By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
4 minute read
Throughout the summer I’ve been asked numerous times by admissions leaders how they can turn more prospects or suspects into inquiries, and/or generate more applications this cycle.
As we’ve been talking through different strategies, one of the biggest things I’ve reiterated is, their counselors (and tour guides) need to be prepared to tell more stories that create more connections.
I use the word ‘more’ because I continue to find that too many admissions counselors (and tour guides) simply rely on their own personal story, and that’s it. I’ll explain why that’s a problem here in a minute.
Storytelling is powerful for a number of reasons. For starters, our brains are wired to forget a lot of facts and figures we hear or read, but we remember stories…especially when they’re relatable.
When a story is told effectively it has the power to draw attention, keep it, and create emotional engagement for the listener or reader, which is a critical component of action and decision-making.
Finally, storytelling gives the listener or reader context that can fill in gaps (i.e. they don’t know what they don’t know) and answer the why, how, or what.
Now let me expand on my earlier statement about admissions staff needing more stories to pull from.
I definitely want counselors and current students to tell their own story, but there needs to be a better understanding of the fact that their personal story won’t be equally effective with every prospective student.
As an example, if a counselor or tour guide is speaking to a prospective first generation student and they’re not (or weren’t) a first gen, their story can still be helpful and useful, but only to a point.
What would resonate more and feel more personal for the listener or reader, would be a story about (or being given from) a current first generation student at the school. That would increase the chance for a deeper connection.
Having said all that, here’s what you and/or your counselors need to do next:
Intentionally block some time in the coming days and weeks (ideally before ‘travel season’ begins) to seek out more stories from current students. But do it strategically, and here’s what I mean.
- Think about the demographics of your specific territory and the areas you recruit in. What type(s) of students do you interact with most? That might also include things like their location, as well as living on campus vs. being a commuter.
- Think about the academic majors or programs you’re asked about the most, and/or the ones that are the most popular at your school.
- Think about the college search process in general. What fears do you know most students have during the early stages? What are often the top concerns about your school?
- Who are some of the people on your campus that help students adjust to college life?
Once you’ve answered those questions you should have a better idea of who on campus you need to reach out to. When it comes to your current students, email or text them and mention that you’re trying to gather different kinds of stories to share with prospective students, and you’d love to have a quick chat and hear about their experiences so far.
Stories from alumni and other staff are also valuable, but keep in mind that the current student point of view is the top viewpoint that prospective students value.
When it comes to telling or sharing stories, here are four quick reminders:
- Always know the purpose for telling a story. Oftentimes it will be to help the listener or reader.
- Details and words matter. Less generalizations, facts, and figures, and more descriptive details, context, and words that evoke emotion and action.
- Make sure you’re connecting the dots in a way that feels personal.
- When you’re done, ask the listener or reader how they feel about what was shared. Was it helpful?
My final tip is more of a long term strategy. I strongly encourage you to consider developing a shareable story bank in your office. As different stories are gathered, make them available to your colleagues so that more people can benefit from them. The stories can be housed in something as basic as a Google Doc.
If you’d like to talk more about something in this article, let’s do it. Simply reply back, or email me here.
And if you found this article helpful, forward it to someone else on your campus who could also benefit from reading it.