By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
One of the key pieces of data we’ve uncovered from our focus group surveys with students around the country is that most of them have no idea what they’re supposed to ask a college admissions counselor or how they’re supposed to ask it.
Along with that, most students and families don’t have a clear understanding of the different parts that make up the college admissions process. And complicating things even further is the fact that not every school does things the same way.
Without your guidance and help a lot of students will wait to take action (i.e. visiting campus, applying, or ultimately choosing your school). That in turn makes it much harder for you to gain a true understanding of their mindset and decision-making process.
It’s crucial that you lead the conversation at every stage of the college search process. This is one of the most important points I drive home when I lead a staff training workshop.
If you decide to wait because you don’t want to seem pushy or you’re convinced that students and parents will reach out and ask you questions when they have them, you’re going to be disappointed a majority of the time.
Fear of saying or doing the wrong thing prevents many of them from engaging with you. So does a lack of understanding around why they should engage with you instead of another school that’s reaching out.
At its core, leading the conversation is about asking effective questions. I’m talking about questions that result in students and parents giving you pieces of information or an explanation of something, that then allows you to figure out what you need to tell/show them to get them to take the appropriate next step with your school.
Taking this approach will also lead to students telling you earlier on that your school isn’t a good fit for them. That’s okay because it allows you to focus more of your time on students who have genuine interest.
Besides being intentional with the questions you ask, leading the conversation also involves explaining the why behind something, and sharing relatable stories about your campus community (i.e. current students, professors, other staff, and alumni).
Remember, students and families are looking to you as the expert.
Let me give you three final points on this topic:
- Leading the conversation doesn’t stop once a student has been admitted. You still need to lead the conversation around depositing, and you need to have a plan in place to eventually ask them for a decision.
- Same thing goes after they’ve deposited or committed to your school. Your job then is to lead the conversation about why they should be excited about their decision, and what they have to look forward to as a student at your school.
- Confidence is critical as you lead the conversation. Without it, developing trust and rapport becomes more difficult, and action is less likely.
Is there somebody else in your office that could benefit from reading this article? If so, I encourage you to forward it on to them.
And if you need help coming up with an effective question or two to ask a student you’re currently working with, or a specific group of students, shoot me a quick email.