By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
As you prepare to interact with hundreds of new prospective students in the coming weeks on and off campus, I want you to think about this:
If those students were asked to describe you and your interaction with them after the fact, what would they say? And, what would you want them to say?
Prior to leading a staff training workshop we always conduct a recruiting survey with that college’s incoming or current freshman class. One of the questions we continue to ask is, “Give your admissions counselors at <College name> some advice: What do they need to understand about the way this generation of student wants to be communicated with during their college search?”
“I think that it’s really important to just be real. We all understand it’s the job of admission counselors to sell the school that they work for. What I enjoyed from <College name> is that I had actual conversations with my admissions counselor, and I was able to have some phone calls that we helpful. I also had a few admissions counselors from other schools that were extremely pushy, and I didn’t enjoy that.”
That student quote appeared in a college’s survey results last month. Comments like it continue to show up multiple times in every single survey we do.
Like it or not, prospective students (and their parents) quickly see you as either a salesperson or a resource.
A big key to hitting your territory goals is to consistently be a resource rather than a salesperson. This generation of students wants to feel that you’re genuinely trying to help them navigate what has become a scary and confusing process.
“With <College name> I felt that it wasn’t just another generalized letter or email that goes to thousands of other interested students. My admission counselor made me feel important and I loved that she spent her time wanting to know me. Honestly it was the feeling of the school wanting to get to know me as a person that made me feel like I would want to be a part of that kind of community.”
That student quote was an answer to the same survey question in another college’s survey last month. It’s proof of the positive impact that being a resource can have in the mind of a student.
A lot of admissions counselors believe they have to “sell” their school early in the process and try to move interested students as fast as possible towards visiting and applying. Both of those actions are important, but as I’ve told you before, when you’re a resource who leads the conversation and consistently makes it about them, they tend to take those actions faster.
If you constantly inundate students with information and bullet points about different aspects of your school (at say a college fair or during a high school visit), they’re going to view you as a salesperson. Conversely, if you ask them a series of questions about their wants, needs, fears, and overall timeline and decision-making process, and then you deliver information about your school in an easy to understand, conversational way based on what they tell you, they’re going to see you as a resource. There are a lot of other short and long-term benefits that come from that.
For starters, it’s much easier to connect with a student/family and build trust. When you develop a reputation as someone who is trustworthy, you’ll quickly become the “go-to” counselor for help and advice. And, as I just touched on, when you’re a resource and you ask the right kinds of questions, a lot of times students will tell you exactly what you need to tell them to get them to take that next step in their process.
So, does that mean if you’re a salesperson you won’t be able to connect with and gain a student’s trust? No, but I promise you it will be a lot harder, and a lot more time consuming.
I encourage you to really think about this as you have those student and family interactions this fall. And be on the lookout next Tuesday for a related article with more specific do’s and don’ts around high school visits and college fairs.