Another ‘College Decision Day’ has come and gone. You can exhale now. I hope both you and your team reached your enrollment goals.

When it comes to students that you missed out on, typically there are many potential reasons why. If you’ve had me on campus to work with your admissions team you know that our research reveals one solid fact that every college admissions and enrollment professional should be aware of when it comes to what’s important in developing a recruitment strategy: Your prospects are trusting their feelings as they make their decision about you and your institution.

That’s the feelings you create while you recruit them, how effective your letters, emails, phone calls and social media posts are at creating the right feelings, as well as the feelings they get when they experience you and your campus community during that all-important campus visit.

We continue to see this generation of students make their choice based on how they feel and then justify it with the facts and data that they receive from you. Emotions are consistently outweighing logic. The important question then for you is, “What kind of strategies do you employ to give your prospects the feeling you want them to have about your school?”

Making them feel wanted is a great starting point. But, if you really want to break through the hard exterior of today’s teenager you need to go one step further and get to the core of that student and his or her parents.

Here are six ideas that I recommend you put into practice with this next class of prospects.

  1. Establish an early foundation for proving that you are the emotional choice that “feels” right to them. When you create an emotional tie with your prospect early in the recruitment process we’ve found that they will usually gravitate towards your school. It’s imperative to have a strategy for how to create that feeling in the first place. One of the examples I use during our On-Campus Workshop is Starbucks. They are the master of creating and managing a feeling of comfort when you walk in to any one of their thousands of stores. They use the lights, the comfy couches, the music and the free Wi-Fi. It’s all done with a purpose. As a smart recruiter you need to have a plan to create the right feelings for your next class of prospects now that the initial contact message is in their hands. If you fail to do that, you’re introducing random results into the recruitment process. So, what’s your plan for establishing a feeling that they will gravitate to over the coming months?
  2. Use keywords in your recruiting communications. If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know how much today’s prospective student wants to be valued and have their wants and needs viewed as important. Why not tell them exactly that? Three simple words – “I appreciate you.” Try it and see what happens. Or if you’re face-to-face with the prospect how about, “I believe in you.” Those are powerful words that your prospect will respond to. Then think of other things you can tell them in the coming weeks and months that will emphasize the idea that you appreciate and value them. In addition, this year’s class of college prospects are telling us that having an admissions counselor inquire about how a prospective student “feels” about certain things on campus gets a much more in-depth response.  It encourages open discussion without the idea that there is a “right” answer that the prospect should be giving.
  3. Write things down and then use them as future reference. Taking notes is proof and it honors someone’s thoughts. This works well in-person when you’re talking to either the recruit or their parents. It shows the other person that you value what they’re telling you. Down the road when you refer back to those notes it will remind them that you were truly listening to their wants and needs, and it shows that you treat them as a valued partner in the process.
  4. Answer “why” during the campus visit. Too many schools show what they have to offer during the campus tour but fail to answer why it matters to a specific prospect. When you answer the “why”, it allows your recruit to visualize, which is a key ingredient in creating those all-important feelings.
  5. Demonstrate more passion than the next counselor. I consider passion to be the most underrated tool in admissions recruitment. If you want to know why, click here for that article. If your prospects are using emotion to make their decision, we’ve seen plenty of cases where the counselor who shows the same kind of passion and emotion connects the best with that student. A passionate recruiter takes the time to understand the wants and needs of everyone involved in the decision making process. Doing this creates a more enjoyable experience and generates excitement and other feelings that a recruit relies on to make their final decision. Oh, and the last time I checked, passion isn’t a budget related item that your competitor has more of (unless you let them).
  6. Telling the best stories will result in enrolling the best students.  When I talk about “telling stories”, I’m not talking about lying or embellishing. You have to give your listener (your prospect) a story to buy into because they will buy it, and believe or not, they’ll even pay more for it in many cases. As you explain your school’s story, be sure to relate how that story connects to them.  The best recruiters in the country take the time to create a story that their prospects can visualize and understand. If you didn’t do that this year, it cost you and your school some of those “best fit” students.

When you create the right feelings in the minds and hearts of your prospects, and those around them, you greatly increase your school’s chances of enrolling those students.

If your enrollment numbers aren’t what you want/need, let me explain to you how our research-based approach to communicating with students is working for college and university admissions departments nationwide. All YOU have to do is email me, and we will set up a time to connect and discuss.

How to Make Sure Your Admitted Student Day Events Pay OffTuesday, March 15th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

“Cautiously optimistic.” That’s the phrase I keep hearing not only from our clients, but also during my conversations with other admissions leaders across the country. Applications, admit numbers, and even deposits in many cases are up.

All of that is fine and good, and you should be excited! At the end of the day, though, it’s all about conversion. So, what’s your school’s plan this year? More specifically, how are you going to make sure your admitted student day events pay off?

Many of these events have become so well organized that accepted students are shuffled from spot to spot and end up only seeing and hearing what the admissions office wants them to. It’s not that the information presented isn’t valuable. The problem is that prospective students tell us all the time that they never got the chance during an admitted student day event to get a real “FEEL” for what being a student would be truly be like.

I’ll ask the same question again then because I think it’s that important – What’s your plan to make sure that your college’s admitted student day event doesn’t mirror everybody else’s? This generation wants and needs to see, hear and feel something different. There is no alternative if you want to consistently win your recruiting battles and increase enrollment.

Before we discuss some strategies to improve your admitted student days, I have another vital question I need to ask each of you. Have you clearly and consistently stated why your recruits should visit campus again or in some cases visit for the first time? There needs to be a “because.” Our ongoing focus group research on campuses big and small, public and private, continues to back this up. Giving your admits a reason, like there’s something important you want to talk with them about, is step number one.

Here are some other proven strategies that, when implemented as part of your admitted student day programs, will put your school in the best possible position to receive positive enrollment decisions.

  • Work to gain agreement along the way. I started with this bullet point because not enough admissions counselors do this, yet it’s such a crucial piece of the puzzle if your admitted student day event is going to seal the deal. It’s imperative that throughout the recruitment process you get your prospects to verbalize that they like what they’re seeing as well as the stories that they’re hearing about your institution. If you read this newsletter regularly or you’ve had me on campus to lead a training workshop, you know I call these the “little yeses.”
  • Make your invite look different. Stop trying to cram a ton of information and visuals onto a single page or piece of paper. That’s what your competition does. I want you to be more creative. The goal of your invite should be to get their attention. Personalization is one way to achieve that. Try using a big, bold P.S. message. Employing something that seems out of place is one effective strategy. Your recruit will probably read the P.S. before they scan through the actual email or post card.
  • Not just weekends but weekdays. Everyone has Saturday admitted student day events. How many students and families do you think you’re missing an opportunity with because that doesn’t fit their schedule? Consider Monday through Thursday offerings. It won’t appeal to everyone, but if I told you that making this option would result in another 10, 20 or 50 students enrolling, what would you say?
  • Solve your biggest problem. Building on the last bullet point, have you ever asked yourself what the most annoying 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. It won’t go unnoticed.
  • Give them more than just the same old information sessions. Academic information sessions and learning how to register for classes are important. I’m not arguing that point. However, when you have admitted students that still don’t know if they fit into your campus community along with parents who are still trying to figure out how all the bills will get paid, I strongly encourage you to give them a little more in those areas. When it comes to those academic sessions, what kind of true engagement are you creating between your admits and your faculty? Developing a level of comfort with somebody who will actually be teaching them at some point is a big positive. I’ve got one more for you. We all know how confusing financial aid can be. It would be great if every school reading this had the personnel to offer one-on-one financial aid meetings…obviously that’s not the case. How then are you going to help walk your recruits and their families through what’s typically the biggest “objection” on almost every campus in America?  You need to come up with an effective strategy.
  • Make sure you’ve answered all their objections. One of the biggest reasons counselors fail when it comes to recruiting is they fail to overcome all of their recruit’s objections. Very few prospects are going to say “yes” when you have failed to answer all of their concerns or those of their parents. Throughout the entire recruitment cycle, always be listening and processing the information you’re being given. Once an objection is clarified, it’s up to you to be a problem solver. If prior to an admitted student day you discover there’s a last minute critical objection, then be prepared to answer it during the visit.
  • Separate the student and their parent(s). I’ve talked before about the importance of doing this during the campus visit, and it’s no different for an admitted student day. You need to create an unforgettable experience for everybody. One of the biggest things that every single one of your admits wants is a “feeling” of fitting in. It’s hard to make that happen if the only student they really interact with is their tour guide. The more current students they meet (student led panels, etc.), the greater the chance that they’ll connect on a personal level. Like it or not, today’s generation of students wants real and raw. 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 to allocate some time during your event where your admitted students literally do nothing but “hang out” with your current students. Trust me, it works! On the parent side, if you’re not already doing a parent led panel session, why not?
  • Create An Emotional Moment. Emotions impact our decision making plain and simple. Are you creating an atmosphere that makes an emotional moment possible? Here are two quick examples that I’ve seen work on multiple 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 influential business leaders.  All of the admits and their family members assemble on the school’s football field for a picture.  They form the school’s letters or the outline of the school mascot.
  • Tell them you want them, and ask them if they want to commit. Never assume anything. Unfortunately, a lot of counselors assume that once their prospects have been admitted, it’s obvious their school wants them. I’m here to tell you that isn’t always the case. They need to hear it again…now more than ever, actually.  If by this point you haven’t verbalized those words yet, do it before they leave campus. Say something like, “Are you feeling like you’d be ready to be a part of our student body?” Don’t be scared to “ask for the sale.”

Admitted student days are a key component of the college recruitment cycle. Try using one or more of these ideas, and watch what happens!

Want us to help you turn an average admitted student day event into an awesome one? We can do that! Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

How to Win Your Prospect’s “Bracket Challenge”Monday, March 23rd, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

How’s your bracket? If you’re one of the tens of millions of people like me who filled out an NCAA tournament bracket, hopefully it hasn’t been introduced to the shredder just yet.

While the nations top college basketball teams try to figure out how to survive and advance to Indianapolis and take home the trophy, many of your recruits are dealing with their own version of “March Madness.” They applied to several colleges and received multiple acceptance letters. Some of those prospects immediately jumped at chance to attend your school, while others for various reasons said, “thanks, but no thanks.” In many cases however, you likely have a large group of admitted students who have yet to make their final decisions. My goal today is to help your school end up on the “champions” line of those admissions brackets.

Selling against your competition is probably the most important battle you face during the recruitment cycle. Here’s a scenario I’ve been frequently discussing with counselors as of late. A recruit has narrowed down his or her list to three or four colleges, including theirs. A couple of them are similar institution types in comparable settings. One or two are completely different. And, every now and then there’s a school that has advanced deep into a prospect’s “bracket,” baffling everyone. The conversation then becomes, “Jeremy…how do I tell this student that I know those other schools aren’t the right fit for them without bad mouthing those schools?” Great question!

Here are seven things you can do to beat out other schools for your undecided admits…tactfully.

  1. Ask them who they’re leaning on to help them make a final decision.  Once they tell you, ask yourself how well you’ve connected with those other individuals. If the answer is “not very well,” you know what you need to do ASAP.
  1. Discover what they like about the competition and then start to chip away.  Before you can chip away at the opposition, you have to know what your prospect perceives their strengths to be.  Ask him or her to state the strong points for each of the other schools still under consideration. After hearing the answers, reply to each one with a phrase like, “It’s interesting that you mention that, because our school is actually stronger in that area than them.”  Then, list why.  Even if you’re going up against a more prominent institution this subtle reply works well.
  1. Get your prospect to create doubt about those other schools.  An effective way to do this is to ask your prospect, “During this process, what are some things that you’ve noticed that you don’t like as much about (insert school name)? You can word the question differently, but the point is to get the prospect to start actively thinking about your competition’s weaknesses instead of their strengths.
  1. Make sure you’ve overcome ALL your prospect’s objections.  This remains one of the most asked about topics when we customize an admissions training workshop for a school. Why?  Because it’s the most important part of recruiting a student, and it may be something that your competition isn’t doing.  Clarify any specific objections your prospect has, and make sure they get addressed. Every situation is different, so it’s hard to give a general technique that would work in any situation. If you have a specific question I encourage you to email me at jeremy@dantudor.com
  1. Make sure you’ve proven your school’s VALUE. If you haven’t engaged in a comprehensive and prospect-specific discussion about value, I’d pencil one in very soon. Students and parents expect and want this information from admissions and financial aid. Surprisingly, some studies show that a large number of schools are still failing to address this topic.
  1. Get them back on campus. When prospects try to weigh the pros and cons of different colleges they’re serious about, it often becomes hard for them to create much separation. Admitted student day events are a great way to remind them what life on campus will look and feel like. Keep in mind that families lead busy lives and as a result will likely have to pick and choose which schools they’ll revisit. It’s crucial that you give them a good reason to come back. (If you want to learn how to create awesome admitted student days, click here).
  1. Confidently explain why your school is the best choice. Believe it or not, your recruit may not know why you are the best fit. How could that possibly happen, right? Simply put, your story has been lost in the noisy, marketing-filled world that they live in. That’s why we advocate the need for a consistent, ongoing message from the start to the end of the recruitment cycle. If you’re not consistently telling them why they should choose your school, there will be a strong likelihood that they don’t figure out why your school is the best choice.

The second part to this point is in how you explain that “why.” You’ll note my use of the word confidently. If you’re going to make a great persuasive argument, you need to ooze confidence. Our research shows that when it’s time to make a final decision, students and their parents are desperately looking for someone who can confidently articulate a plan for success for that student once they step foot on campus.

Competition for the next generation of students isn’t going to get easier any time soon. Use some or all of these strategies to get an edge on your competition in the battle for prospects, and let us know if we can train you further on any of these techniques.

The 7-Letter Word That Can Help You Win Over RecruitsMonday, March 16th, 2015

ncrc3by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Today I want to introduce you to what I consider to be the most underrated tool in admissions recruiting. You can’t buy it, it’s hard to teach, and most counselors don’t use it to their advantage.

When you’re trying to secure a commitment and obtain those deposits, one of the worst things you can do is give your recruit the feeling that they’re being pressured. I hear stories all the time regarding counselors who are so stressed out about increasing yield, that they push and push until they get the answer they want from their prospect. Here’s the problem with that scenario. Pressure might lead to an initial commitment, but that prospect will be a strong candidate to flip-flop at the last minute, or at the very least talk negatively to others about the way your institution recruited him or her.

Our ongoing focus group research with thousands of current college students reveals that when making their college choice, pressure from you is bad. On the other hand if you consistently demonstrate passion, it’s very likely you’ll achieve the same results that you would hope to attain by pressuring them.

Passion is an effective sales tool because it isn’t artificial. People can tell when you truly enjoy what you do and genuinely believe what you’re selling. A passionate recruiter sincerely cares about, and takes the time to understand, the wants and needs of their prospect and his or her family members. When you do this it creates a more enjoyable experience and generates excitement and other emotions that a recruit relies on to make their decision.

So, which approach are you using – the passionate pitch or the pressure sell? There’s a big difference between the two. Let me provide you with a few contrasting examples of “passion” versus “pressure” when recruiting your students:

Passion is when you tell your recruit why you like him or her, and what value you see them having as a member of your school’s student body. Pressure is when you bluntly tell your recruit what they will lose out on if they don’t hurry up and make a decision.

Passion is when you smile, speak with enthusiasm, and display pride because you’re that excited to explain to your prospect why your school is the “right fit.” Pressure is when you rarely make eye contact and look at your cell phone every five minutes, because you’ve got some other place you’d rather be.

Passion is surprising your recruit with a quick visit to the Office of the President or the faculty leader of the program they hope to get into. When you enter the office, the President or faculty leader already knows their name because you’ve been raving about them and the impact they could have as a student on your campus. Pressure is sitting with your prospect cooped-up in your admissions office talking only about your school’s history and why they’d be crazy not to come here.

Passion is when you consistently communicate with your prospect from the beginning to the end of the recruitment cycle. You use different methods of communication, make your messages interesting, and always keep in mind how your messaging is important to that prospect. Pressure is when you infrequently touch base after a recruit submits their application, and then when admitted, call and ask if they’ve chosen where they want to go.

Passion is being prepared to start the conversation about paying for college early in the process. You understand it’s a stressful subject and you want to ease everyone’s minds as much as possible. You effectively communicate how the process works and the value your school offers. Pressure is the feeling that parents have when their son or daughter really likes a school with a high cost of attendance, and they have no idea how they will be able to afford it.

Passion is when you listen to your recruit reveal an objection, get clarification, and become a problem solver. Pressure is when you try to move the recruitment process forward without acknowledging a problem or concern exists.

Passion means you never make a recruit feel bad for questioning something you say or indicating that they’ve heard something that’s causing them to have concerns about your institution. On the other hand, if you rely on pressure as part of your pitch, you seem to always make a recruit feel bad when they seem to be leaning towards picking another school. In short, you turn up the pressure.

Passion is involving the parents in all aspects of the recruiting message, which is what most prospects want according to our research.  Pressure is what that recruit feels back at home when you don’t do that, and they want to pick your college but don’t feel like they can because mom and dad never really got to know you as well as a competing school that they’re going to settle on.

That’s a short list, but an important list.

Those who have passion are able to create meaningful long-term relationships with their recruits. If you don’t display that 7-letter word during the process, your recruits won’t either.

So, I have two questions for you now. What are you going to do with this information? And, how will it change the way you recruit this current class of prospects?

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

How You Can Create the Right Kind of Urgency With ProspectsMonday, February 2nd, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from an admissions director who reads our weekly newsletter. Her school’s deadline to apply had passed, and despite an increase in applications, she had some concerns.

During a recent staff meeting it quickly became evident to her that members of the admissions team were stressed out at the thought of having to convince more admits to say “yes.” Sound familiar? It’s a common problem amongst sales people towards the end of the sales process. You want to create urgency and break through prospect inertia without pressuring too hard and driving those recruits away.

Let me start by touching on what you don’t want to say or do according to our research, unless you and your team are okay with inconsistent yield results.

  • Don’t say something like, “I need an answer by (insert date).”
  • Don’t use threatening language such as, “You need to make a decision soon or your financial aid package may end up changing.”

Doing either one of these things can create conflict and cause distrust. Even if what you’ve said is the truth, they’re unlikely to respond to it, particularly parents who may feel you’re creating that you versus them mentality with such phrasing. I’d also add that attempting to create urgency rarely works if your message isn’t clear or your value proposition is poor.

Instead of trying to impose urgency on your prospects and risk running them off, the goal should be to help them take that next step, which they’re most likely ready to do anyways.

Here are four proven ways to create the right sense of urgency with your prospects.

  1. Build out clear, long-term timelines. This is especially helpful with younger prospects such as high school juniors. Start talking to your recruit as early as possible about timeline expectations. Even though a decision might be 12 months or more away, go ahead and lay out that timeline. Make it clear what you need from them over the next few months, and continue to build that timeline with them throughout the recruitment process. Creating a timeline together and gaining agreement from your prospect that this is how the process will play out is crucial. If you’re near the end of the process and haven’t built out a timeline with one of your seniors, I would strongly encourage you to 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.
  1. Talk about the why it’s important to set a deadline. For example, if you have a senior who has received multiple acceptance letters yet still talks about having months to make that final decision, give him or her logical reasons why it’s in their best interests to move the process forward. Explaining how your school’s on-campus housing process works is one way to create the right kind of urgency. Let them know that you want them to have priority consideration, but space is limited and if they wait too long other students may submit deposits. You could also ask your prospect if they’ve thought about securing tickets to sporting events or priority parking passes, both of which on some campuses are in high demand. By phrasing your concern in the form of a question, he or she will visualize the scenario and it will have a greater impact.
  1. Take away the possibility of attending your school. Talk about what their life would look like if they hadn’t received your college’s acceptance letter. In a subtle, non-threatening way, inquire about a back-up plan. How strongly do they feel about the other college’s they’ve also gained acceptance to? What some of our clients have discovered when they do this is a new critical objection. As you might imagine, many times it has to do with financial aid or distance from home. Once the objection has been clarified, you can then address it and hopefully move the process forward again.
  1. Ask what big question marks still remain. This is particularly useful late in the recruitment cycle if there’s a delay in the decision making of an admitted prospect you really want to deposit. Go ahead and ask the recruit, or his or her parents, “What are the big question marks in your mind about our school that’s making it tough to give a final commitment?” 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, you can then analyze it and conclude that this is an objection we can overcome, or the prospect is having a hard time figuring out how to tell you that they’re about to choose a different school. Asking this effective question will reveal more about what they’re thinking than you can imagine. It also emphasizes the right amount of pressure and lets your prospect know that you’re trying to assist them with whatever is left to do.

Does your admissions team need personalized help creating urgency with your current and future prospects? We’re ready when you are! Contact Jeremy directly at jeremy@dantudor.com for more information on strategies that produce results.

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