By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
I’m asking because context plays an important role in the student recruitment process. And, too often admissions professionals, namely counselors, don’t give prospective students enough of it when telling their school’s story.
Here’s what I mean:
You start a conversation with a prospect, and you say something like, “We have professors that care and a welcoming community that will quickly feel like home.” You also talk about class sizes and the fact that a high percentage of your recent graduates are employed or continuing their education within six months or a year of graduating. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with any of that.
But if you dig deeper, context is missing. Without it, you’re going to sound a lot like every other school that you’re competing against.
When I lead a staff training workshop I explain that prospective students often need the WHY behind what a counselor, coach, faculty, or another staff member is telling them or asking them to do. When you provide the “why,” you educate, motivate, and empower. And when the student feels like an active participant in something that involves them, and they understand the value and benefit, they’re more likely to take action.
I would also add that sometimes you will need to tell your prospect what they should think about a certain topic, fact, or something you might show them during their visit to campus. If you don’t supply that context you’re opening the door for someone else to define parts of your school’s story…will it be accurate?
Context also does the following:
- It gives them a reason to listen to you.
- It accelerates their understanding of your school and why it might be a good fit for them.
- If done regularly, it helps to personalize the recruitment process.
So, as you create your story for this next class of students, consider implementing these three strategies that have worked well for our clients:
Start any big conversation with an explanation. For example, “Here’s why I want to talk to you now about financial aid and paying for college…” Doing so sets up a reason that they should listen to what you’re about to say. And when you give them that explanation, make it about them as much as possible.
Or, end a big conversation with definition. After you show your prospect something, or talk to them (or their parents) about a topic that’s important, define it for them by saying something simple like, “Here’s why all of this should matter to you…” Tell them why what you just talked about is important, and how they should define what they just heard you say, or what you’ve just shown them.
Anticipate and address potential negatives from your competitors. If you know that other colleges consistently point out a negative about some aspect of your school (ex. location, size, outdated buildings), warn your prospect ahead of time. Give them context about what they’re likely to hear, and do it in a way that combats and eliminates their intentions. For example, if you know that a direct competitor is likely to mention your school’s outdated buildings and facilities, give your prospect context. Not about the buildings and facilities, but about your competitor’s intentions. You could say something like, “So now that you’ve seen campus, let me warn you about something that might happen. There are some schools out there who are going to tell you that our buildings and facilities won’t allow you to excel here as a student. That’s just not true, and here’s why that should be a huge red flag for you…”
Remember, it’s up to you to define what your prospects should think about something and why that something should be important to them. And in some cases, you’ll also need to explain how that something is different at your school.
Context is one of the hidden secrets of effective recruiting. Do it correctly, and you’ll not only notice an immediate difference in the conversations you have, but it will also allow you to move a student/family through the recruitment process more efficiently.
Have a great day!
P.S. I’ll be speaking at NJACAC in Atlantic City, NJ next Monday and Tuesday. If you’re going to be there, be sure and say hello.
P.P.S. And next Thursday and Friday I’ll be in Spokane, WA speaking at PNACAC. My session which is titled, “The value of phone calls in student recruitment” will be presented on Thursday at 2:15pm in Room 201.