by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Back in June I wrote an article about the value of phone calls in student recruitment. That article included some interesting statistics and direct student quotes about phone calls from incoming and current college freshmen. It’s since become the second most read newsletter article of 2017. If you missed it or you’d like a quick refresher, click that link above.
The biggest point I tried to drive home in that article was that despite how digital and social this current generation of students has become, phone calls still need to be a core piece of your recruiting communications plan. The majority of high school juniors and seniors that are on your radar right now find phone calls from admission counselors (and current students/staff) valuable when they’re done correctly (i.e. the way students want).
Today, I want to go even deeper on this topic with you. Since I published that article on June 20th, Tudor Collegiate Strategies has accumulated new survey research from more than 650 incoming and current college freshmen. On top of that, in late July we partnered with CollegeWeekLive to do even more focus group research. One of the three surveys we conducted together was with incoming college freshmen.
In both our TCS surveys and the partner survey with CollegeWeekLive, we asked students, “In terms of communication, tell us how often during the college search process you wanted colleges to contact you in each of the forms below.” Those forms are by phone, mail, email, text and on social media. And the options to choose for each are once a day, once a week, 2-4 times per week, once per month, and never.
The results in the “never” category remain noteworthy. Of the more than 1,600 incoming and current college freshmen surveyed by TCS and CollegeWeekLive between May of 2017 and December of 2017, more students told us they “never” wanted to be contacted during the college search process by text and social media than did the number who “never” wanted to receive a phone call.
- 44.51% never wanted colleges to contact them on social media
- 34.58% never wanted colleges to contact them by text
- 33.68% never wanted colleges to contact them by phone
I’m sharing these numbers with you not to try and say that text messaging and social media aren’t important communication tools, because without question they are. Instead, I really want to debunk this idea that students don’t answer their phone because they think phone calls are a waste of time. Sure, that is the case for some, and many of those students would much rather receive a text message from a college admissions counselor. But that group is not the majority in 2017.
As I’ve explained before, the problem isn’t the phone per say, it’s what you’re doing (and not doing) with phone calls that has created this disconnect.
So where do we go from here?
In each of the surveys I referenced earlier, we also asked those same students to tell us how college admission counselors could be more helpful and improve the phone calls they make to prospective students.
The responses below highlight the biggest themes. Here are your answers straight from the source:
“They could have been better by giving notification about the call a few days prior so students can have questions prepared.”
“Phone calls are good if they are pre-planned via email. If they are spontaneous they can be inconvenient and put students on the spot.”
“Sending a text prior to a phone call would definitely be more effective.”
“Alert them when they are calling via email. I get so many spam calls that I naturally ignore unrecognized numbers.”
“I would tell the counselors to just become like a friend to the students and make them feel comfortable. We always have questions even when we say no, we just don’t feel comfortable asking them sometimes with a stranger!
“Be less formal. When I say that I mean be like a friend that makes the student more comfortable and be a good listener so you know what concerns the student has.”
“Less structure, more flow of conversation.”
“They could have been more helpful if they started the call with the reason because the counselor was ready to help but I didn’t know what I was supposed to talk or ask about.”
“They should explain in detail the reason for the call.”
“Have a specific purpose. Don’t just call asking if we have any questions.”
“Throw out example questions or general questions for the students because they don’t really know what to ask but the examples could give them ideas.”
“Make sure the phone calls come at convenient times.”
“Please do not call during school/class time!”
“Try and put yourself in the student’s shoes: It’s a very stressful time and all we want is for someone to tell us that it’ll be okay. A nice tone and some encouragement work excellently. Don’t be so scary to talk to.”
“Be friendly and enthusiastic and make them more personal.”
“When we ask questions be ready to answer them with more detail and not just the same information we’ve already seen on your website.”
“Much of the phone calls I received from numerous colleges are people who are paid by the school to call me but aren’t affiliated with the school or know much about me or the school. I believe callers representing the school should be actually affiliated with the school.”
“Don’t bombard potential students with your personal opinions about the school and pay more attention to the questions being asked.”
“I think that they need to find ways to be more personal and connect with the students because it always seemed like the calls were the same. No one is going to buy a car from someone who says the same thing every time, so why am I going to spend about the same amount of money to go to a college that can’t find a way to stand out?”
“They should make sure that they ask about the prospective student’s situation and values. This way they can tailor the call to the student and help them learn more about the school.”
My goal in sharing all of this information with you today is to:
1) Reiterate that phone calls are valuable and they aren’t going away anytime soon
2) Give you ideas that you can use immediately to increase your call answer rate and the effectiveness of your phone calls
If you have a specific question about phone call strategy, send me an email right now and let’s start a conversation.