By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
During a conversation I had last week with a Director of Admissions the topic of lying came up. Specifically she asked me if I believe prospective students (as well as some parents) don’t always tell admissions counselors the whole truth during the conversations they have.
My answer was “absolutely.”
Like it or not, a lot of students (and some parents) aren’t always sharing their true intentions and feelings during the college search process. It’s not necessarily because they’re bad people, but more so because they want to keep all their options open. And, in many cases, they’re also afraid you’re going to get mad at them if they tell you what they really think.
For example, it’s easier for an admitted student to tell you that your school is one of their top choices instead of telling you that, while you’re in the top three, you’re a distant third right now.
The real danger happens when you believe everything to be 100% true (it all sounds positive), and you subsequently begin to practice less active listening, reading signs, and/or trying to decode the language students use in their emails and text messages. In short, you shift your communication into neutral.
The Director that I spoke with was worried that her team was starting to do exactly that.
Here are five tips I gave her that can also help you (and your team) avoid this common misstep:
- Always assume you aren’t getting the complete truth. Having that mindset will help you remain an active listener and to consistently ask direct, intentional questions throughout the process. You should always be probing for more information and context.
- Create an environment where students (and parents) feel comfortable sharing negative feedback with you. Most are scared to tell you they didn’t like something during your event/their visit to campus, or that they have a concern about something because they don’t want to be criticized or upset you. Plus, as crazy as this might sound, if a student hasn’t applied to your school or been admitted yet, many believe that sharing negative feedback will hurt their chances of getting accepted. It’s up to you to create open dialogue with them early on so that they’re honest with you towards the end of the process when it matters most. Have you done that with this current senior class?
- Don’t be afraid to ask them tough questions. When you do there’s a good chance you’ll quickly discover what really motivates a prospective student as well as their biggest worries, fears, and concerns. For example, if you’re talking to an inquiry or prospect that’s been in your system for a while and hasn’t completed their application, ask them, “What’s really keeping you from applying to <College Name>?”
- Don’t be afraid to ask them questions that are based in negativity. As humans we’re better about expressing what we don’t like or what’s wrong with something. This is especially true for young people. Asking them what they don’t want, and what would be the wrong type of college for them, or what the biggest negative they see with your school is, are much better questions to reveal the truth.
- Be ready to ask follow-up questions. Remember, the goal with these kinds of questions should be to dig a little deeper and get the why, what, when, or how behind something – Why is that important to them? How do they plan to make their college decision?
If this article was helpful, go ahead and forward it to someone else on your campus who you think might also benefit from reading it.
And if you’re interested in more articles like this with tips and strategies you can use right away, you can find them here in our Admissions BLOG.