By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
The world we live in is full of choices. We’re all getting marketed to daily from so many different directions that our brains quickly get tired.
Add in the growth of social networking apps and the fact that just about everybody’s attention span is between six and nine seconds long, and it’s no surprise that many of us (prospective students and parents included) tune out a lot of the noise.
It’s becoming harder and harder to get a student to engage or read anything you send them…harder, but not impossible.
First, it’s important to understand how (and how often) prospective students want to be communicated with in 2019. Along with that, there’s value in knowing how students take in the different messages that you and your school send to them.
When it comes to how often they want different communications from colleges, here are key takeaways from our ongoing focus group surveys with students:
- The majority of students were comfortable with one letter per month, one email per week, one phone call per month, and one text message per month from a college.
- About 30% of students never wanted a phone call or text message from a college during their search. It’s important you ask about both and determine their preferences.
- A big reason there’s still value in sending direct mail is because students view letters as a more personal form of communication.
- Social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram should show current student “day in the life” experiences from the current student perspective.
Your content and communications should be short, to the point, easy to digest, personal, and have one clear call to action. As part of the personalization piece, students continue to recommend that their admissions counselor be the primary communicator from the beginning of the process on.
In addition to following the above feedback, here are four other things I want you to think about that will help to ensure you’re not wearing out prospective students:
- The amount of information you give them at the beginning. Most students aren’t ready to take in (or care about) the massive amount of information that colleges unload on them in the early stages. One of the surest ways to annoy a student is to immediately start sending them (or reciting to them) a long list of statistics, facts, and figures about your school, your academic programs, student life, applying, and financial aid. Way too many schools continue to take this approach during college fairs, high school visits, and information sessions that accompany the campus visit. Students tell us in surveys it’s not helpful, and we’ve also found that a lot of colleges who take this approach at the beginning struggle to get students to engage and take action when it comes to things like the campus visit and applying. The goal at the beginning of a student’s process should be to get their attention and get a back-and-forth conversation going with their admissions counselor.
- This generation of students is busy. How are you making the college search process easier for them? Along with sensory overload, there’s another important element to how your communications may be making prospective students feel. If they’re busy, which you and I both know most are, it diminishes their desire to want more information, and to take immediate action. Making the process (and the conversations that come with it) easier for them to take in is a simple way to make you and your school stand out and to improve your customer service. As I touched on earlier, your messages should be shorter, more direct, more conversational, and limited to one topic. Remember, students are looking for help with what is a confusing and scary process. In addition to reminding them that you’re there to help whenever they need it, consider creating a checklist of key deadlines that they can reference throughout the fall.
- Without a timeline things can quickly become exhausting. “How much more do I have to do?” That’s one of the key questions most students ask themselves as they move through the college search process. When they don’t know how much is left to do or when it needs to be done by (and why doing it now is so important in some cases), it can quickly become mentally exhausting. Remember, you’re not the only school contacting them, and every school doesn’t have the exact same admissions process. Work together with students and their families to build out timeline markers, and/or a checklist of upcoming deadlines that they can reference.
- The amount of information you give them later on. After students have been admitted and you’ve delivered your financial aid awards, that group of students still need logical points to reference on a consistent basis. Giving them specific things and stories later in the process will help them differentiate your school from your competitors, and it will also help them justify a decision to pick your school. Too many colleges continue to slow down their communications after the admitted stage. Same thing goes when a student deposits. From start to finish, there needs to be a consistent flow of information that explains (and then reminds) students why your school is the “right fit” for them.
Communication fatigue is a real thing. It can drastically affect how prospective students absorb information, and whether or not they choose to take action.