by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Here’s something interesting that I continue to both hear and read about. There comes a time towards the end of the college decision-making process where students (and parents) start to think about, and discuss, how much of a sincere interest each school that has made the final cut has taken in them (or their child). This is especially true for student-athletes.
Caring more than your competition is something that I’ve talked to you about before. Our focus group research continues to show that the treatment an admitted student receives from a college’s admissions staff, current students, faculty, and anyone else they come in contact with during the process is a very important factor in their final decision…including sometimes helping to break a tie.
Demonstrating that you care conveys reliability, and it helps to builds trust. Beyond that, it’s also something that you completely control.
“Recruiting tiebreakers” as I like to call them can sometimes be something insignificant to you as an admissions professional but important in the eyes of the student/family. Be mindful of that. I’d also encourage you (if you haven’t done this already) to ask your admitted but undecided students what things they’re planning to use to help them break a tie between two schools if it comes to that, which by the way is a situation that happens quite frequently. You could ask them that question as a call to action in an email or during a phone call.
Here are two other things that a large majority of students tell us they need if the recruiting tie is going to be broken in your school’s favor:
- Emotional connections. For most young people, emotion often outweighs logic and facts. Students trust the feelings they get throughout the college search process. Those include the feelings you create through your recruiting communications, the recruiting relationship you develop (or don’t develop) with the student and their parents, and the feelings they get when they visit campus or watch videos on your social media pages or your website. How are you capturing their emotions and creating emotional connections between them and your campus community? Those emotional connections create a feeling of comfort, they create trust, and they offer a sense of acceptance and belonging which is what a lot of students are scared they won’t be able to find at a college. And if you haven’t already done so, now is also a great time to connect your undecided students with current students, specifically your freshmen as they recently went through the same tough choices and dealt with the same sorts of feelings that your undecideds are dealing with right now. Hearing how a current student made that same tough decision and how your school has helped them excel during year one could easily be the deciding factor.
- A clear understanding of HOW something at your college is truly different and WHY your college is worth the investment. You have small class sizes, professors that care, a welcoming community, or you’ve got all kinds of options because you’re a larger institution…it’s too general! Plus, virtually all of your competitors are saying the exact same thing. It’s time to offer more detailed stories that explain both the how and the why. Your value can be communicated logically and emotionally, and you need to do both. I would also add that you shouldn’t present the same case or the same exact stories to every single student. Sure, there will be common threads, but part of executing this point correctly is having a clear understanding of the wants, needs, and fears of your admitted student and his or her family.
You may have noticed that I didn’t mention cost. That doesn’t mean price isn’t important and won’t in some cases be the biggest tiebreaker for a student/family. Your goal should be to extract that information (i.e. asking targeted questions) as early as possible by starting a conversation about paying for college long before your school releases their financial aid award. When you employ that strategy you allow yourself (and your school) all kinds of time to prove your value and overcome the cost objection.
P.S. I know May 1 is approaching fast. If you’ve got a recruiting scenario that you’re looking for advice on, or you could use a couple last minute questions to ask your undecideds that will help you yield vital information on their mindset, go ahead and send me an email. Free help, no strings attached.