By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
When was the last time a prospective student or parent didn’t express a concern or have some hesitation either about your school or college in general?
You can pretty much guarantee there’s going to be something for everybody. Popular ones are cost (it’s too expensive), proximity to home (it’s too far or too close), location (lack of things to do), and not being emotionally and socially ready for college life (fitting in and becoming more independent).
Believe it or not, concerns and objections are actually a good thing.
In our research, we’ve found that most students and parents don’t express a concern unless there’s serious interest in your college or university. Objections equal interest. As humans, when we’re not interested we tend to ignore and avoid.
Knowing that, I encourage you to actively seek out concerns from students and parents. Simply ask, “What’s the biggest concern you have about <College Name>?” Or, “What are you worried about most when you think about being a college student?” Be more proactive and not so reactive.
Depending on the amount of information you receive back, you may need to “probe” a little, do some active listening, and ask some follow-up questions. Get them to be specific, and to clearly clarify what they mean by their objection, and how they came to feel that way.
In doing that, sometimes what you’ll find is their objection or concern is actually misinformation.
But when it’s not, your reaction (your body language and/or words) is key to keeping them listening to you. Let them know it’s okay (and completely normal) not to love everything about your school and/or to have concerns about the transition from high school to college.
When you hear an objection, or even a general statement about your college that comes across as a little bit negative, repeat it back to them. “So what you’re saying is that because we’re a smaller college you’re concerned there won’t be as many opportunities for you and there will be less fun things to do, right?” Confirm their statement, right at the start.
Next, assure them that you understand what they’re saying, that you appreciate them sharing their concern(s), and that they’re not alone. “I understand how you feel. A lot of students I’ve worked with who decided to come here told me the same thing when they were going through their college search.” Again, they need to know that it’s okay to bring up concerns in future conversations with you.
The final step involves you challenging their assumptions and redirecting the conversation back towards something positive for your school. “The thing is, <Student’s First or Preferred Name>, now that those students are here, they realize that because we’re not a large university, they have more access to people when they need help, and a lot more personal attention, especially from their professors.” Or, “I hear that one all the time from students who think smaller means less fun things to do and less opportunities. When new students get there what they actually find is…”
You’ve now taken their concern or objection and politely added some much needed context to give them the full picture, or given them a different way of thinking about it. They need to hear you confidently tell them that their concern isn’t something that should prevent them from coming to visit, or starting their application, or choosing your school over their other options.
Whether they come right out and tell you their objection or concern, or you have to dig a little for it, when you learn how to effectively deal with objections, you’ll stand out from your competition.
Want to talk more about something I said in this article? I’m happy to connect. Simply reply back, or email me here.
And if you found this article helpful, forward it to someone else on your campus who could also benefit from reading it.