By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
In eight years of studying how students make their college decision, we’ve heard a lot of concerns and objections. There are two, though, that are becoming harder and harder to change when it comes to a student’s mindset.
I’m talking about the academic major or program they’re interested in and the location of a school – not just how close it is to their home, but also the town and area that surrounds a campus.
In other words, if your college or university doesn’t offer the major or program that a student is set on, and/or they don’t want to go to college in the type of area where your campus is located, it’s going to be a significant challenge for you to convert that student.
Combine that with the fact that a lot of young people are nervous to tell you when they don’t like something about your school, and it becomes crucial for you to try and uncover these potential objections sooner rather than later.
We continue to find that most of the time students have no problem talking about a major or program they feel strongly about. If, for example, they’re dead set on being a nurse practitioner and your school only offers pre-nursing, students are likely to tell you that’s not going to work for them.
I do, however, encourage you to ask students to tell you about their dream job or why they want to be a nurse practitioner in that example. Be very direct with your questions because, while some have a very clear vision, we continue to find that a good number of students are looking at specific majors or programs because their parents/family have encouraged them to or because it’s a fast growing industry that is, or will be, in demand.
Location is a little different. Almost every student has imagined what their ideal college town looks like. When your school doesn’t match with that vision, we continue to find that a lot of students don’t want to alert you to their concerns for fear of offending you or making you mad. Many just apply and proceed like it’s not that big a deal.
That’s why location has become one of those unspoken objections that admissions counselors find themselves fighting against at the end of the process.
You were always “on their list,” but deep down there was never really a likelihood they were going to pick your school. Instead, admissions counselors eventually hear things like, “It’s just too far away from home”, or “I just can’t imagine myself being happy in a small town where there’s nothing to do.”
Let me give you a quick tip that will help you figure out early on some of what you might be up against.
I want you to assume that every student is going to have some kind of unspoken objection or question about where, for example, your school is located. In your messaging or during their campus visit, ask them a direct question like, “Tell me about your perfect college location…what does it look like, and what does it have to have?” Or, “Why does our location seem like it would be a good fit for you?”
Your goal should be to see if they can provide you with a concrete answer that’s been well thought out.
If that doesn’t sound like the case, be ready to ask some very targeted follow-up questions about why they feel the way they do. When you do that, often times you’ll find that assumptions are being made based on something the student heard or read somewhere, and they’re actually at least open to hearing an alternative point of view.
Bottom line – Don’t ever assume a student doesn’t have an objection or concern about something related to your school or student experience. It’s your job to try and pull those out, and I want you to do that as early as possible. Please don’t ever take the “sit back and wait” approach. Keep digging until you find out everything you can about why they feel the way they do, and what they’re looking for.
If you’d like to talk more about something I said in this article, let’s do it. Simply reply 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.