By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
Before the break and into the new year I’ve been getting questions from my newsletter community about communicating with unresponsive inquiries – especially those who visited campus at some point.
As you might imagine, radio silence typically means different things for different students. Keep in mind though that most become increasingly tired of the entire college search process the longer it goes on – all the emails, texts, and phone calls from schools, as well as all the questions from family members and their friends is overwhelming.
Before I share a strategy that you can use to increase engagement and action, let’s quickly review the most common reasons behind a student’s lack of communication:
- They aren’t sure why your school is a good fit for them. This particularly applies to inquiries who haven’t visited campus. Because so many emails, letters, and text messages from colleges and universities continue to look and/or sound the same, students struggle to differentiate how one school is different, better, or unique. That slows down or even completely stalls the application process.
- They’re busy and overwhelmed. Senior year, the college search, possibly a job, and yes, mental health and COVID issues are still present.
- Your emails and texts have way too many calls to action. Giving them multiple things to do is often confusing and overwhelming, and fear of doing the wrong thing is also active in their brain as well. The easiest thing oftentimes is to wait and do nothing.
- They don’t like talking on the phone or aren’t comfortable with you texting them. Believe it or not, it could be as simple as that. Our latest Tudor Collegiate Strategies data on student communication preferences (December 2022) says that 55.5% didn’t want a text from a college until after they had applied or been admitted to a school.
- They’re actually interested but they don’t know what to say or do, and they aren’t sure how (and possibly who) to ask for help. We’ve talked before about how much fear controls so many of the decisions that students make during their college search. In a lot of cases, students need you to recognize and validate their fear, address it, and then create an opportunity for them to engage by asking a direct and intentional question. On top of that, simply letting them know that you understand this is overwhelming and you’re there to listen and offer support will improve your chances for a response.
- They’ve decided your school isn’t a good fit and they don’t want to tell you “No”. This generation of students has a very hard time telling people “No.” It’s a lot easier for them to ghost you, avoid the tough conversation, and hope that eventually you just decide to move on.
Now let’s talk about what you can do to generate more engagement and action. Keep in mind that this strategy can be tweaked and will also work with students at other stages who have gone silent (i.e. incomplete apps and prospects).
Create a short, direct, personalized email (with a creative subject line) that comes from the student’s admissions counselor. No template, no hyperlinks or smart button that’s linked to your application, and no fluff or bullet points about your school.
Tell the student you’ve tried to contact them in a variety of ways, and you’re reaching out again to make sure they’re doing okay. Make it clear that you feel like your school has a lot of to offer them, but you also understand that your school isn’t the right fit for every student. As your call to action, ask them which one of these choices best describes where they are with their college process – they’ve finished filling out all their apps, they’re still working on their apps, they’re still trying to figure out how to get started with everything. Ask them to reply back sometime this week with one number only so that you can figure out how to best support them.
You should also segment your email for inquiries who have and have not visited campus (i.e. version A and version B).
For the message to feel personal, make sure the tone is relaxed and conversational throughout, and make sure it sounds empathetic and like you’re trying to understand their individual situation and offer support….not push them to apply again.
Based on additional TCS survey research, I’d recommend that you schedule this message to go out in the afternoon or evening on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
After you hit send, be prepared to respond in a timely manner, and keep in mind you don’t have to write a long, detailed follow-up response. You just have to take the number they tell you (and anything else), probe a little deeper, and determine who still has interest (and needs help), and who is no longer interested. You have to lead the conversation.
One last thing – I’d also recommend sending a short, direct text message about two days later to all the students who don’t reply back to your email. In your text, alert them to that email and let them know you’re really interested in hearing what their answer is to the question you asked.
If you’d like to talk more about something I said in this article, let’s do it. You can 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.