By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
2 minute read
Depending on how you phrase questions you’re either going to get no answer, the “right” answer (Aka the answer a prospective student thinks they’re supposed to give you), or an insightful answer full of valuable context and insights.
I continue to find that a lot of admissions counselors, tour guides, and student callers ask vanilla questions, including what is arguably the worst question of all:
“Do you have any questions?”
Asking that or something similar like, “What questions can I answer for you?” rarely generates engagement or leads to a productive and helpful conversation. That’s because it’s too open ended and students don’t know where to begin. So, they give answers like, “Not right now,” or “I’m good”.
I can assure you that prospective students (regardless of stage or grade) have questions and things they’d like to talk about every single time.
Ultimately, fear of not knowing what to ask and/or fear of saying something that might be perceived as dumb prevents them from engaging.
The solution to this problem is simple – Be more direct and intentional every time you ask a question. Students are okay with that approach, namely because it gives them some direction.
A good rule of thumb is to always start by defining what you hope to learn by asking your question. Come up with a goal and then create your question based on that. This applies to all situations (i.e. college fairs, high school visits, campus visits, virtual events, during phone calls, and in your emails and text messages).
Here’s a quick example. For inquiries that have not applied, your goal could be to figure out why they haven’t taken the next step.
Instead of ending your message with, “You can email or call me with any questions you have”, consider asking, “Can you tell me the biggest thing that’s keeping you from starting your application?”
Or if you think the student hasn’t applied because they’re worried about the cost, go with, “What’s the biggest worry you have about <Your School Name> right now?”
In addition to being direct, both examples use a more casual tone, as well as words like “you” to make the question feel personal.
If you find yourself struggling to be direct and intentional when you ask questions, or if you could use some help coming up with a better question, shoot me a quick email and we’ll talk about it together.
And if you found this article helpful, I encourage you to forward it to someone else who could also benefit from reading it.