by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Often times, as I head off to lead a workshop with a college or university admissions department and their counselors, I have to deal with the inconvenience of flight delays and cancellations.
My most recent issue was a cancellation in Chicago due to air traffic control…at least that’s what the text message said that the airline sent me. No, “we’re sorry for the inconvenience”, or “here’s how we’re going to help you”. Instead, the text message told me to go to their website to select an available rebooking option, or call a representative and ask for assistance (which you and I both know means call and sit on hold for who knows how many minutes).
After sitting on hold with the airline for the entire time it took me to drive to the airport, I hung up, returned my rental car, and took my place in line with all the other frustrated customers.
In the midst of waiting for the airline representative to come up with my new itinerary, I overhead a mother and daughter (high school senior) standing in line behind me talking about rescheduling their college visit due to the same flight cancellation.
I decided to introduce myself, and we struck up a conversation about the college search process and how their experience was going.
In the 15 to 20 minutes I talked with them, they opened-up about some of their frustrations and also offered some observations about admissions counselors and the process in general.
While I’m not suggesting they speak for every prospective student/parent around the country, I do know this wasn’t the first time I’ve heard similar statements.
Here are three things worth mentioning:
- They wanted to know what to do next, but no one was telling them. The two of them had previously visited a couple of campuses. Each visit basically ended the same way with a “thanks for coming, call us if you have any questions”…and they made it clear to me that they had questions every single time, namely, what do we do next and how did that school’s process differ from other colleges they were considering? Nobody was outlining the process or telling either of them what was coming next. Lots of generalized “contact” from admissions counselors and student callers, very little direction. I want you to be the counselor that outlines a plan and keeps your prospects updated on what’s coming next and what you want them to do next. Ask your prospects, and their parents, to walk you through their timeline (as best they can). Figure out how you can help them get from the start to the finish.
- The student was tired of phone calls and emails that were boring. She was “so over” (her words not mine) counselors calling and emailing, “Hey, how’s it going”, or “Any big plans this weekend?” When I asked her what counselors should do, she told me that they needed to ask better questions that actually mean something to her and are interesting. The lesson? This generation of students doesn’t just want a school to “check in” with them and waste their time. That doesn’t win points with them. Have something to say, and show students that you’re reaching out to them for a reason.
- The parent had all kinds of information about her daughter’s decision-making process that she was happy to share with colleges…if they would just ask. When I asked mom how many admissions counselors had reached out to either her or her husband, she said one. And she added that the one who did reach out literally called the house to let them know that they could fill out the FAFSA earlier than in past years. Let me say it again – If you haven’t connected yet with the parents of your prospects who are high school seniors (especially the ones of your admits), you’re making recruiting much harder than it needs to be. And when you do reach out to parents, not only do you need to ask the right questions, but be ready to prove how your college offers the best “bang for their buck”. How you communicate your value and what your school has to offer counts now more than ever.
Want to talk with me further about one or more of these bullet points? Is there something else that you could use help with right now? Connect with me via email today.