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Before Fall Travel Starts, Read ThisTuesday, August 28th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services


As you know, I travel a lot, especially June thru September. In fact, I’m currently in the middle of trip number eight this month, writing this on a layover in Minneapolis, heading to lead a staff training workshop the next two days.

The most popular topic among admissions counselors this month during the 1-on-1 meetings that go along with each workshop I lead has been fall travel. Everybody is either currently planning it or just finished. From analyzing past travel data, to the value of high school visits, to new ideas for college fairs, counselors have been asking me for advice on these things and more.

Whether it’s college fairs or high school visits, getting (and then keeping) the attention of prospective students continues to be a challenge for many in 2018. Why is that? I would argue there are two big factors at play – fear on the part of students, and most college reps continue to take the same approach and have the same “elevator pitch.”

The good news is there are all kinds of strategies out there that can change the outcome and help you increase engagement levels. One of the most effective that I continue to recommend is asking an unexpected question. By unexpected I mean something that other counselors aren’t asking. It could be related to pop culture, or it could be something that you know is on the minds of many students as they conduct their college search. The question could be serious or funny. Either way it will have nothing to do with your school.

Here are a few quick examples:

  • “What scares you the most about your college search?”
  • “How the heck can a private college be affordable?”
  • “Have you ever wondered why colleges make you fill out so many forms?”
  • “What do you need help with right now?”
  • “Ninja or PewDiePie?”
  • “Fortnite or League of Legends?”

Let me also add that if you’re going to use references to pop culture (like I did in the last two examples above) make sure you do your homework first if you’re not familiar with what you’re asking, and make sure you know your audience…you probably wouldn’t ask those last two examples to very many teenage girls.

The biggest benefit to asking an unexpected question (other than getting a prospect to stop and actually have a conversation with you) is that you’ll sound smarter and more interested in the student than a lot of other counselors who ask the same “yes, no” vanilla questions…or choose to dive right into the facts/figures of their school.

Depending on the kind of unexpected question you ask, you may need to be ready with a quick follow-up question. And once you’ve asked your question(s), remember the importance of listening. Doing so will allow you to figure out what’s important to that student, while at the same time finding opportunities to begin telling your school’s story and why they should want to learn more.

Here are six other fall travel tips that are extremely important:

  1. Load up on the stories. Storytelling will help you achieve emotional engagement and create connections more than any facts/figures that you can offer. If you’re not sure where to find all those stories, start by talking with your tour guides, student ambassadors, and other colleagues in your office.
  2. Upload your notes to your CRM daily. No matter how busy you get, make time for this because, if you don’t, you’ll not only be hurting yourself in the long term but potentially the students/families that you’re trying to help. And if your CRM doesn’t have a place to upload notes, go talk to your supervisor about this immediately.
  3. Gather accurate contact information for prospective students AND parents. Confirm with the student that the information they’re giving you is their contact information and not mom or dad’s. Then I want you to ask them for their parents’ names and contact information. Too many colleges have a low percentage of parent information for students prior to the admitted stage. As I’ve discussed many times before, engaging the parents early is crucial. That’s hard to do if you don’t have accurate (or any) parent information.
  4. Don’t make every high school visit the same. Lunchroom, library, classroom, wherever you meet with students, read the room and adjust to your audience. I continue to see quotes in the surveys we do where students use words like “boring,” “annoying,” and “they’re all the same,” to describe these visits. Make them more interactive and engaging instead of just handing out your viewbook, mini-viewbook, or other marketing piece and then going through the spiel.
  5. No students doesn’t equal a wasted visit. It’s a fact. Most counselors are going to visit one or more schools this fall and have no students show up. If this happens to you, I don’t want you to drop off the updated marketing materials to the high school counselor and walk out the door. Instead, use it as an opportunity to make other connections at that school. In addition to the high school counselor, try and say hello to the principal, assistant principal, dean(s), secretaries, athletic director, teachers, etc. It’s a much smaller world than many realize, and word of mouth continues to be extremely valuable in 2018.
  6. Know your body and take care of it. Everybody is different. Know how much sleep you need to function each day and get it. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and body language absolutely matters. Also, drink a lot of water (not soda), and do your best to limit the fast food.

Good luck and safe travels!

If you’ve got specific fall travel questions I’m only an email, call, or text away.

P.S. How valuable do you think high school visits are in 2018? And are you planning on making more, less, or the same number this fall? I’d love to have you tell me. By the way, my recommendation (if you’re wondering) is to double down and do more. If you want to know why, all you have to do is ask.

Try This During Fall Travel Season and Watch What HappensMonday, September 7th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Many of today’s prospects are doing one of two things at college fairs. First, you have the group that stands or in some cases walks around socializing with each other and never approaches a single college or university representative. Then you have those who will sneak past a table and grab a brochure hoping to avoid eye contact or saying anything.

School visits also come with their own set of obstacles. Will anyone show up? If you’re responsible for a territory outside of your school’s state, will the students have heard of your institution? The most difficult one however according to many counselors that I’ve recently spoken with is the lunchroom visit. (Food 1, Counselor 0)

Getting your prospect’s attention, specifically during fall travel season, has never been more challenging. Why is that? The harsh truth is all schools are starting to look and sound the same. At your typical college fair or school visit, aside from the color of the banner or the layout on the table, what’s really different at first glance between institutions A, B, and C? Nothing.

If I told you that today I was going to offer you a solution to this problem, would that be something you’d be interested in? It’s a strategy that we discuss in detail with admissions staffs when we come to their campus and lead a training workshop.

Simply put, I want you to ask an unexpected, amazing question. I mean a doozy! One that makes your prospect stop in his or her tracks, not say anything, and really think about what the answer is. The response that you should be aiming for is, “Wow, nobody’s asked me that before.”

So, what are they?

What are some unexpected, amazing questions that you can ask your prospect when you begin your recruiting relationship with him or her?

To begin with, I can tell you that such a question should never yield a simple yes or no answer. Instead, the question needs to be open ended. Be original. Don’t be afraid to make it a little more off the wall (within reason of course). The question doesn’t have to have anything to do with your school. It might be something to do with pop culture or the college search process in general.

It’s probably going to take you a few minutes to come up with “the one.” When you think you’ve got a winner, I would encourage you to test it out on one of your current students, maybe say one of your campus tour guides, before you determine that it’s in fact “the one.”

Here’s the type of questioning that I’m talking about. Instead of asking a prospect, “Are you ready to move on to college?”, you might ask them “What scares you the most about moving on to college?” A counselor at a college that’s a client of ours asked that exact question for the first time a couple of weeks ago. His email to me the next day said, “The results were awesome.  The student was far more engaged in conversation, and I felt it created a better connection.”

There are many other examples that counselors we work with have shared with me that I could share with you that are “worth their weight in gold.” Here’s the thing though. They wouldn’t be as valuable if I just gave them away.

Many times the type of questions you ask when you first talk to a prospect will determine how the recruiting relationship will end up. Unexpected, amazing questions are important – vitally important – to the whole recruiting process.

The biggest benefit to asking this type of question (other than getting a prospect to stop and actually conduct a conversation with you) is that you’ll sound smarter and more interested in your prospect compared to other counselors who ask the same “yes, no” mundane questions that recruits have heard before.

One more thing – Once you’ve asked an unexpected, amazing question, remember the importance of listening. Doing so will allow you to find ways to begin telling your school’s story and why they should want to be a part of it.

If you want the next couple of months to be the most effective fall travel season you’ve ever had, use this simple yet extremely effective strategy.

I’ll even help you! E-mail me your unexpected, amazing question to jeremy@dantudor.com and I’ll provide you with some feedback. You heard me right. Free help, no strings attached. I think it’s that important. Every counselor needs to have those questions embedded in their heads and know why they’re asking them.

Making Sure the Admissions Travel Season Doesn’t Turn Into Groundhog DayMonday, October 27th, 2014

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

My first introduction to life on the road occurred as a 22 year-old Recruiting Analyst working for a basketball scouting service.

Over a four-month span known as the “AAU season,” I traveled from state to state attending events where I would spend between 12 and 14 hours a day in high school gymnasiums. My goal was to evaluate as many of the nation’s top high school boys recruits as I could, and compete with other media entities for information from these teenagers on their college recruitment. I moved from hotel to hotel, ate way too much fast food, drank way too much Red Bull, and a couple of times even slept in my rental car.

By this point you may be asking, “What does this have to do with admissions?” It’s Fall, and that means we’re currently in the midst of “travel season” for college recruiters. My question is, “Are your admission counselors learning how to become road warriors or reliving the same day (Groundhog Day) over, and over again like Bill Murray’s character did in the movie?”

I’ve heard many of you describe the “travel season” in admissions as Groundhog Day. You wake up, drive to several high schools to meet with prospective students, or sit in a chair and man a booth better known as a folding table at a local college fair. The day essentially consists of trying to show recruits, counselors and parents the unique educational experience your school offers while also evaluating the high school and its students to see if they’re a good fit. You then return to your hotel and get ready to do it all over again the next day. I’m curious, though. At the end of the day, do you or your staff sit back and spend a few minutes evaluating how the day went and whether or not you worked towards accomplishing the goals of your institution’s recruitment strategy?

It starts with when and where travel should occur. This should be decided based on your aforementioned recruitment strategy in conjunction with data that has been collected including which students scheduled a campus tour and who applied to and ultimately enrolled at your school. This will ensure recruiters’ time on the road is well spent.

Once travel begins, it’s time execute the game plan. Along with hard work and positive thinking, here are 7 additional tips that I believe will help the representatives of your college work smarter, more confidently, and not look at tomorrow as Groundhog Day.

  1. Know your school, not just admissions. How much do your admissions’ counselors really know about their school? It’s important to be current on new developments or recent policy changes not just in admissions, but other offices throughout campus. Cultivating relationships with other departments, in addition to attending sporting and art events, will also allow counselors to use more specific personalized examples when discussing something with a recruit. Ask yourself which sounds better. “Our business major is very popular,” or “A lot of freshmen really enjoy the first-year Business Ethics class that Dr. Leif teaches as part of the Business major.” Finally, if your counselor doesn’t know the answer to a question, just say so. The last thing you want them to do is stretch the truth, only to have that student make a campus visit and see something different.
  1. Get prospects to visualize. High school visits and college fairs provide many opportunities for your staff to paint a picture that will lead prospects to visualize themselves as part of your campus community. Start with unique traditions. Indiana University has Little 500. Occidental College has the Birthday dunk. Every school has something. Your staff can also provide stories about dorm life or popular activities off campus.
  1. Be the early bird. Getting on the calendar early at high schools can be beneficial. Students won’t be into the “meat” of their academic course-load yet, which means they’ll be more attentive and less stressed out. Plus, as a counselor you will be fresher.
  1. Speak to the guidance counselor ahead of time. Doing legwork prior to your visit is time consuming. We’re all busy I get that. However, working with the school counselor(s) to communicate your upcoming visit and interest to prospective students needs to be a common occurrence. The school counselor is also a great resource in terms of gathering more behind-the-scenes information about recruits, their social activities and course selections. That knowledge will be helpful later on when admissions counselors are reading the prospects’ application.
  1. Take notes. As a College and Career Counselor I was always amazed at the lack of note taking on the part of college counselors when I sat in on school visits. Yes your staff member is there to make a presentation and answer questions about your school, and yes students will ask dumb questions that lead to frustration and the desire to speed up the visit. Still, the opportunity to have 5, 10 or even 20+ prospective students all in a room at once is a goldmine. Throughout the visit those students will convey information both verbally and with body language that needs to jotted down.  Posing a couple of questions during a school visit is also a great way to get feedback on students’ values and beliefs.
  1. Coordinate with your colleagues. Across campus coaches from your colleges’ athletic department are also driving and flying to conduct school visits at this time of the year. Check with them to see if you have similar stops and more importantly if a coach is traveling to a region which admissions doesn’t currently cover. Coordinate and ask if your colleague could deliver information packets to a few key high schools.
  1. Don’t forget to follow-up. While getting out and meeting new students is important, it’s just as imperative to solidify your connection with students you meet who demonstrate interest or may have already applied for admission. Counselors need to block time in their schedule for emails, phone calls, and hand-written notes. Maintaining communication is a key piece of securing that commitment you’re looking for.

With budgets tight and competition for new students increasing, I believe implementing some or all of these ideas will translate to your staff being extremely productive anytime they travel to visit with recruits.

One final thought. With plenty of travel comes fatigue. Taking care of your body is paramount not only for good health, but also productivity. Find time to take breaks. This also goes for your brain. Long days with a jam-packed schedule often result in mental exhaustion. While relaxing, remind yourself of your goals and if you feel adjustments need to be made to your presentations, don’t be afraid to do so.

Need more specific ideas for your admissions department?  We’d love to conduct an On-Campus Workshop at your school.  We conduct specific focus group research on campus, present a dynamic interactive discussion of effective recruiting strategies, and answer specific questions from your staff on how to address the challenges you’re currently facing.  Click here for more information, or email Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services, at jeremy@dantudor.com

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