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

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If You Want to Rekindle Their InterestTuesday, April 10th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

This time of year admission departments are either really happy with how their recruiting efforts are going, or they’re frantically looking for ideas on how to re-kindle interest from students who at some point this cycle demonstrated serious interest in their school. I’m referring to students who visited campus but never applied, as well as students who started but didn’t finish your school’s application.

There are a few reasons I think it’s smart to come up with a strategy to go after these two groups of students:

  • They’re already familiar with your school.
  • At one point it’s safe to assume that most probably felt there was a chance that your school might be that “right fit.”
  • Assuming they haven’t deposited to another school, they’re probably feeling a little anxious about their college plans for this fall.

So, how do you proceed with these students, get their attention again, and rekindle communication and interest in your school?

The easy answer is to communicate that your school will offer an extremely generous financial aid package if they complete their application by a certain date.

A lot of schools, however, aren’t in a position to do that, or they’d rather pursue a strategy that doesn’t include getting crazy with their discount rate.

Here are three basic ideas I’ve seen produce positive results that you should consider:

  1. Apologize for the lack of (or poor) communication. I know…it’s probably partly (or mostly) the student’s fault for not communicating with you. But as the person who is initiating the contact, and as the “authority figure” in this relationship, you need to be the one to apologize. It will take the pressure off of them and open the door for ongoing communication. I’ve found that this simple strategy works well for admissions counselors because it gives them a defined reason to make phone calls to these students.
  2. Call with lots of urgency. At this point, like it or not, phone calls are going to be the best way to offer personalized communication and have a serious conversation with these students. Assuming they answer the phone or choose to call you back (make sure your voicemail gives them a reason to), tell them that you’ve been waiting to hear back from them, but haven’t, so you wanted to be a little forward and push the process forward considering the time of year. Tell them that they’re a high priority right now and that your school believes they’re a great fit (be ready to offer some proof behind why you’re saying that). Make the next steps clear, and tell each student that the sooner they complete your school’s application and apply for financial aid, the better the financial aid package you’ll be able to offer them. I’ve worked with multiple admissions counselors who have found that creating a lot of urgency at this late juncture is enough to get the student (if they’re still undecided) to finally take things a little more seriously. Combine that with defined next steps and a counselor who’s willing to help, and what some might see as “pushy” ends up providing a sense of relief for the student…and a reason to finally end the process.
  3. Call with the assumption that they’ve deposited somewhere else, and offer your congratulations. If they’ve ended the process and chosen another school, you’ll come off as caring and thoughtful. Make sure you take the time to ask two or three questions about why the student choose the other school…this is extremely important and that information will be useful in future recruiting situations. If the student still hasn’t made a final decision, they’ll tell you, and the door may be re-opened. If you do get a second chance with these students, make sure your staff has a clear plan of how to take full advantage of it.

Oftentimes persistence pays off in recruiting. Try one or more of these ideas and you might be pleasantly surprised at the end result.

Good luck, and I’ll see you back here next Tuesday!

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.

And if your NCAA tournament bracket is still somehow intact, tell me who you’ve got in your Final Four and who your National Champion is. You can email me here or connect with me on Twitter at @CoachTiers

They Want to Know More About These 4 ThingsTuesday, August 29th, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

College admission departments throw them around all the time. The “them” I’m talking about are facts.

Admissions counselors and tour guides use facts to sell their college or university, and they brag about facts in an attempt to separate their school from their competitors.

But which facts are really worth talking about, and which ones do prospective students care less about? Like it or not, some of those facts just take up space in your marketing materials and recruiting communications. I’d even argue that some facts that you present actually hurt your recruiting efforts.

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

Let me reiterate that again. When you state a fact as a selling point of your institution, it’s so important that you take the extra step and explain to your prospect or their parent(s) exactly how they will personally benefit from that fact. That’s real personalization. Plus our ongoing research continues to find that many prospects don’t usually “connect the dots” between the benefits that your school offers and what it means for them personally.

When you’re able to communicate facts that will personally benefit a prospective student, or even get them to visualize themselves experiencing that benefit on your campus, more often than not you gain a distinct advantage over other schools who either don’t know how to effectively do that or don’t think it’s important.

If done correctly, the end result is positive feelings which matter because students continue to rely on those feelings to help them make their final decision.

With all of that in mind, here are 4 facts that we’re seeing prospective students rate as very important in their decision-making process:

  • Your on-campus housing. Believe it or not, you don’t always need the newest and biggest dorms or apartments to make a positive gain in the mind of your prospects.  Instead, you need to make sure they understand why your current students love your campus and dorm community and how that atmosphere will positively impact their day-to-day living. When your current students showcase what happens in the dorms on social media, it can be extremely ROI positive. Don’t over think it; just encourage them to show “day in the life” stuff. That’s what prospective students continue to tell us they want to see more of.
  • The food on campus.  Every school has a dining facility. You need to prove how yours is different and why yours is better. For example, maybe you have an eco-friendly dining hall or a unique “student choice” option where every semester students vote on menu changes. Prove to prospective students that they will eat well, and you’ll move up the list.
  • How a degree at your school will trump a degree at another school.  Every admissions counselor in the country loves to talk about the academic strengths of his or her school and the value of their school’s degree.  I’m here to remind you that you’d better be ready to prove it to your prospect (and their parents) with real-life examples as to how your school is going to better prepare them to find and successfully start whatever career they’re interested in. Outcomes are quickly becoming the more important college ranking.
  • How your school will help make the transition to college life easier and less stressful. What programs and people does your school have in place to help new students in the two main areas of transition: academic and social. Can you effectively explain how it will be easy for them to “fit in” and “feel comfortable?”

If your admissions staff and tour guides commit themselves to taking the approach of placing emphasis on facts like these 4 things, and they tie those facts personally to each student, your school will gain a recruiting advantage.

There are just over two weeks left until the NACAC National Conference in Boston…Are you going? If so, make sure you stop by Booth 311 and say hi.

Establishing Trust Early With Prospects and ParentsTuesday, July 25th, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Thin mints…that’s my favorite kind of girl scout cookies and I never hesitate to buy a box when I see the local Girl Scout troop set up outside one of our neighborhood supermarkets. Other than the fact that they taste really good, what’s the primary reason that both I, and many others across the country, don’t hesitate to hand over a few dollars for a box each year?

Conversely, why do we all try and end the conversation as fast as possible when a salesperson knocks on our door?

It boils down to trust. The organization selling those cookies has spent years building it, and we have faith that our donation is going to a worthwhile cause. On the other hand, we don’t know the salesperson at the door and it’s likely that we haven’t ever heard of their company.

The gut reaction we have to each of those scenarios has big implications for college admission professionals, and that’s what I want to focus on today.

Most of us don’t like interacting with people we don’t feel like we can trust. Prospective students and parents are no different. Establishing trust early in the college search process with both is an important piece of a winning recruitment strategy. Without it, how can the student or parent believe that you or your school will deliver on those statements or assurances that get made throughout the recruiting cycle?

The same factors that you and I use to judge the trustworthiness of people and organizations are being used by this generation of students to judge your trustworthiness.  Many of those prospects tell us that initially they’re figuring out whether or not to have a serious interaction with your school based on whether they feel like they can trust you or not.

How you construct your letters, what you say in your emails, the layout of your website, and what you post/how people at your school act on social media all factor into whether or not a prospect chooses to trust you enough to engage back.

Here are a number of other things I want you to consider:

What your website and email templates look like: When they look at those, which studies say they do, what’s the brand image that comes to their mind?  If you’re a smaller school, do you look like the bigger brand institutions?  If you’re a well-known college or university, how are you separating yourself from your other big-name competitors?

The first letter or email between you and your prospect: I’m not talking about the marketing materials encouraging them to visit, or postcards, or other general material that your school sends out. I’m referring to the first letter or email that goes out with your name on it or the name of someone in your office/admissions department. Does it look and sound like every other one your prospect is receiving? I can guarantee you that when you reach out and communicate with a prospective student for the first time the way that message is worded will determine whether or not they feel you’re worth interacting with. (Hint: Shorter, less formal, and you not only inform, but you attempt to engage, that’s the key).

What they’ve heard about you:  If your prospect has heard good things about your school from people they know, the entire relationship changes. You automatically get the benefit of the doubt. Let me ask you, “What are you doing to make sure that your current students, as well as the students (and their parents) who chose another college instead of yours, experience superior customer service?”

Their fear:  It’s the other four-letter “F word” that most admission counselors don’t think is important, or don’t know how to talk about with their prospects. I talk about fear extensively when I lead an On-Campus Workshop because fear is present throughout the recruiting experience and prospects tell us that when an admissions counselor talks about it the right way, it vastly increases their comfort level with that counselor.

What you’re asking them to do early on: If you’re asking a prospect to reply to your email early in the recruiting process, there’s at least a decent chance that’s going to happen.  Conversely, counselors and schools that jump right into visiting campus or filling out their school’s application before building some trust and value will quickly lose the attention of many of their prospects.  Forced urgency rarely leads to increased trust from your prospect. Be mindful of what you’re asking them to do and whether or not you’ve given then ample reasons as to why they should do it.

What they see about you social media:  What you, your students, your athletic programs, and other departments on campus post on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and the other social media platforms matters to this generation of students.  In fact, it matters a lot!  Your online presence is one of the most immediate impressions that gets formed by your prospect.  And in most cases it helps to determine how much interaction they wish to have with you and whether or not they’re excited to learn more about your school.

You make the process about them:  How are you proving that you understand the college search process is about their wants and needs and not why you think they’d be crazy not to pick your school?  More importantly, how are you communicating that?

Your honesty:  This generation of prospects and their parents are actively searching for people who prove they’re honest. In just about every recruiting survey we conduct ahead of a workshop I see one or more responses that say something like, “tell me the truth” or “just be honest with me.” Don’t be the admissions professional who, in trying to build trust, over promises and under delivers. You need to repeatedly demonstrate that you’re someone they can trust.  That means from time to time it’s okay to admit when your school isn’t better than a competitor in a particular area.

I encourage you to have a discussion about each of these things as you develop your recruiting plan for this next class of prospects.

And remember, I talk strategy with college admission professionals and leaders across the country just about every single day. If you have a question or you want to know what I’m seeing and hearing when I talk to you peers, all you have to do is email me and ask. You can reach me at: jeremy@dantudor.com

P.S. I thought you might enjoy this picture I took at sunset last night right after take-off above O’Hare International airport in Chicago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This 4-Letter Word Really Needs Your AttentionTuesday, June 13th, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Last week I was in North Carolina on the campus of Duke University for our National Collegiate Recruiting Conference.

I stood before the room of just under 90 college coaches and admission professionals and told them the same thing I’m going to tell you today – During the student recruitment process you need to start paying more attention to the other 4-letter “F” word.

Do you know what it is?

After a few incorrect guesses from conference attendees someone finally shouted out, “FEAR.”

Next I asked everyone in the room to raise their hand if they consistently bring up or have conversations with prospects and parents about fear…one hand went up. Would you have been able to raise yours if you were there?

Some people are scared to give a speech or presentation. Others have a fear of heights, spiders, and insects. Each one of us has fears, including the students and families that you work with each year.

If you’ve had me on your campus to lead a workshop, you know that the biggest fear this generation of students has is the fear of making the wrong decision. In fact, all of the ongoing focus group research that Dan (Tudor) and I do with students continues to validate that fear is driving almost everything that a prospect does during the recruitment process.

And because very few college admission professionals have a discussion about fear it ends up slowing down the recruitment process for many of their students.

Here are seven other things many of your prospects tell us they’re fearful about:

  • They get scared to talk to you on the phone or return your call/email
  • They get scared to give you honest feedback (ex. The campus visit)
  • They’re scared they won’t be able to afford the leftover cost of your school
  • They’re scared they won’t “feel comfortable” and “fit in”
  • They’re scared of taking on more responsibilities
  • They get scared when they don’t know what to do next in the process
  • They’re scared to tell you “No”

Your job, if you want to become a better recruiter, is to find out what scares your prospect, as well as his or her parents, and then address it.

With that in mind, here are a few strategies we see working well for our clients when it comes to handling their prospect’s fear:

  • Focus on their feeling of being fearful.  It’s not actual facts that your prospect is scared about, it’s the feeling of being scared that they’re trying to avoid. You need to answer the question of why they’re feeling scared about something – leaving home, visiting campus, or returning your phone call. Focus on the feeling that’s creating the fear.
  • Ask them what scares them most about the whole recruiting process. Logically, if they have a fear (rational or otherwise), you need to be the one to lead that conversation. It starts by asking an effective question like this one. Not asking questions like this makes recruiting harder, plain and simple.
  • Tell them what you think they’re thinking.  Tell your prospect what you see them being scared about and see if they agree with you or not.  It’s easier for them to react to a statement about what you think they’re thinking than it is for them to tell you what they’re thinking.  Is it confusing? Yes.  Regardless, it’s what we find to be true, so use it to your advantage.
  • Help them create a long-term plan. People worry and over analyze situations when they don’t have detailed, well thought out plans. I want you to help your prospect and their family set clear goals and a clear timeline to help them achieve those goals.

If you can help calm their fears (which is one of the biggest things your prospects really want you to do), you will win their trust and in turn gain a major advantage on your competition who doesn’t believe this topic is important or doesn’t know how to address it.

Do you have a question about this article or some other aspect of student recruitment, leadership, or professional/personal development?  I’m happy to help you if you’ll let me. You can anonymously ask me a question right here in our Reader Q & A. Or you can email me your question directly.

I’ll leave you with this picture from last night as my plane was making its descent into Boston over the water.  Have a great week!

What My First Half Marathon Can Teach You About RecruitingTuesday, May 30th, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Earlier this month I ran my first half marathon here in Indianapolis along with my dad, my good friend Phil, and about 35,000 other people from around the world.

Among the cool things that runners get to experience at the Indy Mini is taking a lap (on foot of course) around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500. You can even stop and kiss the bricks, which is what I’m doing in the picture to the left.

In the midst of cramming down bananas, nutrition bars and water after the race, some very important admissions recruiting lessons popped into my head. And since my previous article from two years ago, “5 Recruiting Lessons for Admissions Courtesy of Johnny Shelton” (he was a contestant on the TV show America’s Got Talent) is now one of the all-time most read admissions articles on our website, I thought it was about time to write another article about a real life experience and what it can teach you about effective recruiting:

  • Find your spot and settle in for the race. There are always a handful of runners that jump out to the early lead in any race. The same holds true in student recruitment. Bigger name schools sometimes get earlier visits because of their brand recognition. If that’s you, great. If not, don’t panic. Too many admissions counselors and leaders (especially small college ones) are in a rush to get students to visit campus and start the application process. Taking the “blast” approach doesn’t guarantee success down the stretch. In fact, more and more students are telling us that this approach both frustrates and annoys them, namely because most of the information you’re sending them doesn’t offer anything of value in their mind…so they just tune you out. Taking the time to develop a recruiting relationship with a prospect and their family is the better strategy. If you’re genuine, and you make the process about them and not your school, you’ll be amazed how quickly you can develop rapport and in turn receive that visit or completed app.
  • A plan with consistency is going to be a serious contender. My splits in the Indy mini-marathon were as follows – 5K (9:29), 15K (9:23), Finish (9:37). Originally I was concerned with getting some faster splits in early when my energy level was at its highest. That meant I was going to be playing “frogger” right out of the gate. Everybody I talked to prior to the race told me if I wanted to achieve my goal to just be consistent from start to finish. They were right, and as I’ve told you many times before, consistency is so important when it comes to effective recruiting and hitting your number.  Make a plan that involves consistent weekly content that is interesting, focused on your prospect, and demands interaction. The longer you do those three things, the more you’ll be given serious consideration by your prospect. The worst thing I continue to see schools do is step back, slow down their communications, and leave the prospect alone to make their final decision. Guide them throughout.
  • It’s okay to adjust parts of your strategy during the race. As a runner there are always opportunities to adjust your strategy during the race because of the course landscape and other unforeseen circumstances. As a recruiter you will have those same opportunities depending on your prospect’s wants, needs, fears, communication preferences, objections, etc.
  • Not replenishing will cost you later. Staying hydrated via water and Gatorade stations is a must during any race. If you don’t your body will slow down quicker and not be at its best down the stretch. Similarly, not fixing your recruiting messages or choosing not to create messaging specifically for parents is going to come back and cost you later.
  • When everybody is aligned the experiences are more memorable. I thought one of the most impressive things about the Indy mini-marathon was how aligned the various staffers and volunteers at each stage were. Without question it made for a more memorable race experience. Is everybody on your campus – namely counselors, campus visit staff, financial aid, marketing/communications, athletics, deans and professors – in sync?

I encourage you to have a discussion about each of these five things as you develop your recruiting plan for this next class of prospects. It’s worth the time!

P.S. I experienced a first this past week that I want to share with you. After delivering the keynote speech at DACAC in Deadwood, SD I was walking between sessions and saw these guys (big horn sheep) hanging out in the parking lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing With Illogical College DecisionsTuesday, April 11th, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

“That was completely unexpected!” Those were the words that a good friend of mine told me he thought to himself after having a conversation with an undecided senior at his school’s admitted student day event.

My friend doesn’t work in admissions and instead is the Head Men’s Basketball Coach for the small, private university. He had just finished giving a presentation at the request of the VP of EM to a group of students and their parents when one student approached him and said this:

“I really want to come here but you guys don’t have a football team…growing up I always dreamed I would be cheering for my school’s football team on Saturdays.”

The undecided senior explained to my friend that she had narrowed her choices down to his school and one other small, private college in the same state…the other school by the way does have a football team. She told him she felt like he was honest and genuine during his presentation, so she figured he might be able to help her understand how she would fill her weekends without football. She really liked the people at his school she had met/talked with throughout the college search process, but football, in her mind, was a big deal to her. She was having trouble understanding how she would fill that void.

Choosing a college based on a football team or a school’s athletic success, a high-end student center, or climbing walls and lazy rivers might seem completely illogical to you and the wrong way to come to a final decision. In fact the mother of this student told my friend she didn’t want to let her daughter ask him this question because she couldn’t believe this is what her daughter’s decision might come down to.

Always remember this – you’re not recruiting you, you’re recruiting this generation of students. And, over the past couple of years I’ve seen more examples of irrational, emotional decisions than ever before in our ongoing work with college admission departments.

Here are five important constants I see with this generation that I want you to keep in mind:

  • They’re deciding based on their emotions. Emotion outweighs logic and facts.
  • They’re thinking short term, not long term when it comes to their college experience. What feels right at that moment versus over 4 years.
  • They’re looking to see which colleges really personalize the process. Are you a resource or salesperson? Are you consistently staying in touch and asking them for their thoughts? Do you feel like someone they can trust?
  • They’re relying on others to help them make their decisions. Namely parents, peers, and other family and friends in their community. And possibly even you!
  • They’ll often turn to irrelevant statistics to justify their actions. You might develop a great relationship with a student and have a solid financial aid package, but in the end, they pick the school with the larger, newer dorm rooms or the one where they boyfriend, girlfriend, or group of friends are going.

The bottom line is this generation is a tough group to recruit.

Let me share with you some additional ideas/thoughts that might help you moving forward:

  • Search out information as early as possible about how they’re going to make their college decision. Ask questions that let the student reveal their tiebreakers and other things that matter to them…no matter how silly you might think they are.
  • If the early recruiting emails and letters you send are focused solely on the logical argument that your school and your academic program are the best choice right out of the gate, you may be making a huge mistake. It’s not that your prospect doesn’t need that it just may not be the right time as you start the recruiting process.
  • Over the past year in both this newsletter and during NACAC affiliate conferences I’ve spoken at, I’ve really tried to drive home just how much today’s prospects are driven by fear. How are you, your colleagues, and your recruiting messages helping to alleviate that fear?
  • Find ways to feed their emotions and make a personal connection rather than a logical case. If you take that approach you’ll set yourself up for having them listen to your logical case more intently once you have that illogical, emotional connection.
  • It’s okay to ask them, “Is that the smart way to make your college decision?”  Maybe the answer is yes, or maybe it isn’t.  Asking that question and actually getting them to think about everything in a new light is one of the most productive challenges you can issue during the recruitment process.
  • Make your case with more passion than your competition. I continue to see/hear plenty of stories where the emotional connections that the admissions staff helped build end up being a significant reason why the student chose their school. Emotions sell because emotions are real. And remember, passion has nothing to do with your budget.
  • Always include the parents. When you clue them in early on to your conversations with their son/daughter, and why your point of view is important, you gain allies.

This advanced thinking and problem solving is one of the many skills I teach admission counselors and leaders when I come to campus and lead our popular training workshop. If you or your colleagues are looking for fresh perspective and insight from someone who works with many college clients throughout the country, email me now and let’s start a conversation. My spring/summer calendar has filled up even more over the past two weeks, and I don’t want you to miss out!

Prospects and Parents Will Open More Of Your Emails If…Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

nacac16jtby Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

…You use the right subject line.

Think about it. Every time you go to your Inbox, what is it, other than who it’s from that ultimately leads you to open, scroll past or delete (without reading) each email? It’s the subject line.

As a quick example, over the weekend I was going through my Inbox…I had emails from people trying to sell me stuff; others with boring subject lines, some in ALL CAPS (don’t do that), and even one that had the subject line spelled incorrectly. The first email I chose to open had the subject line, “Need Your Advice”. That’s what got my attention. (It was an admissions counselor reaching out for advice/feedback on an email he’s writing for after his school’s Preview Day event)

That same type of decision-making takes place every time one of your inquiries, prospects, admits, commits and parents go to their Inbox and find messages waiting.  Which ones do they read?  Which ones do they not pay attention to?

Just like me, and probably just like you it often comes down to the subject line.

Still not convinced that you need to pay close attention to your subject line? Consider this – 205 billion email messages are sent every day. That means it’s becoming harder and harder for any of us to get (and keep) the attention of our readers.

So, if you want to get more of your emails opened, here are some ideas that we’ve seen work as well as a couple of extra tips:

  • Personalize it. I’ve reiterated numerous times in previous articles how important it is to use personalization (and use it correctly) throughout the recruitment process. We all love the sound of our own name, and when you include the recipient’s name in the subject line, it adds a feeling of rapport. Plus, according to the Science of Email Marketing, emails that included the first name of the recipient in their subject line had higher clickthrough rates than emails that did not.
  • Tell them you’re about to help them with something. Be really specific. Examples could include, “5 tips for filling out the FAFSA easier”, or “This will help you understand your financial aid package”.
  • When every email from you is urgent, none is. At least that’s what many of your prospects tell us.  Use urgency when it’s actually useful, like when there’s a real deadline or compelling reason to contact you immediately. If you use urgency too often, you’re going to find it a lot harder to cultivate your recruiting relationship.
  • Ask a question. Make it short, make it compelling, and create curiosity.  If you’re asking a question in your subject line that you know is relevant and matters to your prospect it will draw them in.
  • Chop-off half the sentence (like I did today).  Doing that tends to prompt the recipient to wonder what the other half says, especially when the subject line clearly offers value for him/her.
  • Make it really, really short. Short words or phrases get attention. For example, “Deadline” or “Scholarship”.
  • Use a call to action. Calls to action in the subject line have proven effective for our clients when we recommend them for a specific email that’s a part of the monthly recruiting communication plan we create. Even a simple “Check this out!” or “I need your feedback” can serve as a motivating call to action and indicator that a response is or is not being requested.
  • Be different every single time.  There are very few subject lines so amazing that they should be used over and over again.  Take a few minutes to be creative.

What you put in your subject line is arguably the most important factor in getting your emails opened and read. If you’re not consistently taking that part of your emails seriously, I implore you to make a change immediately.

Now on to the fun part! As a way for me to thank you for being a loyal reader of this newsletter, I want to give you the opportunity to win something. It’s 30 seconds of your time for 30 minutes of mine.

All you have to do is click on this link and send me an email before 11:59 PM PST today (Tuesday, January 24, 2017) with your best or most creative email subject line. In the body of your email just put the words newsletter contest. I’ll pick my 3 favorite email subject lines and each winner will receive an email from me tomorrow (Wednesday, January 25) about how to claim their prize.

One last thing – Please review and considering changing your current “out of office” auto-reply email(s).  This is another opportunity for you to be creative and show off some of your personality!  Most admissions counselors don’t take the time to have some fun with that email that goes out to peers, parents, and most importantly your prospects.  This is another little thing that can make a big difference for you.

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Are You Making These Recruiting Mistakes? (Ask Yourself Today)Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

She took a big step. Scratch that, I think she took an enormous step, and I was excited to be a small part of it! Let me explain what I’m talking about.

Earlier this year we partnered with this particular admissions counselor and the rest of her admissions team. During my individual meeting with her as a part of our on-campus workshop this summer she admitted to me that she was an introvert. I asked her then if she felt like her personality impacted the way she recruits. She didn’t have an answer and she said it wasn’t a big deal. I encouraged her to think more about it, and then I did what I always do…which is the same thing I do for you every Tuesday at the bottom of this newsletter – I gave out my cell number and told her to feel free to connect with me at any time.

Fast forward to this past week when I received an unscheduled and unexpected call from that counselor, who by the way I hadn’t spoken with since my visit to campus. Her first words to me were, “Jeremy, I’ve finally got an answer for you and yes it’s a problem”.

She proceeded to tell me that this fall she’s really had a hard time getting any sort of engagement during her high school visits and college fairs. One night in her hotel room she was catching up on email and just happened to come across my most recent admissions newsletter. She told me it triggered a memory from our conversation during the summer, and that was enough to push her to schedule some time to talk about things with her Director when she returned to campus. What ensued was an important discussion between the two of them about self-awareness.

Being able to accept that you struggle at or with something is hard for many of us to admit. So is breaking a bad habit or admitting that there might be a better strategy or solution than the one you’re currently using.

Building on that, today I thought it would be beneficial for you if I shared some common recruiting mistakes that I see a lot of admissions professionals continuing to make right now. And while not being self-aware isn’t on this list, it’s definitely something that I want you to think about.

Here are seven other things on my list:

  1. Interrupting. Stop interrupting prospects, parents, high school counselors and other people you come in contact with every day. Even if you think you know what the other person is going to tell you, have the courtesy to hear them out and let them express their point of view. Listen first; talk second when someone else engages with you.
  2. Selling too fast. Too many of you are in a rush to skip steps and just try to push the student to the next stage of the process. Slow down. You’re moving faster than your prospect most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for meeting department goals, but would you believe me if I told you that I’m confident you’ll get more applications and campus visits when you slow down the sales process? Build the relationship first; sell your school later, especially in the early stages with a new prospect or inquiry. Take the time to ask probing questions like where the student and family are at in the college search process, and who else is going to be involved in the decision. When you slow down the conversation you’ll have more time to demonstrate why your school is the best fit for their needs.
  3. Not recruiting the whole family. For the past six months or so I’ve been mentioning in article after article why you need to start the conversation with family members, namely parents, earlier. Stop waiting until the financial aid discussion to connect with them and create dialogue. It’s a big reason why you’re not converting as many admits as you’d like. Create a long-term plan to develop a relationship with, and recruit, a prospect’s family. In addition to parents, that can also extend to siblings and grandparents.
  4. Giving up too easily on prospects that don’t reply right away.  Just because a new prospect or inquiry doesn’t respond to your early letters and emails doesn’t mean your messages aren’t making an impact. Some experts contend that a consumer won’t take action on something until he or she has been a part of your campaign 7 times. Others say that 20 is the magic number. Sure, there’s always a time to move on, but too many counselors give up too easily on students before exploring all of the different communication avenues.
  5. Making phone calls that don’t have a purpose.  You need to have a game plan for your recruiting phone calls.  Dan (Tudor) and I talk in detail about that during our on-campus workshops. Getting through your list is great…but how many of those conversations are actually helping you move the needle in your favor? Successful phone calls have a plan of attack. Key pieces of that plan need to be asking really good questions, gaining usable information for future calls and messages, and setting up the next phone call or communication.
  6. Making excuses. Particularly when it comes to responding to emails in a timely fashion or inputting your notes into your CRM so that if you’re out of the office and a colleague has to deal with one of your students, he or she can quickly and easily get up to speed. Stop trying to find reasons why you can’t get these and other critical things done, and instead focus on finding a solution or figuring out a way to manage your time more effectively.
  7. Not understanding how to “close the deal”.  You have to keep asking the right questions.  You have to keep gauging the prospect’s interest.  You have to seek out and effectively handle objections. You have to get those “little yeses” I’ve talked about before. No matter how good of a position you think you’re in with a student you should never just sit back, wait, and hope they choose you.  The really good admissions counselors continue to develop their relationship with their recruit, and do so in such a way that furthers their connection with you and your institution.

Are you making any of these common mistakes? Are there one or two other areas in your approach that need some tweaking and adjusting?  E-mail me at jeremy@dantudor.com and let’s discuss what we can do together to fix the mistakes that might be hurting you in your recruiting efforts.

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