Dan Tudor

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January 3rd, 2017

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I Want You to Avoid These Three Words

ncrc16convoby Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 


Words matter. They compel us to do things, and they also bore us to the point where we stop paying attention or listening.

Considering how hard it is to get and keep the attention of a 16 to 21 year old these days, it’s important to know which words and phrases to avoid.

In the past two years I’ve identified three words that a lot of admissions counselors use that provide little to no benefit for them.

They use these words to start a new email. And they use them even more so at the beginning of a phone call.

The problem is, when you say these three words together, you risk slowing down the recruiting process, or worse, stopping it altogether.

Those three words are:

“I was just…”

Have you ever said, “I was just calling to see if…”, or, “I was just writing to check in…”. I have many times over my professional career, and they don’t yield the results I’m looking for.

Why is that?  What is it about “I was just” that makes it so bad in a recruiting situation? When you use that phrase, your prospects all know what you want: You want information, or you want an update.  You need to find out if the student is close to completing their application, finishing the FAFSA, picking a time to visit campus, or making a decision.

And, since you don’t want to pressure that 16 to 21 year old, you play it cool and slide into the conversation by saying, “I was just…”

When you use those three words together, what you’re doing in most cases is giving your prospect the unintended message that they don’t need to take action right now.  Or, depending on the topic of the discussion, you might be telling them (believe it or not) that they aren’t all that important to you.

Here’s why starting a sentence with “I was just” can be so paralyzing:

  • It conveys weakness.  There isn’t much energy behind the phrase, and that communicates all the wrong things to your prospect.
  • It’s not the truth.  You weren’t “just checking in” when you called that last prospect, were you?  You were trying to extract some concrete information or a progress report so you could figure out what to do next.  You weren’t “just checking in”, and your prospect knows it.
  • It gives your prospect permission to put you off for a while longer.  You say, “I was just calling to see if you’ve finished your application”?  They say, “No, sorry, I’ve just been so busy with school, and I’m going to need a little more time”.  And since it sounds like there’s no urgency on your part, they figure they’ve got more time, and it’s no big deal.

So, what should you replace these words with?  Here are a few ideas:

  • “The deadline for that paperwork is coming up soon and I wanted to talk to you about it…”
  • “I need your feedback on…”
  • “I wanted to know if you can come visit campus next month because…”
  • “I know a lot of students are scared and overwhelmed at this point and I wanted to ask you if…”

Each of those phrases is strong, and they’re going to prompt action.  But even more importantly, they’re going to demand a reply.

Moving forward, I encourage you to really focus on how you start out your sentences when you begin conversations.  I know it sounds like a small thing, but you and I both know that it’s the small things that often make the biggest difference. That’s especially true when it comes to how your prospect (or their parents) responds to you and what information you get from them.

Want even more tips and strategies to use in your everyday recruiting?  Bring me to campus to lead our popular admissions training workshop.  Don’t wait until your new budget kicks in to have a discussion about it. Email me now at jeremy@dantudor.com to start the conversation, or CLICK HERE for more information on why it’s a game-changer.

P.S. Here’s another three words you should avoid using – “I will try”. When you say them together it automatically makes you sound unsure.

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