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How Many of These 29 Things Are You Doing?Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

There are a number of different ways that you can create better recruiting stories. While I was doing some fall cleaning, I came across a bunch of them in various documents and notes on my MacBook.

My first thought was to pass along these tips and recruitment strategies to you in this week’s article. Not all of these will apply to you, but a lot of them will.

And whether you’re a long time reader or one of the many new people that have been added to my newsletter community over the past few weeks, reply back and let me know what you think about this article…or about the newsletter…or both. My goal continues to be to help admissions professionals grow, lead, and win. Thank you for your continued support!

  1. Write down three things you know prospective students don’t care about. Stop talking about those things immediately.
  2. You have to decide to tell your story. It starts there. Too often colleges revert to a list of statistics, facts and data that they relay to prospective students. Worse yet, most colleges stop telling their story way too early in the process, thinking (mistakenly) that once they actually begin speaking one-on-one with a student, they don’t need to continue telling their story.
  3. Eliminate the myth that direct mail isn’t effective as a communication tool. I know postage costs a lot, and yes eliminating or minimizing it would also save a lot of time. Too many colleges have decided that this generation doesn’t read mail and/or doesn’t want it. Our ongoing survey research continues to show the exact opposite. Students understand letters take more time to craft, and they use that as tangible proof that a college is “serious about them.” And if you want data to support this point, 58.4% of students in our surveys said they wanted a letter from a college once a month during their college search. Another 25.4% said once per week.
  4. Go through your upcoming emails and letters and take out all of the “big words.”
  5. Be okay with starting an occasional sentence with the word “and” or “but.” This generation of students could care less whether it’s grammatically correct or not.
  6. And use a more conversational tone. That won’t make you less professional, it will actually make you more relatable.
  7. Have one consistent voice in your recruiting communications (emails, letters, phone calls, text messages). That person, who I recommend should be the admissions counselor, should be doing the bulk of the communicating with a student/family from start to finish.
  8. Start a conversation about fear. A Director (and reader of this newsletter) did exactly that as part of her open house welcome remarks this past weekend. Multiple parents expressed their appreciation to her.
  9. Use Facebook if you want to tell your stories to parents on social media.
  10. Use Instagram and YouTube to tell your social media story to prospective students.
  11. Most colleges do not produce social media content native to each platform.
  12. Facebook ads and Instagram influencers. Google them both right now, and educate yourself if you haven’t already.
  13. Consider having one or more of your current students Vlog their journey during the school year. I’ve been recommending this to colleges for the last two years and the handful that have listened have seen amazing results. This is the next BIG thing. Be an early adopter.
  14. If you want to increase engagement, change your call to action to a question that asks for the reader’s feedback or opinion on something.
  15. Consistency over volume.
  16. The best idea won’t work without the right execution.
  17. If your current students were tasked with convincing their friends from high school (or community college) to choose your school, how would they do that? You should ask them and then discuss their feedback within your office.
  18. Don’t be afraid to talk about cost, value, and financial aid early on with parents (as well as their son or daughter).
  19. Don’t give up on students who don’t seem to be engaged with your story. Many are still listening and just not responding yet.
  20. As the recruiting process moves forward, the story should get more and more narrow, focused on them specifically.
  21. In many conversations, context matters more than you think.
  22. As you tell different stories, your goal right now in October should be to get them to campus…not to apply. Don’t skip this important step, because the campus visit continues to be where feelings occur and where the decision is made for many.
  23. The campus visit is the most important aspect of your story. Does everyone involved in your visits (namely your tour guides/student ambassadors) understand and believe that? What stories can they tell? And how is your campus visit a different feel from your competitors?
  24. Most parents will vote to have their son or daughter stay close to home, or go to the school that costs less, unless you tell them why your school is the better, smarter choice.
  25. It’s hard to continue to tell your story effectively later in the process if you don’t keep track of previous conversations with students and their parents in your CRM.
  26. Look for objections and enthusiastically address them with prospective students.
  27. A large majority of your admitted students need you to tell them why to pick your school over the others on their list.
  28. Recent student outcomes (by major) are becoming more and more important to this generation of students.
  29. Phone calls will continue to offer massive ROI to those who can execute them correctly. “Voice” leads to deeper relationships.

Recruiting, like story telling, is a process. Respect that process, manage it, and remember, it should always be about them.

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

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

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Begin Telling Your School’s “Story”Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Whenever we go to lead one of our On-Campus Workshops for a college admissions department, a big part of our job is helping them to develop their “story”.

I think stories are vital to the student recruitment process. And just to be clear, when I say “story” I’m not talking about your marketing materials. Much of that information is dull and uninspiring…your students continue to tell us those exact words.

The stories I’m referring to are a crucial ingredient in your recruiting communication flow. They talk about things like the people on your campus (students, faculty) and your community. They create emotion for your prospects, and they help them visualize themselves on your campus and in your classroom.

So, what’s your “story” that you want this next class to buy into? Have you sat back and considered what kind of picture you’re painting for your prospect in their head through your recruiting materials, phone calls and even on-campus visits?

If you’ve never seriously thought about your “story” before, and need help in creating it so that you can be a more effective recruiter, today I’m going to pass along some critical questions that your admissions team should ask each other. The answers will help you find out what’s unique about your institution and how to present it as a compelling story that any prospective student will want to hear more of:

  1. What are your prospects demanding?  Here’s a hint: It’s not always about the money, so don’t make that the focus.  If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, or you’ve had me on campus to lead a workshop, you know students continue to tell us that personal relationships with you and other students on your campus impact how they will make their final college decision much more than being affordable. They demand attention, and they demand benefits that revolve around them.  What can you do to “meet their demand”?
  2. What do your prospects need?  A really good financial aid package?  Yes.  A degree?  Of course.  To see themselves “fitting in” on your campus?  All the time.  Ask yourself what your prospects need, and you will go a long way towards reaching them with a message – a story – that they will identify with.  Remember: “Needs” are different than “demands”.  Their needs revolve around the realities that they are facing and are necessary for them to overcome those hurdles.  And in most cases different prospects have different needs. Figure out a way to meet their needs (that’s what they care about, anyway…their needs, not yours).
  3. What are they willing to pay for?  This is a challenging and in-depth question. What is it that your prospects view as being a “premium” feature of your school that if they had to pay for it, they would be happy to do so? For example, it might be the brand new dorms or the ability to be a part of the sports culture or the Greek system on your campus (if you have it). Each of those things is a tangible “premium” item that your prospects might be willing to pay for if they had to.  Understanding what the most valuable parts that your college offers them in their eyes is a big key in developing a great recruiting story.
  4. What niche(s) can your school offer that others don’t?  Earlier this month I worked with a university that is developing a specialized niche in the way they prepare their freshmen students to successfully transition to college life. Take a look at what kind of “specialty” niche you can put together for your prospects. What can you offer them on your campus that most of your competitors don’t?  Find an area that other colleges are failing to focus on, and build out that unique brand for your prospect.
  5. Who are the people behind your institution?  I don’t mean just your school’s President. I mean who else on your campus can your prospects connect with on a personal level? A big key as you tell those people’s “story” is to be genuine. Don’t embellish so much that down the line it becomes clear to your prospects or their parents that this person isn’t really who you’ve painted them as. And also don’t forget your audience either because you don’t want to necessarily tell the same “story” to everyone. The goal is for your “story” to be personal and have emotion built into it.

Asking these five questions can help your admissions team develop the beginnings of a great recruiting strategy.

If you want to achieve emotional engagement, which is a critical part in today’s student decision-making process, effective storytelling is a must.

Ready to take the next step?  Become a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies. Let us help you develop and execute your story saving you time and increasing your yield results. Click here for more details. Our system works, and we’d love to tell you why.

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