By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Tomorrow I’m off to Wisconsin to lead my fourth workshop of 2019. As you might imagine, talking about how to convert undecided students will be a big focus, just like it was in the previous three.
Storytelling remains one of the most effective yield strategies you have at your disposal. Everyone has a story, and everything can be a story.
Stories are powerful because they get people to visualize, and they can also help you achieve emotional engagement, which is a critical component in any decision-making process.
Young people in particular are often more receptive to stories than they are to data or hard facts. It’s why just rattling off a bunch of numbers and general facts about your school is rarely what seals the deal and gets them to deposit. Those things don’t allow your admitted students (in this case) to empathize and visualize. Stories do.
So, let’s talk about all those admitted but undecided students that you’re currently dealing with. A large majority of them have whittled down their list to your school and a couple of others. Now, how do they decide? That’s what they’re all trying to figure out right now.
My question to you is – What are you doing to help them with that problem?
If you’re choosing to sit back and not ask targeted, to-the-point questions because you don’t want to come across as pushy, here’s what I can tell you. Some students will still end up picking your school, but more than you would like will choose the easy and safe decision (i.e. the biggest name left, the school closest to home, or the cheapest option). They will do that because fear of making the wrong decision is very, very real.
Instead, I want you to ask them about (and get them to talk to you about) any fear and uncertainty that still exists. Then I want you to use storytelling as a way to help them overcome and move past it.
Let me give you one example that came up during a recent workshop. We were talking about cost, value, and investment, and one of the admissions counselors shared that she frequently talks about her own challenges of paying for college. She told us that she talks with students and families about how the process of taking out loans worked for her, how much debt she graduated with, how much she’s currently paying back each month, and most of all, she communicates what made her student experience amazing, and how she’s doing just fine and isn’t struggling to survive.
By sharing her own personal story she’s able to help connect the dots for students and families who are wondering if taking out loans is manageable, and/or if paying more for college is worth the investment. That kind of storytelling is extremely powerful and helpful.
If you don’t have an impactful story like that to tell, the best source for stories are your current students and recent graduates. Please, please, please go seek out their stories. Telling them can still be powerful because what that does is give your undecided students a personal example of someone who went through the same thing that they’re currently going through. Just make sure that you also explain how your school helped that current student or alum get to the other side. Connecting the dots is the final, crucial piece that makes this strategy so powerful.
This generation continues to make it clear that when an admissions counselor or current student can help them make that connection via relatable, authentic examples, it significantly impacts their final decision.
Just to be clear, when I say that your stories need to be relatable, here’s what I mean. If you’re talking to a first-generation student that’s undecided, try to use the story of another first-gen who is a current student at your school and went through something similar. Or, if you’re trying to help parents overcome the “too far from home” objection, tell a story of how you as an admissions counselor helped another family who was struggling with that same issue overcome it.
When you effectively tell stories, it will create a connection that makes it easier for the other person to take that next step…whatever it may be.
My challenge to you is to accumulate more stories to tell and to consistently make storytelling part of your regular recruiting conversations…including during your upcoming Admitted Student Day events.
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