by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Whether your institution is still processing applications or trying to turn those admits into deposits, increasing yield is unquestionably a priority.
As we’ve previously discussed, our ongoing focus group research on campuses around the country indicates the face-to-face communication you have with a prospect will greatly determine your school’s chances of enrolling them. Throw in the fact that an increasingly competitive landscape has caused your recruits to apply to more colleges than ever before, and it’s clear that besides developing a strong campus visit program, you cannot afford for your admitted student days to be average.
Sure, it’s much easier to execute an agenda that mirrors what most other colleges are offering. Don’t be shocked though when that approach produces mixed results. This generation wants and needs to see, hear and feel something different if you’re going to separate your school from the competition. Since many families will likely attend more than one admitted student day program, your admissions team must consistently be providing admits with a memorable, unique, “awesome” experience.
Before we discuss some strategies to improve your admitted student days, there’s an important question I need to ask each of you. Have you clearly and consistently stated why your recruits should visit campus again…or in some cases visit for the first time? As I stated in a recent article about campus visits, you need to give your recruits a “because.” That’s step number one.
In short, for recruits to visit your campus they want a good reason that is solidified in their mind – either one that they came up with on their own, or a picture that you have painted for them over a period of time. An easy example is the idea that there’s something important to talk about during the admitted student day visit. What that “something” will be is up to you, and it’s not going to be the same for every single admit. When you give them a reason it will create anticipation, which is much more effective then sending a reminder card or email that contains a schedule full of information sessions and meetings, with lunch sandwiched in-between.
Here then are some proven ideas that when implemented as part of your admitted student day programs, will put your school in the best possible position to receive positive enrollment decisions.
- Personalize your invites. Yep you’re right, I just recommended something that will require extra time that you probably don’t have, and involve more creative thinking. Why would I do that? When done consistently over time, personalization truly is the secret to increasing enrollment. There is no substitute. Whether you send your invite/reminder via email or snail mail, it’s your job to get the reader’s attention. Remember, your invite isn’t the only one they’ll likely receive. Try using a big, bold P.S. message. Employing something that seems out of place is one effective strategy. Your recruit will probably read the P.S. before they scan through the actual email/flier.
- Give them more than just the same old information sessions. Learning how to register for classes and student housing are important, I’m not arguing that point. However, when you have admitted students that have yet to make a final decision and parents who are likely still trying to figure out how all the bills will get paid, I strongly encourage you to give them something more. An information session providing ROI data or recent success stories would be very valuable, particularly for parents. You could also host a forum where groups of admits, minus their parents, can speak candidly with current first-year students about life on campus and other things they really want to know about it.
- Let them spend a couple of hours alongside one of your students. Taking #2 one step further, why not offer the chance to shadow a current freshman for part of a day. It goes without saying that your host students would need to be knowledgeable and dependable. Provided that’s the case, our research indicates that casual, relaxed “hang out” time with your students is a great way to determine whether your campus feels best to them. No admissions staff, no parents, and little structure. Trust me, it works.
- Consider adding school events to the agenda. If intercollegiate athletics is a point of pride on your campus, schedule your admitted student days so that visitors have the opportunity to attend one or more home sporting events. The same thing goes for a winter play or concert. Each of these is a great opportunity to showcase school pride and create impactful memories for your recruits.
- Make sure you have uncovered any objections. If you’ve had us on your campus for one of our admissions training workshops, than you know that one of the biggest reasons counselors fail when it comes to recruiting, is they fail to overcome one or more objections. Very few prospects are going to say “yes” when you have failed to answer each of their concerns, or those of their parents. Throughout the entire recruitment cycle, always be listening and processing the information you’re being given. Once an objection is clarified, it’s up to you to be a problem solver. If prior to an admitted student day you discover there’s a last minute critical objection, than be prepared to answer it during the visit.
- Tell them you want them, and ask them if they want to commit. Never assume anything. My wife reminds me of that frequently. Unfortunately many counselors assume that once their prospects have been admitted, it’s obvious your school wants them. I’m here to tell you that’s not always the case. Don’t think they need to hear it again? Wrong. They do…now more than ever, actually. If by this point you haven’t verbalized those words yet, do it now. Say something like, “Are you feeling like you’d be ready to tell me you’re ready to commit to us?” Don’t be scared to “ask for the sale.”
It’s crucial to come up with ways throughout the recruitment cycle to differentiate both your institution and yourself, without becoming too weird of course. Admitted student days are a key component of that recruiting cycle. Using these ideas will help you stand out and ultimately generate positive outcomes.
Want more specific strategies for great campus recruiting visits? Or, do you have other things you’d like to ask? Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org