By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
It’s late April, and just like last year at this time, a bunch of newsletter readers have reached out looking for advice on how to handle things when their admitted students pick another school.
Seeing as how no admissions counselor is immune to this situation, I thought it would be beneficial to share with you the strategies that I recently recommended to them.
Let me start by reminding you of an important fact. You can do everything better than your competition and still come up short. The reasons why a student chooses another school will vary. Some will be legitimate, and some will come completely out of left field and make absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Anytime you lose a student, though, it’s important to self-evaluate and try to figure out the why behind that student’s decision.
In some cases the why will be something that’s out of your control. But more often than you might think, the answer lies in changing your approach, improving a certain skill set, or correcting a common misstep. Here’s what I mean.
I continue to find that a lot of counselors in 2019 still aren’t consistently asking for the deposit/commitment, don’t know how to ask, or are waiting too long to ask. As a result, one of two things occurs. The counselor at another school gets that student to deposit simply because they ask first. Or, if nobody is helping guide that student and they’re struggling to differentiate between their finalists, they make the safe choice (i.e. the cheapest option, the biggest name, or the school closest to home).
Here are three other common missteps that I want to make sure you avoid:
- There was no discussion about the student’s timeline or how they were going to make their college decision
- There was never a real discussion about cost/paying for college
- There was a lack of communication with the parent(s)
Now let’s talk about how to handle those “no’s.”
1) Don’t overreact and become argumentative with the student (or parent).
2) Congratulate the student on their decision. Professionalism always matters. Word of mouth (i.e. a positive experience even though the student didn’t pick your school) is super important and can help lead to future deposits.
3) Never let rejection get you down. I see this happen a lot with admissions counselors during their first cycle, to the point where some develop a negative attitude and begin dreading future conversations. Always keep in mind they’re not rejecting you personally.
When it comes to figuring out the why behind a student’s decision, it all boils down to what questions you ask.
So, here are six questions you can ask a student right after they tell you they’ve chosen another school. You can ask one, two, or all six.
- What was the number one reason that you chose that school?
- Help me understand why you feel like you fit in better at that school.
- When did you actually know that <Your school’s name> wasn’t the right fit for you?
- What did your parents say about our school and your decision?
- Did our school communicate with you too much, not enough, or just the right amount during your college search?
- Can you tell me one thing that I could have done better to make your college search process less stressful?
Analyzing a recruitment process that ends unsuccessfully can provide incredibly valuable information that will be helpful during the next cycle. I encourage you to make time for this important step.
As you start to think about or plan for this next class, if you’re looking for new ideas or strategies that will help you or your staff communicate more effectively with prospective students and families, I’m happy to help. Just reach out and connect with me, and we’ll see what makes sense to talk about.
Thanks for spending a couple of minutes with me today.