Don’t get me wrong:
Being “in” their top five college choices is better than not being in their top five. At least in theory.
The thing is, we’re finding that being listed in a prospect’s “top five” isn’t what it used to be. In the good ‘ol days, being listed in a recruit’s top five was the result of much deliberation, and a good degree of logical decision making on the part of your prospect and his or her family.
Now, in many (most?) cases, being listed in your prospect’s top group of college choices is just a small part of the recruiting game they play:
- You ask them to list their top five colleges when they first fill out your recruiting questionnaire? Yep, you’re on it. Why wouldn’t you be?…they want you to stay interested in them, and that’s one sure way to do it.
- You’re getting ready to bring kids to campus on visits? Your prospects know what to do: List you in their top five, and get a trip to campus. It can be a lot of fun for them, and keeps you on the line in case some of their other higher ranked choices don’t pan out.
- You’re asking them to commit, and have offered a scholarship or a roster spot? That’s great coach, and you’re in my top five, but I just need to wait until I make one or two more visits and hear from those other coaches.
Are any of those painful reminders of recruiting past, Coach? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Today’s prospects have learned a valuable lesson from college recruiters: If they continue to show just enough interest in you, you’ll continue to show just enough interest in them. Let’s not blame them for that; however, lets also not give up that negotiating point to them – especially if it’s later in the process, and you’re really needing to make some final decisions soon.
There are ways to take better control of the situation, and truly uncover where you stand with many of your recruits – and, put an end to the unending agony of hearing that you are in your prospect’s top five, when that may not actually be the case.
If they say you’re their number one choice, it might be time to close the deal. Of course, you have to feel the same way. But in the event you do, you need to take action. It is staggering, to me, the number of times a coach will hear a prospect tell him or her that they are number one on their list, which is met with indifference by the coach; the process wears on, and the recruit assumes that your lack of interaction means you don’t want them. When your prospect tells you that you’re number one, that’s a big cue. Take it. Or, risk losing them.
If they say you’re one of their top choices, it’s time to get clarification. Personally, I would often recommend to a client that they take the leap and ask if that means they’re ‘ready to commit’. The benefit to that? If the answer is “yes”, you just won the recruiting battle. If the answer is “no”, then it opens up the next logical step in the conversation: Getting them to explain where you stand with them, and why. And, what needs to happen next, in their mind. That’s valuable information that most coaches never dig deep enough to uncover. Don’t be that coach.
If they say you’re “one of the schools/programs we’re still looking at”, that could be a red flag. As we’ve outlined in past articles, it’s really hard for your prospect to tell you no, which means you need to search it out. Why? Because it’s hard for them to say no, they tend to drop hints. This is one of the most common. They are probably going to tell you no, and they’re feeling a little guilty about how to break it to you, and so to make you feel better, they say something generic like “you’re one of the schools/programs we’re still looking at.” If you hear that, I’d recommend following-up with something similar to the response in the previous paragraph. The goal is to define exactly where they stand. As the process gets closer to the end, understanding exactly what they’re trying to tell you is one of your primary jobs as a college recruiter.
If they indicate interest verbally in some way, but you aren’t seeing physical evidence of that alleged interest, it’s all about to implode. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, where the recruit re-appears out of nowhere and commits to your program, saving that recruiting class. But I beg you not to worship the exception, rather than the rule. Most of the time, their actions match their verbal assurances. That could take the form of uninitiated contact on their part on a regular basis, communication from the parents, asking to come to campus again, returning an email or text message…something that indicates that you are important enough to keep in touch with, even when they know you’re ready for their final decision.
We aren’t going to go deep into the nuts and bolts of asking for the commitment (click here if you want to look at our library of past articles on that topic). The point of this discussion about this aspect of the recruiting process is stressing the importance of you and your coaching staff correctly assessing exactly where each of your recruits stand. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security when you hear a prospect telling you how you’re still in their top five. Question it, confirm it, and then act on it.
If you don’t, be prepared for the unending agony of lost recruits to continue.
Want more detailed instruction on how to handle delay tactics by your recruits at your college? Bring Dan to campus for a detailed training session designed specifically for your campus. We’ve completely updated what we talk about and how each aspect of the recruiting process should be approached by a college coach. For information about our famous on-campus recruiting workshop, click here or email Dan Tudor at email@example.com