The last thing I do when I lead a training workshop is have the admissions staff come up with four or five action points. Having them define the next steps (as individuals and as a group) is extremely important if the growth process is going to continue.
Becoming a better closer or becoming more comfortable asking for the commitment has been an action point in just about every single workshop I’ve led over the past year.
I’ve found that a lot of admissions counselors stress themselves out about the pending decisions of their admitted students because they don’t have a good feel for the mindset or the timeline of many of the students/families that they’re working with.
Managing the volume of names that make up most territories these days is without a doubt a big challenge. So, what’s the solution? I would argue it’s a lot of hard work (and I mean a lot!) along with a lot of teamwork and some very defined recruitment strategies, many of which I will continue to provide you with in this newsletter each Tuesday.
It starts with recognizing that the college search process for a student is exactly that…a process. Your goal should be to take your time and lead prospective students and parents through the process of understanding the value your school offers, how your student experience is different, and how it ties in to what each student is looking for in their college experience. Trying to skip steps or trying to explain those things in one meeting or during one admitted student day event is not an effective strategy. The end result will almost always be, “I need some more time to think about it,” or “I’m not sure yet.”
Your students know what you too should know. You’re not asking for “a decision,” you’re asking for “a set of decisions.” If you look at student recruitment as a process rather than an event, you will have less stress, specifically when it comes time to ask a student if they’re ready to make their decision. It’s about providing opportunities for a student to say yes to each step along the way. When you gain agreement through small wins or as I like to call them, “little yeses,” your job immediately becomes less challenging. More on what those “little yeses” look like in just a minute.
If you want to create opportunities to get a string of incremental yeses, consistently do these four things:
- Ask specific, targeted questions throughout the entire process
- Involve parents in the process much earlier
- Provide personalized messaging for students and parents with different calls to action that encourage engagement
- Show them you’re a resource (not a salesperson) who understands this process is about them and not your school
All four of those things are interrelated, and together they form the core of an effective recruitment strategy. They also require patience.
Consistent, personalized messaging in particular has proven to be an instant game changer for our clients. During a phone call last week with a Director of Admissions at a school we partner with, the DOA was excited to share that apps, admits, and deposits year/year were all up! When I asked him for some feedback he expressed that having a consistent message that creates engagement and provides information his counselors can then build upon has made a major difference. Again, it’s the idea of building a relationship brick by brick.
Now let’s dive into those “little yeses” further. When you get a student or parent to offer agreement to something versus you telling them what they should do/think, they’re more likely to move forward because they were the architect. For example:
- Get them to reply back to an email with the answer to a question you asked
- Get them to agree to set up a phone call with you
- Get them to agree to talk to their parent(s) about visiting campus (or visiting again for your ASD)
- Get them to agree that your college’s location is actually a positive
- Get them to tell you that they can see themselves living in your dorms, attending events on your campus, or working closely with your dedicated faculty
- Get them to agree that they understand the VALUE of a degree from your school
- Get them to agree that filling out the FAFSA can be beneficial for them
- Get the parent(s) to agree that your campus is a safe environment and you have programs in place to help their son/daughter successfully transition to college life
- Get them to agree on what the next step in their process will be
- Get them to agree when they’ll make their final decision and how
Each one of those things can be classified as small wins. Once you get enough of those small wins or “little yeses”, it makes asking for the big yes (their intention to enroll at your school) less stressful and much easier…but you still have to ask. When you do, you won’t have to worry about being pushy because you’ve consistently recruited them the right way (i.e. the way they want) and they’ve already given you a bunch of “little yeses” along the way that clearly indicate your school is a serious contender.
The other major benefit of taking the approach I just shared with you is you’ll discover much quicker just how serious (or not serious) a student is about your school.
If you have a specific question about this article or any other part of student recruitment, click this link and send me an email right now. I’m ready to listen and offer advice if you’re willing to share.