By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
In last week’s article about creating urgency, I touched on the importance of establishing a timeline with any admitted, but undecided students that you’re trying to enroll for the fall.
A few readers sent me emails asking for more information about the idea of a timeline, so I’m going to expand on that for you today.
Helping students and families build out a timeline for when and how they’re going to make their college decision is extremely valuable for everybody involved. Doing so will alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty that students and families are feeling, and it will help admissions counselors manage their territory more effectively.
Each year I have a lot of counselors tell me that they lack a feel for where most of their students are at in the process. And if they don’t know when an admitted student might be ready to make a decision (or be close to ending the process), the counselor misses a huge opportunity to “close” that student.
Plus, if the admissions counselor does ask an admitted student if they’re ready to commit/deposit, and the student isn’t ready to decide just yet, there’s a chance the counselor will come across as pushy and overly aggressive. That can make future conversations more difficult.
The easiest way to avoid the situations that I just described is to start a discussion about their timeline and process for making a decision once they demonstrate serious interest in your school. It should literally be one of the first things that you talk about.
For traditional students, that will probably happen at some point during their junior year of high school or this summer. And for transfers, it often happens right after they come into the funnel.
I also want you to keep in mind that a lot of students won’t have a defined timeline when you ask them a question like, “Jeremy, have you and your parents talked about when and how you’re going to make your college decision?” That means you need to be prepared to lead the discussion and offer suggestions as to how other students before them have handled this process.
Your goal should be to help the student/family create a mutually agreed upon timeline (I cannot emphasize enough the words “mutually agreed upon”) that defines all the important next steps (based on where they’re at), along with any other processes that are unique to your school. This includes things like visiting campus, completing your school’s application, doing the FAFSA, and financial aid awarding. Our ongoing survey research says that students crave a checklist/timeline for what to do next, and when. It offers them comfort.
Furthermore, creating a timeline will establish you as the person that will be guiding them through the college search process. If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter you know how valuable it is to establish the admissions counselor as a student’s “go-to person.”
One final thing – If you establish a timeline with a student during their junior year of high school, plan to ask about it again towards the end of the year because there’s a good chance that it will change in their mind.
If this were the start of their senior year, ask about it again every couple of months just to make sure that everyone remains on the same page.
Do you have a question about this article? If you do, go ahead and email me right now.