By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Little things, especially when they’re unexpected, can make a big impact.
Case in point last weekend during our drive home from a trip to visit family. We were on the tail end of a 12-hour drive and stopped at McAlister’s for a quick dinner. After my daughter (who turns 10 in a few weeks) finished ordering, the cashier pulled out a container full of colored straws and asked her which one she wanted. Her exhausted face all of a sudden lit up, and her energy level went from nothing to pure happiness simply because she unexpectedly got to drink her Sprite from a pink straw.
Prior to just about every staff training workshop that I lead, we conduct a focus group survey with the school’s incoming or current freshmen students. We ask them about the different communication mediums colleges use, college fairs, high school visits, pain points during their search, how they would convince their best friend to choose their school, and a lot more. The result is a ton of invaluable, qualitative and quantitative feedback that contains the good, the bad, and a lot of “here’s what you should be doing” advice straight from the source.
With that in mind, today I’m going to give you a bunch of little things that you can and should do as you communicate with this next class of prospective students. According to your target audience, doing these things can leave a lasting impression, help your school stand out, and result in action being taken faster.
- Hand-written notes. Not just after they visit campus, but at any other point during the process. It can be something as simple as you telling them you’re thinking about them and looking forward to helping make their college search a little less stressful. One student made this comment in a survey just a couple of weeks ago, “I really appreciate hand-written notes. Even just quick things. It’s so easy to send some mass email, but that’s so impersonal. When I know the person writing the letter had to actually write it with their hand to me personally, I really appreciate that.”
- Send them a personalized letter. I’m talking about something that comes in a regular envelope from an actual person. Students continue to consistently tell us that, in their minds, a letter takes more time and effort than any email or text. They also say things like, “a letter shows more sincerity,” “a letter means a school truly cares about you,” and “Getting a personalized letter gives a touch that other colleges don’t provide. I was sent one by my admissions counselor, and it made me feel welcomed.”
- Personalization always in all ways. Students want to feel special and needed.
- Tell them they’re important to you/your school…but don’t overdo it.
- Ask them for their opinion after you share information about some aspect of your school. Is that important to them? Do they see the value?
- Quick, concise communication. Get straight to the point. No extra long emails, phone calls, and presentations. Students have a lot of college info to sift through and don’t want/need the fluff.
- As soon as they show real interest in your school, ask them if their family is ready to talk about cost, paying for college, and affordability. Make it clear you know how important these topics are.
- Be prepared to frequently lead the conversation versus asking if they have questions or asking for an update on their college search. Prospective students always have questions – they just don’t want to say the wrong thing.
- Fear is real! The sooner you recognize that, ask them about it, and help alleviate it, the quicker you’ll develop trust and get students to open up. For example, phone calls are scary, but students also find them helpful and more personal. Alleviate their fear first by setting up the call via email or text and explaining why you’ll be calling.
- Email and text are best for quick communication. Phone calls are better when there’s important information to be discussed/shared.
- When you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to say you don’t know, even if that means you have to track down the information and email it to them later.
- Talk about what your school isn’t good at, as well as other possible negatives. Students expect most schools to just brag about themselves and only highlight the positives. That honesty and transparency can be powerful.
- It annoys students when admission counselors are pushy and force them to take papers or fill things out at college fairs. Don’t immediately push them to fill out the info card, visit, or apply if you don’t know anything about them other than the major they’re interested in. Be kind, approachable, and easy to talk to.
- Be more conversational and less formal. When you always talk and sound professional in your emails, letters, and phone calls, it can be intimidating. Casual communication makes students feel the most comfortable.
- Prospective students want to be treated with respect. Even though they’re still young, they want to be treated like adults. Talk to them like equals.
- Don’t talk in generalities. Be specific, and explain why something is important, how it makes your school different, and/or why it makes your student experience better than other schools.
- Always, always, always make it all about them. Students are looking to see which schools consistently show interest, not just in them as a student, but as a person with a life outside of academics.
If you want to talk further about one or more of these 17 things and how they fit into your recruiting strategy, reach out to me now and we’ll start a conversation.