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Last Week I Forgot to Tell YouTuesday, September 4th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

    

Last week I gave you some advice about fall travel.

As I was responding to many of your emails about this topic, it got me thinking that it might be helpful for me to expand on something I said in that article.

Part of the problem in getting and keeping the attention of prospective students at a college fair or during a high school visit is that too many admissions professionals repeat the same “elevator pitch” over and over. Now, multiply that by the number of college reps that a student talks to at a fair, for example, and you can see how that could become annoying real fast.

Not all students are alike. Meaning, you shouldn’t take the same approach with every single one of them.

In order to get them excited enough to fill out your school’s inquiry card or to take whatever the next step is, you need to know more about who they are and what their wants, needs, and fears are as they’re looking at different colleges.

As I’ve mentioned before, the easiest ways to do that is by asking effective questions. Your goal in those first 15-20 seconds should be to ask one or two open-ended questions that are easy to answer and show the student you’re making the conversation about them. This approach will allow you to gather enough information to put together a response that will hopefully peak their interest and/or help them solve a problem.

Teenagers are no different than the rest of us. If you wait and give them information when they want it and are ready to receive it, they’re more likely to remember it, see the value in it, and take action because of it.

If you’re in a rush to deliver information, there’s a pretty good chance that the student is going to feel rushed and/or pressured. Remember, not all inquiry cards are equal, meaning some students will fill them out just so they can walk away and be done talking to you.

Have fun with these interactions because when you’re excited and you ask the right kinds of questions I guarantee you that just about every student will gladly talk about themselves and share all kinds of useful tidbits of information. Those will be extremely valuable during future conversations so make sure your focus is 100% on them and not on other students hanging around your table or waiting in line.

When you consistently take this personalized approach not only at fairs/school visits but also with your follow-up emails, letters, hand-written notes, phone calls, and texts, it becomes much easier to get the student to take action when you say something like, “I’d love to get you on campus and be able to show you instead of just telling you. If I send you some information about visiting campus and what you’ll be able to see and do when you’re here, can you and your parents figure out a day to come do that?”

Good luck, and travel safe!

A Better Way to Answer QuestionsTuesday, July 24th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I would argue that the most successful admissions counselors are able to get prospective students and parents to communicate more with them throughout the college search process than they do with their counterparts at other schools.

Besides cultivating trust, a big part of making that happen comes down to asking effective questions. These are questions where the student or parent reveals the why behind something. They do that because the question asks for their opinion or input, and thus they feel valued. Oftentimes they’ll even open up further and provide you with additional insights and useful information for future conversations.

In addition to knowing what kinds of questions to ask at various stages of the recruitment process, just as important is knowing how to effectively answer a question that comes from a student or parent…especially a yes/no question.

What do you do right now when you get one of those? If you just answer yes or no, you might be missing out on a huge opportunity.

Instead, I would recommend that when you’re asked a question, you should consider answering in the form of a question. Let me explain.

When a prospective student or parent asks you or one of your colleagues a question, it’s a sign that they’re interested in your school. I promise you, they’re not asking every college questions. That level of interest could be a lot, or it could be a little. Your job is to find out which one. Here’s how taking a different approach will help you to do that and more.

Let’s say a student asks you, “Do you offer campus tours on weekends?” The easy answer is, “Yes.” There’s nothing wrong with that response, but there’s a distinct possibility that the student won’t take any immediate action and thus you’ve helped to delay a possible visit.

If you answer differently, you can keep the process moving forward. The student has told you they’re interested in, or at least thinking about, making a campus visit. In your response back to them, I want you to confirm that this is in fact the case. You could say something like, “Are you thinking that a weekend visit to campus will work best for you?” If the student says yes, then your next step is to share the different weekend visit options your school offers and to ask what else they need to know/what else needs to happen before they will commit to a visit.

And if the student’s subsequent response tells you that they’ve all but decided on a date, go ahead and offer to help sign them up for that visit on the spot (if that’s possible) so that they know everything has been completed correctly. Worst case, schedule a time for a quick call with that student/family where you’ll walk them through the process of signing up.

Recognizing when to answer a question in the form of a question is an important skill that all college admission professionals need to learn. Understanding how to do that can be the difference between keeping the process moving forward and delaying it.

Let me also add that how you communicate your response (i.e. the tone and language you use) matters.

If you’ve got a question about today’s article, reply back and let’s talk about it.

Have a great week!

Yes, You Can Learn From Howard SternTuesday, June 12th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

No, that’s not a misprint. There are actually a number of things that you can learn from Howard Stern that will make you a better recruiter and/or a better leader.

The shock jock, as he’s known to many, has amassed tens of millions of listeners on Sirius XM satellite radio and has been deemed by some the most powerful interviewer in American broadcasting. Billy Joel even called his interview with Stern “probably the most astute and insightful interview” he’d done.

I listen to the Stern show a lot when I travel, and if you’ve never heard Howard interview a guest on his show, you don’t know what you’re missing. Pick your favorite celebrity or music star and type their name along with Howard’s into Google when you have a few extra minutes. Chances are he’s interviewed them at some point. His recent interviews with James Corden and Cardi B are particularly insightful and worth the listen.

Over the years I’ve noticed a few things that Howard does consistently during his interviews, each of which I want to talk with you about today. These are techniques that I would recommend you consider implementing (if you’re not already) during your conversations with prospective students and parents.

  • Eliminate any fear at the beginning. Howard starts off a lot of his interviews with small talk and a compliment for his guest. It’s low pressure and makes the other person immediately feel safe and comfortable. Similarly, when you talk with students, don’t immediately bombard them with all kinds of questions and a push to visit campus or complete your application. Worry more about putting them at ease and eliminating any fears they might have.
  • It’s not an interview it’s a conversation. If you remember one thing from today’s article I hope it’s this point. Don’t approach your conversations with students (at college fairs, school visits, campus visit events, etc) like it’s an interview. The goal as I’ve stated in numerous articles before is to get and keep their attention…to make a connection and have future conversations. Many of Stern’s guests rave about how fun and memorable their interviews with him were. Many have been back multiple times over the years. Would your students say the same thing about the phone calls and contacts they have with you? You’ll discover the answer when you try and connect a second time. Make your conversation more casual, and make it about them. Do that, and you’ll gain all kinds of valuable information and insights from the student or their parent.
  • Don’t interrupt. Just like it probably drives you nuts when other people don’t let you finish your thoughts and sentences, the same thing holds true for the students that you’re recruiting. I know it can be tempting to get so excited about something that you jump in and cut them off. Don’t do it. Stern always lets his guests finish telling a story or answering a question to the point where there’s often a second or two of dead air.
  • Have a list of effective questions and follow-up questions. Stern has become a master at asking specific questions that get his guests to talk more openly and freely about themselves than they typically do in public. His questions don’t just lead to answers, they lead to stories. It doesn’t take him long (and it won’t take you long either) to discover what motivates the other person or why something is or isn’t important in their mind. Howard also does a great job of latching on to a guest’s answers and digging deeper with follow up questions like “What’s going on there,” or “Help me understand that.” Context matters.
  • Don’t be afraid to go in a different direction midstream. Any time you ask a prospect or their parents a question that then leads to unexpected points of interest, don’t be afraid to change the direction of the conversation. At the same time be mindful of those tough subjects where digging too deep isn’t worth the risk.
  • Don’t be afraid to poke fun at yourself (or address your school’s negatives). Howard pokes fun at himself all the time. It makes him more genuine, and it reminds his guests that he’s human and makes mistakes just like them. Don’t be afraid to share a funny story about something silly or unintelligent that you’ve done. And don’t be afraid to address your school’s negatives either, whatever they may be. Every college has something. That transparency will separate you from your competitors who only talk about the positives. This generation of students (and their parents) is looking for colleges that are demonstrating honesty during the recruitment process.

Some or all of these six bullet points may have simply been timely reminders for you today. That’s great! For everyone else, I encourage you to take one or more of them and consider how it or they can help you become a better recruiter.

Lastly, at the beginning of this article I mentioned leadership. All six of these points are applicable to you if you directly manage others in your office. Leadership isn’t just about giving direction. It’s about getting to know every single person you manage (their motivations, wants, needs, and fears) and figuring out what each of them needs from you so that they can achieve their own personal goals and the goals that you’ve set for them.

I hope you have an amazing day and week!

As always, reach out and connect with me on email, phone, or text if I can help you with something.

Ask Your Undecided Students These QuestionsTuesday, April 17th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

Thanks for checking out this week’s newsletter. I’m sending good vibes your way as you finish putting together your school’s next class of new students.

Last week I received a bunch of emails from admissions counselors looking for advice on how they could move their undecided students to the “yes column,” or at least one step closer towards making those deposits.

In three different emails I was given the scenario of a student being “90-95% sure” or “pretty sure” that they were coming, but the student then told the admissions counselor in the same conversation that they were going to wait a little longer to make sure. My replies to each admissions counselor were the same. I explained the importance of immediately setting up a phone call with the student and asking a specific question about their uncertainty (ex. “Can you help me understand what’s preventing you from making your decision right now?”).

Keep in mind that at this point in the process it’s less about “selling” to your undecided students and more about asking the right questions that will get them to provide insight or answers to their decision making process and current mindset.

With that in mind, here are a handful of questions that have worked well with this group of students. You can ask them just like I’ve written them, or you can tweak them a little depending on the situation. And let me reiterate that if you want to talk about specific situations you’re dealing with, or you want to ask for context about any of the questions below, I’m happy to help you. Just reply back or click here to send me an email.

  • What does your decision making process look like?
  • What’s your timeline for making a decision?
  • What’s left on your to-do list before you make a decision?
  • What’s the biggest thing you’re scared of right now?
  • Is there anybody else besides your parents that you’re leaning on to help you?
  • What are your parents saying about making a decision?
  • Do you and your parents agree on which college is the best fit for you?
  • Have you and your parents talked about choosing a school that costs more?
  • Is your decision going to come down to which school gives you the biggest scholarship?
  • If you were going to tell me that you’ve picked a different college, what do you think the #1 reason would be?
  • What do you like the most about our campus and the atmosphere here?
  • Can you see yourself living here on campus?
  • What do you want to see us talk about next?
  • Are you feeling like you’re ready to commit to <School name>?

If you ask a question and the answer you get doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, ask them one of these follow-up questions:

  • What does that mean?
  • Can you help me understand that a little better?

If the student gives you a vanilla answer, and you want more context, go ahead and ask them WHY what they just told you is important to them.

You should also consider asking any question with a “because” in it. In our work with admission departments around the country, we’ve found that “because” is a powerful motivator for this generation of students.

One more thing – Whatever you do, don’t just run through a list of questions robotically. As you’re getting feedback from the student, be sure and add something of value to the conversation. Otherwise your conversation will come off as scripted, and it’s unlikely the student will truly “open up.”

After you ask one or more of these questions, let me know how it goes. Good luck!

P.S. It’s crazy how fast my newsletter community continues to grow! I can’t thank you enough for all the support. If you know somebody who could benefit from being a part of it but isn’t right now, have them send me a quick email to jeremy@dantudor.com that simply says “sign me up for your newsletter.”

Recruiting Reminders From the NCAA TournamentTuesday, March 20th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

A historic upset. Check. Buzzer beaters. Check. A 98-year-old nun becoming famous. Check. And friends of mine tearing up their brackets and uttering some choice words after a weekend that could only be described as complete madness. Check, check, and check.

If you’re like most people, you probably found yourself glued to a TV at some point last week between Thursday and Sunday watching this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. I’m not going to lie. I spent almost the entire weekend with family and friends flipping back and forth between the four CBS/Turner channels.

While taking in all the action, some very important lessons and recruiting reminders for college admissions professionals surfaced. So, throughout the weekend I grabbed my MacBook Pro and jotted down a bunch of reminders just for you. Here they are:

Take the time to come up with better questions. So many sideline reporters are great at asking questions that produce the right answers. By “right,” I mean the correct answer that a smart, student-athlete or coach should give. Their answer won’t make any waves, will let them go on to the next question, and continue on until the end of the interview. This also describes many of the conversations that admissions professionals have with prospective students. If you don’t go deeper and think bigger with your questions you’re going to get a standard, vanilla answer. The problem with that is, you don’t really learn anything new about your prospect, and the end result is you aren’t able to move the process forward. I want you to ask questions that require extra thought, which then will produce insightful answers.

Lesser-known schools can and will beat bigger name brands. This happens every year in the NCAA tournament. Why? A big reason is a lot of the smaller schools have players on their team who had the opportunity to pick a well known, bigger name school during the recruiting process. The reasons why they didn’t vary, but when a coach (or in your case, you or your admissions colleagues) offer consistent, personalized messaging that creates connections and explains why your school is the smarter choice based on the student’s wants/needs, it won’t be an automatic loss when you go head to head with a bigger name school. Far from it.

The importance of social listening. The UMBC Athletics Twitter account had approximately 5,000 followers prior to Friday’s game against Virginia. 72 hours later after their historic upset, and a close loss in the second round, that number stands at just under 110,000. Social listening gives you the ability to take all those new conversations and followers and develop important insights and opportunities for engagement.

This generation values authenticity. A lot more people know who Zach Seidel is today. In case you’re not one of them, let me explain. Zach was in charge of the UMBC Athletics Twitter account during the NCAA tournament. Part of the reason their follower count spiked so much were Zach’s genuine, down to earth, and at times quite humorous tweets. There’s an important lesson for you here. Zach’s tweets weren’t just a play by play of UMBC’s two basketball games. He did an outstanding job of both informing (sharing facts about UMBC) and engaging. His tweets were consistently authentic (silly, funny, and snarky), and that helped bring national attention to his school. Make sure your social media posts aren’t just a repeat of things on your website, and take the time to engage authentically with your followers.

Capitalize on big moments. In keeping with UMBC as our case study, from the end of their game last Friday to Sunday morning, the school’s bookstore store received about 3,500 online orders – almost as many as the total for the entire previous year. The school is also in the process of trying to trademark “Retrievers,” “Retriever Nation,” and “16 over 1” because they want to keep the conversation going long after the tournament ends. Leveraging attention and emotions immediately after any successful event is vital. Create powerful content (storytelling) with the help of videos and photos that is relevant, helpful, shareable, and drives action. You could also offer discounted or free merchandise to show your appreciation.

People are your secret weapon. If you don’t work at Loyola University Chicago, you probably didn’t know who Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt was before last Thursday. She’s the 98-year-old team chaplain who has since become one of the faces of this year’s NCAA tournament. Long after this year’s tournament ends many of us won’t remember the score of a particular game, but we will remember people like Sister Jean because of her spirit and passion for her team…plus it’s hard to forget a 98-year-old nun. On your campus you have one or more people like Sister Jean (aka micro influencers) who are memorable and can help you make emotional connections with prospective students and families. It could be current students, faculty, staff, or your alumni. It might even be someone who lives in your surrounding campus community. Make it a priority to find those people and tell their unique stories. This generation of students continues to make it clear that when a college representative can help them make a connection it’s extremely beneficial when it comes time to make their final decision.

Consistency matters from start to finish. Cincinnati led Nevada by 22 points with 11:37 remaining in the game. Then the Bearcats got comfortable with their big lead, and Nevada proceeded to outscore them 32 to 8, winning the game by two points. Consistency from start to finish is so important when it comes to winning in the NCAA tournament. Very few leads are truly safe. Similarly, just because your deposits are up or you’re ahead of your projections doesn’t mean the work stops or slows down with that group of students. Develop a melt plan that involves consistent communication to your committed students (and their parents) and continues to demand interaction until the day they arrive on your campus.

If you’ve got a question about this article, let me again remind you that I’m only an email, call, or text away. You can email me here or connect with me on Twitter at @CoachTiers

If You’re Getting the Silent TreatmentTuesday, February 13th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

You’re not alone.

Winter seems to be the popular time of year for radio silence from students, namely inquiries and admitted (but undecided) students.

A lot of admissions counselors tell me their state of mind when this happens is a combination of frustration and urgency. And when an admissions counselor is frustrated and feeling the pressure to move students to the next stage of the process, I’ve found that bad things often follow. I’m talking about things like becoming way pushier during conversations or questioning their own ability to recruit students successfully.

Today I’m going to take you inside your student’s head and give you an idea of what they might be thinking or feeling. There’s a reason for the silence, and it’s important that you understand the “why” behind it. That understanding will give you the road map you’ll need to continue or reignite effective communication. I’ll also give you some strategies on how to do that as well.

Let’s start with five common things that could be behind your prospect’s silence:

  1. You’re school isn’t a good fit and they just don’t want to tell you. As you probably guessed, this is one of the most common reasons for getting the silent treatment. Why don’t they just tell you that they’re not interested, right? If only it were that simple. This generation of students has a very hard time telling others “no.” Our research says that they’re afraid you’ll get mad at them. Right or wrong, this is who you’re dealing with. By being silent, they hope you just fade away so that they don’t have to have that uncomfortable conversation with you.
  2. They aren’t sure how serious your school is about them so they don’t want to invest extra time with you. They know they’re not the only student being recruited by your college, and because so many recruitment emails and letters continue to look and sound the same, they struggle to differentiate who’s more serious about them. Combine that with an inconsistent flow of messages (i.e. send a lot early, then slow down, then send a lot more around financial aid season), and you’ve got students who are completely confused and ultimately default to just ignoring it all.
  3. They’re interested, but they don’t know what to do or say next (and most are afraid to ask). This usually results from admissions counselors who make their conversations and messages all about their school and taking action, sprinkled in with some, “How did your day go?” phone calls or text messages that end up going nowhere. No matter what stage a student is at in their college search, they’re always looking for the next step, and you need to consistently give it to them.
  4. They don’t like talking on the phone. It could be as simple as that. Make sure you’re communicating with your students they way they want to be communicated with.
  5. They’re busy and overwhelmed. When Dan (Tudor) and I look at our research data, both with prospective students and student-athletes, the two most common reasons they give us for not being prompt in returning a school’s call is that they’re busy with high school life as well as being overwhelmed with the college search process in general. Many students also aren’t sure what they should (and shouldn’t) say during a conversation with an admissions counselor or student caller. How are you easing their stress level and making this process easier on them?

Alright, I’ve given you some of the “why.” Now let’s discuss some things you can do to regenerate the conversation. By the way, keep in mind that at this point (mid-February) you’re going to have to pick up the phone and make a lot of calls. Like it or not, that’s going to be your best option in almost every case.

  • Stop acting like a robot on the phone. Students can quickly tell when a call from a counselor or a student caller is scripted. It drives them nuts, and they lose focus fast. You can still focus on the same talking points, but do it in a natural, conversational tone so it doesn’t feel forced and robotic.
  • Take responsibility for your inconsistent communication. If you and/or your school have been inconsistent, ease their concerns/fears right away by apologizing and taking ownership (even if it’s not completely your fault). Tell them you could have done a better job making this process more about them, and ask them if your school is still under consideration. If it is, reassure them that going forward you will improve, and you could even go so far as to ask them for feedback on what you can do to be a helpful partner.
  • Give them an “out”. Specifically with “cold inquiries,” in a voicemail or email (or even if they answer the phone), ask them if they’re okay with telling you “no” if they get to a point where they feel your school isn’t the right fit. Counselors who have done this tell me one of two things typically happens – the student calls back and says that they’ve chosen another college, or they’ll say they haven’t made a decision yet and are struggling with some aspect of the process. Either way, you get the information you’re looking for, and you now know the truth about what’s going on.
  • Tell them they’re a priority. It’s a couple simple words that make a huge impact! If you’re talking to an admitted (but undecided) student, remind them at some point that they are a priority.
  • Send the student a handwritten note. A personalized gesture like this not only increases your likeability, but it also signals that the student is a priority and encourages them to take your call the next time you reach out.
  • Call the student’s parent(s). If you’ve left multiple voicemails and/or reached out through multiple channels, call the parent(s) with the goal of discovering if a decision has been made. And if it hasn’t, your goal now should be to find out where they’re at in the process, and come up with something you can do to help them.
  • Ask them an effective question. For example, “What do you see as the next step in your process?” or “What’s the biggest thing you’re struggling with right now when it comes to picking a college?” or “Why did we end up being one of the schools that made your final cut?” Keep in the mind that the question you’re asking needs to align with the stage they’re at in the process.

I’ll end by reiterating a very important point! Once a conversation has been renewed or started, please make sure there’s a plan moving forward for how you will consistently communicate with that student/family the rest of the way. Without that, you’ll quickly be back to square one again.

If you have a specific question, problem, or concern…or maybe you’re just looking for reassurance that the approach you’re considering is a good strategy, I’m here to listen if you’re willing to share. The next step is to call, text, or email me at jeremy@dantudor.com. You’ll get a response within 24 hours (probably less). That’s my promise to you.

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.

My Answer to This Important QuestionTuesday, January 16th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Last week I received an email with the question, “What do the best admissions counselors do so well?”

My response was something that I thought you might find helpful, so I’m going to share it with you today. I’m also going to expand on it a little because I know most admissions counselors are dealing with a long list of admitted but undecided students right now.

Successful admissions counselors are able to get prospective students (and parents) to communicate more with them than they do their competition…not just once or twice, but consistently throughout the college search process. This happens when a comfort level and trust have been created, and you consistently ask effective questions.

If you decide to wait because you’re convinced that students will ask you questions when they have them because you’ve told them something like, “I’m here to help, call or email me if you have any questions”, I think you’re going to be disappointed.

One of the key pieces of data that we’ve uncovered from our focus group research with colleges and universities around the country is that most of today’s teenagers don’t know what they’re supposed to ask a college admissions counselor or how they’re supposed to ask it. Without your help some will never take initiative, making it much harder for you to gain a true understanding of their mindset and decision-making process.

Effective questions are absolutely the core of every good recruiting effort! They get you an explanation of something, and oftentimes the student (or parent) will open up and provide you with additional insights and useful information that lead to further conversation and ultimately aid you in their recruitment.

Why is it then that so many counselors don’t ask enough effective questions? I would argue it’s because they’re either worried about being too pushy, or they’re too busy selling their school with facts and figures.

Before I provide you with some effective questions that you can use right now with admitted students who remain undecided, let me first touch on the four key parts that I believe go into asking any effective question.

  1. You need to figure out WHAT questions to ask. Believe it or not, bad questions do exist. If you don’t know what to ask prospective students and parents then all you’re doing is relationship building, which is very important, but it can also prevent you from helping keep the process moving forward.
  2. You need to define WHY you’re asking a particular question. Are you doing it to get actual, useable information or to help a student become comfortable talking to you?
  3. HOW do you ask a question? Some questions are better over the phone or in-person (ones that are more personal and require more detail). Others can be done in an email or via text (more conversational type questions).
  4. WHEN do you ask a particular question? There are definitely right times and wrong times. You need to be mindful in terms of the way you bring up topics. For example, if in the first letter or email you ask a new inquiry or prospect to start the application process or sign up for a campus visit, our research says that’s way too soon. Most students are not ready to take that big a step yet.

I want you to keep those four things in mind during your recruiting conversations with prospective students (and parents) regardless of stage.

Now, here are the aforementioned questions:

  • If it comes down to us and one other school, what things will help you break that tie?
  • <Student’s Name>, when do you see yourself making your college decision?
  • What do you see as the next step in this process?
  • What’s the most confusing part about this process right now?
  • What are your parents telling you to do at this point in the process?
  • Who are you going to rely on to help you make your decision? OR Besides your parents, is there anyone else you’re going to ask for help making your decision?
  • How are you going to know when you’ve found the college that’s the right fit for you?
  • Have you and your parents talked about the idea of paying more for a college?
  • What scares you the most about making your college decision?
  • If you could change one thing about our school, what would it be?
  • What do you like the most about <Your College’s Name> so far?
  • What can I do to make things less stressful for you and your family?

In my years of working with a lot of different admissions professionals, I’ve found that successful questioning can make all the difference in the world.

Consider asking one, two or all twelve of these questions to get your admitted but undecided students talking during this crucial period in the recruiting cycle. And don’t forget that some of these questions can and should be asked more than once during the recruitment process.

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

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions you might ask your prospect:

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

Questions you might ask the parent(s):

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

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

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

Good luck, and enjoy the rest of your week!

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

Do You Know the Answer?Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

“Apps and visit numbers are up!”

I’ve been hearing those words a lot lately during my conversations with various college admission leaders.

Getting a prospective student to complete your application and/or visit campus demonstrates a real level interest on their behalf. Both are important “yeses” in the student recruitment puzzle.

I’ve talked before about the importance of gaining agreement through small wins or as I like to call them, “little yeses.” Once you get enough of those, it makes asking for the big yes (i.e. their commitment to enroll at your college) a hundred times easier.

But, if you want to consistently get that big yes, you’re going to have to try to get your prospect to say “no” to you more often.

Sounds counter-intuitive, right? Stick with me here because this is a strategy that will help you keep things moving forward with those students that have demonstrated real interest in attending your college.

It’s been proven that this generation is driven by fear. And that means in many cases they continue to have very little apprehension when it comes to not exactly telling admission counselors the whole truth.

So, unless a counselor understands how to create urgency and ask effective, targeted questions, most will sit back and wait not wanting to be pushy and feeling that their school is in great shape. The problem is you end up losing more students than you anticipated because many were never telling you the whole truth to begin with.

My recommendation if you want to avoid this is to aggressively search out the “no”.

I firmly believe that throughout the recruitment process you should put your prospect in a position of having to tell you “no” more often…especially in the middle and later stages.

Assuming I’ve sold you on the general idea of getting your prospects who have demonstrated real interest to say “no,” here’s what I want you to do next.

Put together a list of every single prospect (those who will make a decision this cycle) that has demonstrated real interest in your college up to this point. By real interest I mean things like they’ve visited campus, completed your application, taken action in response to an email, phone call, or text message, or they’ve scored highly in your predictive modeling formula if you use such a thing.

Now, if I asked you to tell me what the one thing is that may prevent each of those students from enrolling at your college, do you know what the answer is? It could be a number of different things. And don’t just guess “cost” if you aren’t sure. If a student hasn’t told you something specific, it’s time to search out that “no.”

Go ahead and ask each of those students, “If you were going to tell me no at the end of this process, what do you think would be the #1 reason why you’d do that?”

If “cost” is their answer, immediately ask a follow-up question like, “Help me understand that better.” You need to get them to explain the why behind that answer because both Dan (Tudor) and I continue to find that many students just default to saying “cost” because it’s the easy way out.

Once you have that answer, it’s now your job to come up with a strategy to help the student, parent(s), or the entire family overcome their objection or fear.

And by the way, it’s very rare for a student or family member not to have an objection (big or small) or fear about every single college that’s under serious consideration. Whether they choose to tell you about it or not depends on the recruiting relationship that you have or have not created and cultivated up to this point.

If you have a question about this article or you’d like my feedback on a specific situation you’re dealing with, email me right now.

 

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