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It Might Not Make Sense, ButTuesday, August 7th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

    

It happened again, this time during a staff training workshop that I led for a college in Illinois yesterday.

During a break, one of the admissions counselors came up and asked me if his peers at other schools are also dealing with students making completely illogical college decisions. The short answer I gave him was, “of course.”

Choosing a college based on whether or not they have a football team might seem completely illogical to you and the wrong way to break a tie between schools, but it happens from time to time. And some students in 2018 are also still picking colleges based on where their high school friends are or are not going…that includes a boyfriend or girlfriend as well. One student even said in a recent survey we conducted for a school that the deciding factor that led them to pick their college was, “I thought it would be easier to change my major here than at other schools.”

Over the past couple of years I’ve seen and heard 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 of students that I want you to keep in mind as you start to communicate with this next class:

  • They’re deciding based on their emotions. Emotion often outweighs logic and facts, including when it comes to deciding which colleges to visit and apply to.
  • They’re thinking short term, not long term, when it comes to their college experience. What feels right at that moment is often more important versus over four years.
  • They’re looking to see which colleges truly personalize the process and really take an interest in them. Are you a resource or salesperson? Are you consistently staying in touch and asking them for their feedback and opinions on things? 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 inner circle/community.
  • They’ll often turn to irrelevant statistics to justify their actions. You might develop a great relationship with a student and offer them a competitive financial aid package, but in the end, they pick the school with the larger, newer residence halls or the one where their boyfriend, girlfriend, or group of friends is going.

The bottom line is this generation is a tough group to recruit. They often change their minds multiple times daily, and they do things that leave people like yourself scratching your head.

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 about tiebreakers and other things that matter most as they look at different schools…no matter how silly you might think they are.
  • If the early emails and letters you send are focused solely on the logical argument that your school and your academic programs are the best choice, 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 yet.
  • Over the past two years in both this newsletter and during NACAC affiliate conferences I’ve spoken at, I’ve really tried to drive home just how much this generation of students are driven by fear. How are you, your colleagues, and your recruiting communications 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 emotional connection.
  • 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, tour guides, etc. 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/engage the parents. When you clue them in early on to your conversations with their son/daughter, and when you ask them for their feedback on things, you gain allies who feel like a valued partner.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your week!

As always, if you have questions about this article or any other aspect of student recruitment, leadership, or professional development, I’m ready to listen and help. Reply back, and we’ll start a conversation.

Making These Changes Next Recruiting CycleTuesday, May 8th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

In my Inbox among a bunch of “can you help me” emails and workshop contest entries last week was a note from a Senior Admissions Counselor. I led a workshop for the university he worked at a couple of years ago…he’s since moved on to another school.

Emails like his are the reason I put so much time and energy into this weekly newsletter. Hearing from admission professionals who have successfully executed strategies I recommended means the world to me.

This article I wrote about three words to avoid, and this article about questions to ask undecided students really helped this counselor “explode in terms of contacts and deposits.” In fact, his numbers and yield rates this year are the strongest in his office.

I’m sharing this story with you because it’s further proof that making small changes to the way you communicate with prospective students can net you a big ROI…and a lot less stress in the weeks leading up to May 1.

So, as you begin to shift your attention this spring/summer to the next class of prospective students, here are ten additional ideas (small changes) that I encourage you to consider implementing, either individually or throughout your entire admissions office.

  1. Have one consistent voice in your recruiting communications (emails, letters, phone calls, text messages). Instead of sending random pieces from the Director of Admissions, the admissions counselor, a current student, faculty, etc., establish a point person right now so that prospective students know who they can turn to for help and advice during their college search. That person, whom I recommend is the admissions counselor, should be doing the bulk of the communicating with a student/family. That doesn’t mean you can’t send additional ad hoc pieces from other people on campus. When you do that, though, have the established “go-to person” set it up first. Our data continues to show that schools who take this approach and stay consistent, yield more students.
  2. Use keywords/phrases in your recruiting communications. If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know how much this generation of students wants to be valued and have their wants and needs viewed as important. Why not tell them exactly that? Say things like, “I appreciate you,” “You’re important to us,” or “I believe in you.” Phrases like those contain powerful words that your prospects will respond to. Word choice also matters, and I would encourage you to use more verbs. Verbs are action, while adjectives are descriptive. Verbs give your prospects a positive feeling and do a much better job of answering the “why.” Lastly, make it a priority to ask them about their biggest fear(s) and how they “feel” about certain things. Doing so will yield important information, build trust, and encourage open discussion.
  3. Be easy to talk to. It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s something that many admission professionals just don’t pay attention to. The text and sentence structure that you use in your letters, emails, social media campaigns and text messages matters. You need to make it easy for your prospects, most of whom are already scared to have a conversation with you in the first place, to actually reply to you. As one student said in a survey we conducted, “Be more friendly and use English that everybody speaks every day.”
  4. Establish a timeline with each student/family early on. As I explain when I lead a staff 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 prospects a checklist to follow from the beginning, which will alleviate some of the stress they’re feeling during the early stages of their college search.
  5. Keep your notes up to date in the CRM. Straightforward and simple. Make it a priority, especially during fall travel season. It will benefit you and everyone else in your office.
  6. Start a conversation about paying for college/financial aid long before you send out your award letter/package. That means now for your soon-to-be seniors. And remember, that initial conversation should be with the parent(s) and/or the parent(s) and their child together…not with just the student.
  7. Explain how your school is different and why your school is better early on. I can’t emphasize enough how vital this point is. If you don’t do it early on, you can expect most students to slip in to “analysis paralysis.” So, 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 provide 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.
  8. Phone calls are important and valuable. Get used to making a lot of them. This is something I’ve been hammering home over the past year. Despite how digital and social this current generation of students has become, phone calls still need to be a core piece of your recruiting communications plan. They’re not going away anytime soon, and the majority of high school juniors who are on your radar right now value them when they’re done correctly (i.e. the way students want). If you still don’t believe me and need more proof, click this link and read some or all of these articles about phone calls that I’ve written. And as a leader, if you’re not evaluating the phone calls that are made by counselors, student workers, etc., I would strongly urge you to start doing so.
  9. Explain the WHY more often. Not enough attention is given to context and why it’s beneficial for the other person. Throughout the college search process colleges ask students and parents to take action on a multitude of things. They want to understand the WHY or the “because.” Why should they visit your campus? Why should they apply right now? Why is it in their best interest to fill out the FAFSA now instead of waiting until January or February? Why should the student answer the phone when you call? Take the time to clearly explain why you’re asking them to do whatever it is and how it will benefit them or make their life easier.
  10. Repeat just about everything you’re telling prospective students to their parents. Ignoring the parents and not involving them deeply in the conversation from the beginning will result in a loss the majority of the time. They don’t have to be on the same call, email, or text exchange that you have with their son or daughter, but they do need to be brought up to speed as to what you’re discussing with them. Always make it clear to the parents just how much you value their input and assistance.

If you want to talk in greater detail about one or more of these ideas, you don’t have to bring me to your campus for us to do that. All you have to do is reply back to this email and start a conversation with me. I’m here to listen and help if you’re willing to take the time to reach out and ask for it.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

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. 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 email me your question directly.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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