By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
In any given week there’s a pretty good chance that you can either learn a valuable lesson or stumble upon an important reminder that can help make you a better recruiter or leader. It can come from a television show, social media, or in this case, my mortgage lender.
For some reason they continue to call my home phone (yes our family still has one of those…it costs more to get rid of it than to keep it) about 4-6 times each week to talk about refinancing. Multiple people from the company have literally left 20+ messages over the past 2-3 months. And it’s clear they’re reading off a script because other than the person’s name, the voicemails are generic and identical.
Here’s the thing. We never inquired about refinancing, nor have they ever given us a reason why there would be a benefit for us to have a conversation about it. And we haven’t answered a single call or returned a single voicemail. But they keep calling, and last week, the emails started. Annoying is definitely a word that my wife and I have used multiple times.
There is however a lesson here for you that ties in with getting juniors to visit campus.
Most schools have one or more emails, postcards, and/or other communications that they use around this time of year to push the visit with this next class.
Visiting campus is a big step. And it’s something that this generation of student (inquiries or not) doesn’t in many cases just decide to do randomly because of a mass email or postcard. They want something more, specifically, they want a reason (personalized to them) explaining why they should visit, let alone visit your campus instead of another school that’s contacting them.
Here’s another important piece of information that I want you to be aware of. In our focus group surveys that we conduct with colleges across the country, over 60% of incoming or current freshmen said they visited three colleges or less during their search. The two biggest reasons why, are a lack of time, and the feeling that all campus visits, regardless of the school, were going to be pretty much the same.
Now, more than ever, colleges need to make a stronger case as to why the campus visit (specifically their own) holds so much value. I’m about to give you some information that will help your school do just that.
Besides having the academic program/major that a student wants/is interested in, the two biggest things that you need to show a prospective student if you want them to visit are:
- A genuine interest in them as an individual. That means no more mass emails or postcards from the Office of Admissions. Instead, I want you to create a message that comes directly from the student’s admissions counselor. It needs to explain why they should visit, and how doing so will help make their college search easier. If you want an easy, but effective reason, you can mention the fact that the “feel” of campus continues to be one of the most important factors that many students across the country use when they pick a school from their final list.
- Showing them that your campus community is inclusive, welcoming, and that it won’t be hard for them to fit in. An effective way to do this is through the current student lens. Have a freshman speak about the impact of their visit to your school during their search, and how it compared to other visits they took (i.e. why it was better). When we’ve helped clients create a message around this idea, what we often find is that students describe how welcoming everybody was, and how they just “felt” comfortable and at home. You need to communicate a similar message.
Again, this generation of student needs a reason to visit that is solidified in their mind – either one that they came up with on their own or a picture that you and your school have painted for them over a period of time. Putting it simply, what they need is what we all need to prompt action from time to time: A “because.”
Let me give you one more important piece of advice. Asking for a visit too soon or too often in your communications can be detrimental. Pushing the campus visit as a call to action every single time can quickly becoming unnerving and overwhelming. Or like my mortgage lender, annoying.
Instead, I want you to be a little patient, build a recruiting relationship with the student/family, create some anticipation, and then push the visit as your call to action. And just to be clear, doing what I just described doesn’t take very long when done the right way (i.e. when you consistently make it about the student).
Got a question about this article? If you do, drop me a quick email and we’ll talk more.