Dan Tudor

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August 23rd, 2016

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Do You Really Know What Your Prospects Are Thinking?

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Prospective students think differently than you do. But you know this…or do you?

I ask because a surprising number of admissions counselors that I talk to don’t realize it, and it’s preventing them from becoming dominant recruiters.

Many of you are concerned with your school’s history, your school’s location, and other “stuff” as you build-out your recruiting story for your prospects. Oh, and you need to be able to offer a better financial aid package every time too, right?  Otherwise there’s just no way that you can get more prospects to visit your campus or increase your enrollment.

In the majority of cases, that kind of thinking is flat-out wrong.

I can tell you that with confidence because we’ve had the chance to personally interview hundreds and hundreds of your students over the years.  They’ve told us how they make their final decision, and what matters most to them.  In the end, if you look at the data it’s obvious that your prospects value things differently than you do.

Let me give you some common examples:

  • They think how you treat them and communicate with them is more important than what your dorm rooms looks like. Personal relationships rank higher than your on-campus student housing, no matter how new the dorms may be, time after time.
  • They think the way your students treat them during their campus visit will tell them if your campus makes them feel wanted and if they can fit in. If other students (not just the tour guides) aren’t friendly and welcoming when your prospect is touring campus, the chances that prospect will end up enrolling at your school take a significant hit.
  • They think their parents are very important to the decision making process. In many cases this generation of students rely on their parents to help them make any major decision. If you aren’t recruiting the parents at the same time you recruit their child, you are making recruiting harder than it needs to be.
  • They think that you talk too much during your phone calls. Don’t take it personally, but if you’re doing most of the talking during any phone call you have with a prospective student, you’re hurting your school’s chances. If doesn’t matter how important you think the information you’re giving them is, more time talking does not equal more interest from your prospect.
  • They think your emails and letters are too long and look and sound the same as every other college that’s sending them stuff. Your prospects tell us that they scan those email and letters versus reading them from start to finish.  They also tell us that most of the information is boring and not personalized enough.
  • They think it’s great when you ask questions about their wants and their needs versus just selling your school. Make sure you’re making it more about getting to know them rather than selling your school or your academic program right away.
  • They love it when you write them personal, hand-written letters and post cards.
    They’ll read every word of a hand-written note you send to them. They tell us as much, because they understand that hand-written notes take more of your time. In their minds they think that means you put a higher value on them than other prospects. And would you be surprised to also learn that your prospects tell us they wonder what you thought of them after that first phone call or visit to campus. Yet another great opportunity to send them a personal note.
  • Social media matters to them and they think you don’t do a good enough job of using it to your advantage. This is one of the biggest pieces of advice that your students offer up when we ask them what your admissions department needs to do better in terms of how you communicate with this next class you’re now recruiting. One student summed it up best when she said, “Be more where we are”.

Are there exceptions to these rules?  Of course. But I’ll guarantee you that the majority of the prospects you just started recruiting think this way.

If you’re on board and now wondering what you can do to change the way that you communicate and recruit this next class, here are some quick tips:

  • Simplify your communication with them.  Be more direct and to the point.  That’s what they want.
  • Communicate through multiple channels consistently and effectively. Develop messages that allow you to get, and keep, back-and-forth conversations going.
  • Ask them questions that other admissions counselors avoid or don’t believe need to be discussed. Topics such as fear and their timeline.

Now is the time to start matching your communication with what your prospects are thinking.  Once you do, recruiting will get a lot easier.

Want more engagement from prospective students? It starts here!

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