By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Award shows highlight the amazing work of people in any given industry or profession.
Tomorrow, ESPN will broadcast their annual ESPY awards (short for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly). Once a year the Worldwide Leader in Sports assembles some of the greatest athletes on the planet all under one roof and then celebrates and relives the best moments of the past calendar year.
In honor of the ESPYs, in 2015 I came up with the TCS Awards for College Admissions. There is one small difference. I’m not actually handing out trophies to specific people today. Instead, I’m going to provide you with some very important reminders and strategies that will help you as you begin to recruit this next class of students.
Are you ready to get started with the show?
Here’s a look at this year’s categories and award winners:
Courage Award: This award goes to the Vice President of Enrollment or Director of Admissions who has the courage to employ a different strategy than their competitors, without worrying about what other industry leaders will think. When you have data or other focus group research available that suggests this generation of students wants something different (ex. more personalization in the communications you send and the campus visits you organize) or doesn’t see value in something anymore (ex. physical viewbooks), it’s time to make a change or at the very least have an internal discussion.
Best Use of Social Media Award: This award goes to the college or university that uses social media as a way to create connections between their current students, faculty, etc., and prospective students. The school uses multiple platforms but remains native to each (i.e. doesn’t post the exact same thing on different platforms). And instead of trying to come up with content that they think is interesting, they encourage their current students to document their daily journey through their eyes. That kind of storytelling is real and raw, and it creates emotions that increase the chances of action being taken.
Best Breakthrough Counselor: This award goes to the Admissions Counselor who understands the importance of talking about subjects like fear, paying for college (aka: financial aid), and timeline early in the process with prospective students and parents. The winner knows that when you can alleviate fear and are transparent from the beginning, you build trust.
Best Record-Breaking Performance: This award goes to the Admissions Counselor who’s able to get 8 or 9 out of every 10 students they call to answer the phone and engage with them. That performance is the result of setting up calls, communicating the purpose of each call ahead of time, and allowing each student to ask questions versus dominating the entire conversation with a bunch of facts and figures.
Best Communication Strategy Award: This award goes to the college or university that understands the value behind having one consistent voice as the lead communicator during the college search process. The winning school also understands that tone, word choices, and length are extremely important in emails, letters, phone calls, and text messages. And instead of always having a call to action that pushes a student to visit, apply, or deposit, they work in targeted questions that ask students and parents for specific feedback on a particular subject.
Best Director/Vice President of Enrollment: This award goes to the leader/manager who creates and maintains a motivated and confident admissions team. They understand that just like the students they’re recruiting, each of their staff members needs to be managed differently and has different wants, motivations, and fears. As a leader, they’re consistent with their message, they encourage input and new ideas, and they understand the importance of both ownership and recognition.
Best Campus Visit Moment: This award goes to school whose tour guides and admissions counselors consistently connect ahead of a student’s visit to discuss talking points and “connectors” that will personalize the experience. Speaking of tour guides, does your school treat them as part of your admissions team, and do they understand the important role they play in the student recruitment process? When they give tours are they just reciting a script and discussing the history of various building on your campus, or do they understand the importance of storytelling and how to effectively do that throughout a campus tour?
Best Upset Award: This award goes to the Admissions Counselor who isn’t afraid to go up against a big name competitor. They create a winning strategy centered on consistent, personalized communication from the counselor to both the student and his or her parents. Within those communications is constant reinforcement about why choosing the smaller name school is going to be the smarter choice for them.
Best Championship Performance: This award goes to the Admissions Counselor, new or veteran, who ends up exceeding their deposit goal. They understand you cannot expect your admitted students to deposit if they (and their parents) don’t trust you. It’s important to start establishing a real recruiting relationship early in the process. If you do, you’ll have an easier time proving to prospective students (and their parents) that you’re concerned about them, and that you want to help solve their problems versus just selling your school.
Best Comeback Award: This award goes to the Admissions Counselor who doesn’t avoid talking about objections and instead confronts negatives that they consistently hear about their school head on. They anticipate the common objections, get clarification, and then become a problem solver for their prospects.
Best Team Award: This award goes to the small college or university whose admissions, athletic, marketing, financial aid, and faculty leadership collaborate together and work towards a common goal. Doing so creates a unified campus community that shows prospective students and parents the kind of support they can expect to receive, as well as the kind of close-knit, welcoming community your campus offers.
Thanks for being a part of the 4th Annual TCS Admissions Awards! Enjoy the rest of your day. I’ll see you back here next July with more awards for college admission professionals.
P.S. Remember back in May when I gave away a training workshop to the admissions staff of one newsletter reader? Well, this past Thursday and Friday I led that training for Pamela Holsinger-Fuchs (pictured with me) and her team at Saint Martin’s University. It was a lot of fun, and we got a lot accomplished!