By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
2 minute read
One of the biggest things I’ve talked about over the years is the importance of asking students (as well as parents and family members) direct and intentional questions. This should happen regularly during all stages of the college search process.
Students continue to tell us that when you ask a wide-open question like, “Do you have any questions?”, they don’t know where to start, or what you really want to know. And because many are scared to say the wrong thing, they end up giving you a one or two word answer. Or because they’re so used to hearing the same questions from other counselors, they give a rehearsed, predictable answer.
If all that sounds familiar and this is something you’re struggling with, the good news is it’s an easy fix. I’ve got all kinds of effective questions you can ask right here.
Today I want to take this strategy one step further and focus on something else I teach during training workshops that works quite well. It’s the idea of asking ‘negative-based questions.’
We continue to find that it’s much easier for young people to talk about what they don’t like, what they don’t want, and what annoys them. It’s a creative way to get inside a student’s mind and really understand how they’re feeling.
This strategy works best once you’ve established some trust and rapport, and you’ve also made it clear that you’re okay with them revealing negative feelings (i.e. you won’t get mad at them and doing so will actually help you, help them figure out if your school is a good fit).
Let me give you an example. After a student visits campus, instead of asking, “What was the best part of your visit?”, ask them, “What was the most disappointing part of your visit?”
Here are four more that I encourage you to consider utilizing:
- “Tell me about the wrong type of college for you…the kind of school you know you definitely aren’t looking for.”
- “Is there any reason you feel like <College Name> might not be a good fit for you?”
- “What have other colleges done as they’ve been communicating with you that you’ve found annoying or frustrating?”
- “If you were going to tell me that you chose another school, why would you see yourself doing that?”
Asking about a negative and being willing to have an honest conversation about a student’s feedback is another way for you stand out from your competition. Plus, asking questions that are based in the negative can help you uncover hidden objections earlier in the process.
Keep in mind there will be times when utilizing this strategy will reveal much earlier that your school isn’t a good fit. That’s okay because that’s part of recruiting, and it allows both sides to move on.
One final thing – Don’t be surprised if a student struggles to verbalize their answer to one of those questions because they haven’t been asked it before. Be prepared to guide the conversation further when it’s needed.
Got a question or comment about this article? Just hit reply or click here and ask me.
And 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.