by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
There are certain conversations that stick in your mind as a parent. I can clearly recall the conversation my wife and I had with our daughter about choosing the college she was going to attend and the cost of attending that institution.
It was shortly after the start of the New Year, 2017 and we had gotten down to a short list of three schools and as things would have it the school that checked all her boxes was shaping up to be the most expensive of the three. Now, years later, having built a better appreciation for the different approaches available to coaches for talking about cost of attendance I can see the value in the following insights:
- The first priority is to have the conversation about cost of attendance early in the recruiting process, within the first few interactions. The reasons for this are obvious. You don’t want to lead them to false hope about scholarships or aid and you don’t want to spend time on a recruit that’s not viable. A sad but true reality. In that scenario, try to be a resource, guide them to another coach/program you trust who may be an option for them. It will pay good dividends down the road and you’re doing a good deed.
- Have the talk about the cost of attendance with the parents alone. The recruit has their own insecurities about academics, leaving home, being good enough for your team, making new friends, etc. Throwing a huge COA at them will just exacerbate your situation and their parents are in a far better position to have that conversation (…as I said, in our case it was a memorable conversation!)
- Don’t make assumptions about the family’s ability to pay. Tuition exchange, college funds, grandparents, trust funds, etc. are often hidden resources that can be brought to the table that change the nature of the conversation regarding covering the cost of attendance.
- Cost of attendance is a huge concern for families. It became even more important during the Covid crisis as families were financially challenged in many ways. But, it’s not the only concern. Long standing data from Tudor Collegiate Strategies research has indicated the recruit’s connection to you and your team and whether they feel at home on your campus were both ranked higher than COA in terms of what most impacted their decision of where to attend. So, the stronger the emotional connection you and the younger members of your team build with the recruit and their parents the more likely you are to overcome the COA issue.
- Focus your conversation on what you can offer the recruit more than what you can’t. If they have exhausted their financial aid options and COA is still a concern it’s time to focus your conversation on all the things the recruit told you were important to them during the recruiting process and how you are going to provide those things. Do everything you can to shift the focus from cost to demonstrating that you have all the things they want (opportunity to play quickly, a great career placement office, academic support, continuity of coaching, a great conference with awesome travel, etc.) Then, say “I’ve shown you how we’re going to give you all the things you told me you want right here. It may cost a little more here than the other schools but can they give you everything you want?”
- Guide them, lead them, educate them on what they should do next. In order to do this well you need to be well informed on your institution’s financial aid process. Spend time with your financial aid staff to learn the ins and outs of their processes, including how to use the net cost calculator on your website.
- Don’t wait for your financial aid office to ask for the commitment. Your timeline is your timeline… If you ask for the commitment and the recruit or their parents say “We’re really not comfortable committing until we know the cost, demonstrate your expertise with the net cost calculator and then say “This is usually within a couple thousand either way. If we’re within that number are you feeling like you’re ready to verbally commit?”
If you think about how we make virtually every buying decision it will come down to cost. If all things are equal, consumers will always go with the lower cost. As a coach, that’s simply not something you can control. If you leave it to the question of who’s cheaper you may lose that battle. Refocus your efforts on the stories of your team, your former players and the experiences they had as athletes and the careers they’re now enjoying. Talk about the academic support, the countless resources available to them on campus, and other selling points.
Build relationships between your recruits and your team and yourself and the parents. Recruit the parent in the same way you’re recruiting the athlete.
Need more direction on how to have challenging conversations like this one, and learn to guide your recruit through the decision making process? There are two really inexpensive resources we provide college coaches: Tudor University, our popular online learning tool, and Honey Badger Recruiting, our special training site where we publish the latest trends, instruction and advice to recruiters. Invest a few cents a day into your career and give one – or both – a try!