The Four Best Practices of Admission Counselors According to College-bound Students

May 16th, 2017 by Rick Montgomery

Just what are the traits of an exceptional Admission Counselor?  Google it and this is what you’ll find: Excellent writing and speaking skills, ability to relate positively to a wide variety of people, enthusiastic, organized, professional in appearance and demeanor, familiarity with technology and data driven systems, able to work both independently and in a team setting, excellent time management skills, and so on. All clearly important attributes for a role that has enormous impact on any college’s recruiting success. But what if prospective students were writing your job description? How would it be different from the stock descriptions you find in a standard job opening announcement?

Here are some clues: In a our co-sponsored study, The Relationship Dynamic, 38% of college-bound students said that their college admission counselor played a significant role in helping them form a relationship the college they chose.

In a separate study, The Value Proposition,” students were asked to identify and quantify the relative influence of specific interactions on their relationship with the college they selected. Across the board, the students rated social media in the neutral range whereas interaction with admission counselors rated much higher, demonstrating a far greater influence on enrollment.

What do students say counselors MUST do?

In our recently released study, Hidden Influences, over 18,000 prospective students are very clear about what they want from a counselor.  Topping the list:  Answer their questions. ALL of their questions, completely!

While this may be impossible in a practical sense, students have a very high expectation that counselors have an answer for their every question. They expect counselors to be knowledgeable about issues relating to cost, financial aid, history of the institution, outcomes, deadlines, classes required for specific majors and so on.

Don’t say, “I don’t know.”  Instead say, “I’ll find out.” And do it!

If the counselor cannot answer a specific question they expect the counselor to find the answer and get back to them in a timely manner.
Students say they develop a strong affinity for a counselor who is well-informed and responsive. It is a key ingredient in their formation of a relationship with the college as a whole and it is influential in college selection.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, students voiced their frustrations with counselors who are unable to answer questions and cited examples of counselors who actually avoided questions and requests for information that fall outside the most basic.

Many students shared experiences where a counselor had given them information that they later discovered is “wrong” and “inaccurate.”  And, students have a very low tolerance for counselors who respond to specific questions with “vague” answers and information.

What qualities do top-notch admission counselors have that lead prospective students to enroll?

  1. They are knowledgeable and responsive. They know the answers to every question about their school, campus, costs, loans, scholarships, etc…  And, if they are asked a question that they don’t have an answer for, they find out fast.
  2. They demonstrate a sincere interest in the student.  They get to know the prospective student as an individual and understand his or her particular needs, preferences and motivations.
  3. They connect the student to people, places and activities that will create excitement about the college. Because they have mastered #2, they know just who those people, places and activities should be.
  4. They make sure to let the students know that the college is interested in them.  They make the student feel wanted.

Here’s what admission counselors need to know.

You know that a student’s college selection is tied closely to the strength of the relationship they build with a college over time. And, you know that creating relationships is a multifaceted, nuanced and crucial part of student recruitment.  But do you know this?  Your role is crucial. You are a powerful motivator when you use all of the tools available to you.

We help colleges and universities with their recruiting efforts every day. If we can help you, please let me know. If you’ve thought about helping your staff with professional development, now is the ideal time to train and motivate your staff. Email or call me if you are interested in how we can help. Continue the conversation on Twitter @LongmireCo. For more information about Longmire and Company and the tools we have to offer, click here. We will be sharing more key insights from our studies so be sure to subscribe to Versions of Conversion today so you can stay up-to-date.

Rick Montgomery is as an Enrollment Strategist at Longmire and Company. With over 20 years in higher education marketing, he brings an innovative and dynamic approach to helping colleges and universities meet their enrollment goals. Rick can be reached at 913/492.1265 x.708 or via email at rmontgomery@longmire-co.com.

Data Driven Strategies to Finalize Your Class and Minimize Melt

May 10th, 2017 by Rick Montgomery

Four-Studies_698x400Congratulations on successfully navigating Yield Season 2017!  Now, on to the next phase—ushering your class through the required processes to ensure they show up on the first day of class. The predictor of enrollment is excitement and emotional commitment. Students who don’t feel an emotional attachment to your college are far more likely to melt.

You can look to findings from four recent co-sponsored  studies for some guidance.  The studies point to specific actions you can take during orientation and beyond to strengthen and maintain the relationships you have worked so hard to build with your admitted students AND create meaningful connections with those students who have yet to bond with your college.

Here is what the data tells us students really want and the techniques you can successfully implement today to give it to them.

Understand Us!

In our most recent co-sponsored study, “Hidden Influences: Revealing the unspoken perceptions that prospective students have about your college and why it matters in your ability to grow and control enrollment, we asked over 18,000 college-bound students whether they felt the colleges they considered were more focused on understanding their needs and preferences or more focused on presenting information about their institutions.

We were stunned by their response: Only 20% of students felt that colleges placed the focus on them. This feeling was shared by students bound for both public and private institutions. In a prior higher-education study, The Excitement Factor!, college-bound students were asked if the colleges they were considering had taken a personal interest in them at any point in the recruiting process. The response was shocking. Two-thirds said “No” or “Don’t Remember” and in our view “Don’t remember” is the same as “No.”Personal_Interest_460x287

Showing your interest in and focusing on the specific needs and concerns of your committed students is crucial to ensuring they matriculate. Students see college as the beginning of a new chapter in their life and many are apprehensive about all of the transitions associated with going to college including moving away from home, meeting new people, leaving the comfort and familiarity of high school, and new educational challenges ahead. Without the safety net of the high school counseling office to turn to, some students may fall through the cracks.

Excite Us!

In our Value Proposition” study, we learned that a student’s excitement about attending a college is more predictive of enrollment than other key factors, such as cost and perceived quality of the institution. We explored that further in The Excitement Factorand discovered that over one-third of students actually experience an “AHA” moment where they can recall the precise instant, place or circumstance when they experienced a rush of emotion and realization that a specific college was the right choice for them.

In most cases, the student’s epiphany happens when they are on campus but the people, places and circumstances involved are widely varying, highly personal and unpredictable.

The job of any college, as it relates to recruiting students, is to put the student in a place or frame of mind where this epiphany can happen. To enable the student to envision what their life will be like. You’ll have additional opportunities to do that for students you expect to enroll.

Impress Us!

Consider this: In our national co-sponsored study, How Customer Service Delivery During the Recruiting Cycle Influences Enrollment,” we found that 53% of students and parents say that the service they receive from a college during the “shopping process” influences their selection decision.

We also see this in our work with individual colleges that utilize our assessment program, Service Quality Management (SQM). They know, as do you, for many students the selection process continues well beyond the point at which they make a promise to enroll.

Our studies have found that poor service delivery, across any brand touch point on campus, often outweighs other important factors, including strength of academic programs, faculty reputation and even the financial aid offered. Prospective students and parents view the pre-enrollment service they receive as predictive of how the student will be served after enrolling. They will change their mind about a college or avoid it altogether if they receive poor service.

Actions You Can Take to Excite, Impress, Build the Student/College Bond

Counselor Actions Relationship_Makewith Impact

Your admission counselors can be powerful influencers in creating a bond between your college and the students they have recruited.

Here’s how:

  • Stay in touch, ask questions and have meaningful conversations throughout the entire process. Make the student feel wanted, important, and engaged with the college.
  • Connect the student to people, places and activities that will create excitement about the college.
  • Identify students who are at risk for summer melt and enlist support for them from current students, faculty or other new admits.

Meaningful Social Media Strategies

Find unique ways to connect your incoming class to current students through social media sites, texts and your orientation programs.  Some colleges have created videos of current students addressing their own pre-enrollment concerns that they share with newly-admitted students.  Seeing a successful, happy student talk about how their own anxieties turned out to be unfounded can be a great stress reliever.

Orientations that Excite

What goals have you established for your orientation program?  Do they read like a laundry list of paperwork, must-do’s, must-know’s and must-see’s?  Instead, your goals and practices should be developed in the context of, “How does this strengthen (or create) the emotional bond each student has with us?”

By its very nature, college orientation is very process-driven: read this, hear this, watch this …  Instead, create entertaining programs and activities that engage students, foster enthusiasm, and enable the student to feel what it’s like to be a student and a part of your community.

Moat importantly, build in opportunities for admitted students to connect with (not simply meet) other newly-admitted and current like-minded students.

Service that Shines

To avoid losing students before classes start, be sure to give them a stellar experience everywhere and at all times. Students and their parents agreed that a single bad experience can be the catalyst for completely derailing the prospective student’s original enrollment plan. The most often cited negatives include unkempt grounds, buildings and restrooms; lack of clear signage; unfriendly staff and faculty; excessive phone hold times; unresponsive staff; and overwhelming paperwork.

Just as importantly, the study concludes that offering great pre-enrollment service will not only “save” enrollments but it is also one of the best possible ways for a college or university to differentiate itself in today’s competitive environment.

NEWS: Longmire and Company’s just-announced national co-sponsored higher education study has been launched to explore – in depth – the topic of emotional motivators in college selection.

Emotion study boxUnlike any other higher education research to-date, “Emotional Motivators: How to increase and control your enrollment by getting a deep and accurate understanding of how students really feel about your college,” will explore how students feel and, more importantly, why they feel that way, to give you a deeper understanding of the students you’re trying to recruit. The actionable insight yielded by this study will give you greater control over your conversations with prospective students, better ability to craft sharper mass marketing messages, and more direction to design highly productive campus visit experiences.

We hope you will join a prestigious list of co-sponsoring colleges and universities, large and small, and participate in this study. Co-sponsors find our studies valuable because of the wealth of new insight they gain about their individual pools of prospective students – insight they can use to drive action and change.

Colleges are signing up now so we encourage you to contact us soon if you are thinking about participating. CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE INFORMATION.

Continue the conversation on Twitter @LongmireCo. For more information about Longmire and Company’s Interactive Counselor Training Program, click here. Be sure to Subscribe to Versions of Conversion today so you don’t miss any of this highly-valuable information

RickMontgomery_100x100Rick Montgomery is as an Enrollment Strategist at Longmire and Company. With over 20 years in higher education marketing, he brings an innovative and dynamic approach to helping colleges and universities meet their enrollment goals. Rick can be reached at 913/492.1265 x.708 or via email at rmontgomery@longmire-co.com.

Decision Day Has Come and Gone…..Or Has It?

May 2nd, 2017 by Rick Montgomery

decision_dayFor most colleges “Yield Season” extends all the way up to the day new students show up for class. While the majority of prospective students may have made their college selection decision at this point, a sizable number are still considering their options. They are still looking at you and other colleges.

Nearly 30% of Students Have Yet to Bond with a College

In our co-sponsored study, “The Relationship Factor,” over 70% of students told us that the relationship they built with their college of choice had a major influence on their enrollment decision. What we learned is that when a student feels a connection with a college, they are quick to claim it as their own.

In the graph on the right, you will note that more prospective students identify April as the month they bonded with a college. Blog-Yield-Relationship-Timeline-RevBut here is the number you want to consider today: 29% of students have yet to develop a bond with a college.   That suggests how much potential there is to connect with students and win their enrollment during the summer. It also suggests that the lack of a relationship may foreshadow melt.

Best Practices:  Turning Reluctance into Commitment

As you circle back to your admitted student pool it is important to have a strategy for building a relationship quickly. Use highly focused questions that show empathy and reflect your sincere desire to help. “What can I do that would be most helpful to you?” “How are you feeling about this whole college selection process?” “Do you mind if we stay in contact? What’s best for you? Email? Text?”

When a student tells you that they’re still making a decision, respond by asking for more insight into his or her decision-making process. “It’s not uncommon for students to still be considering their options at this point but many say that they’ve narrowed down what’s going to be important to them. What’s going to be most important to you?”

Handling the root causes of a student’s reluctance to select your school

  • Lack of information: “I sense you’re a little uncomfortable taking the next step. When that happens it’s usually because the student needs more information or some assurance. How about you?” Find out what information or assurance is needed.
  • Hidden objections or concerns: “Some students don’t take the next step because there is something they don’t like or they have a concern about something. Is that so for you – I promise you won’t hurt my feelings but it will help me understand.”
  • Withholding their true feelings/plans from you: “Of course, I want what’s best for you. And you can be honest with me because I’ll help you even if we aren’t your chosen school. What are you thinking at this point?”
  • Fear of the unknown: “Some students don’t take the next step just because it’s kind of scary. They’ve never been through it before. However, once they do they feel a huge relief and look back and think ‘That wasn’t that hard after all.’”

Obviously, when a student fails to matriculate it is disappointing. But the race to make your class isn’t over even if your numbers look good now. Our research shows that the factors that contribute to the phenomenon of melt are the same issues that are impacting the students in your admit pool today; coping with the reality of college costs, anxiety about finding the “right fit” and an overwhelming amount of often confusing paperwork, among them.

So, what can you do? Follow the lead of the most successful admissions counselors: They know they must continue the building of relationships with their students and gain valuable personal insight about each and every one of them. Many students don’t begin to feel as though they’ve established an emotional bond (aka relationship) with a college until orientation. It’s up to the counselors and others from the college to create and nurture relationships with students who are on the path of enrolling but have not crossed the finish line.

With that knowledge in hand, they nurture a relationship with the student that best serves the needs of the individual. They stay in touch, remain accessible, ask questions and have meaningful conversations throughout the entire admissions process. They make the student feel wanted, important, and engaged with the college. And, they don’t get unpleasantly surprised in August when the student vanishes.

NEWS: Longmire and Company’s just-announced national co-sponsored higher education study has been launched to explore – in depth – the topic of emotional motivators in college selection.

Unlike any other higher education research to-date, “Emotional Motivators: How to increase and control your enrollment by getting a deep and accurate understanding of how students really feel about your college,” will explore how students feel and, more importantly, Emotion study boxuncover why they feel that way, to give you a deeper understanding of the students you’re trying to recruit. The actionable insight yielded by this study will give you greater control over your conversations with prospective students, better ability to craft sharper mass marketing messages, and more direction to design highly productive campus visit experiences.

We hope you will join a prestigious list of co-sponsoring colleges and universities, large and small, and participate in this study. Co-sponsors find our studies valuable because of the wealth of new insight they gain about their individual pools of prospective students – insight they can use to drive action and change.

Colleges are signing up now so we encourage you to contact us soon if you are thinking about participating. CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE INFORMATION.

Continue the conversation on Twitter @LongmireCo. For more information about Longmire and Company’s Interactive Counselor Training Program, click here. Be sure to Subscribe to Versions of Conversion today so you don’t miss any of this highly-valuable information.

RickMontgomery_100x100Rick Montgomery is as an Enrollment Strategist at Longmire and Company. With over 20 years in higher education marketing, he brings an innovative and dynamic approach to helping colleges and universities meet their enrollment goals. Rick can be reached at 913/492.1265 x.708 or via email at rmontgomery@longmire-co.com.

Understanding How A Student’s Emotions Drive College Selection

April 25th, 2017 by Bob Longmire

Facts_Tell_520x272When prospective students are searching for a college they have a lot of questions. They need information. They need to know about programs, costs, opportunities and time frames. They seek facts.

Prospective students need facts but their college selection decision is most often going to hinge on how they feel about their chosen college – and those they rejected.

Most colleges know this. They experience it in every recruiting cycle. They hear students say, “I enrolled here because it felt like home.” Or, “I loved the campus atmosphere.” Or, “I felt like I belong here.

Here’s what colleges DON’T know: Exactly what makes a campus feel like home? What makes for a great campus atmosphere? What makes students feel like they belong? What triggers a student to declare that this college, above all others, is the right fit?

Longmire and Company’s just-announced national co-sponsored higher education study has been launched to explore – in depth – the topic of emotional motivators in college selection.

Colleges know that these emotional motivators exist. They just don’t have clear and precise data about what makes students feel a particular way and the relative impact those feelings have on enrollment decisions. We will be taking a deep dive into this topic in our latest co-sponsored study, “Emotional Motivators: How to increase and control your enrollment by getting a deep and accurate understanding of how students really feel about your college.”

This groundbreaking study will explore how students feel and, more importantly, uncover why they feel that way, to give you a deeper understanding of the students you’re trying to recruit. The actionable insight yielded by this study will give you greater control over your conversations with prospective students, better ability to craft sharper mass marketing messages, and more direction to design highly productive campus visit experiences. Unlike any other higher education research to-date, Emotional Motivators will explore the emotions and perceptions that factor into the college selection process. This study, like our previous co-sponsored studies, will provide you with actionable information you can use immediately and effectively.

We hope you will join a prestigious list of co-sponsoring colleges and universities, large and small, and participate in this study. Co-sponsors find our studies valuable because of the wealth of new insight they gain about their individual pools of prospective students – insight they can use to drive action and change.

As a co-sponsor you receive a comprehensive set of tabulations relating to your pool of students, as well comparative data of others in your cohort and other market segments. You’ll also receive the national summary report before its widespread release.

In addition, Longmire and Company Enrollment Strategists will prepare and deliver a fully-customized webinar to review your individual findings and offer recommendations for specific actions you can take to improve your communications, conversations and interactions with prospective students. For these webinars co-sponsors often assemble staff from admissions, marketing, financial aid and faculty to benefit from the new perspectives, ideas and actions that these studies yield.

We have been told many times by colleges that the webinar alone is worth the small cost of getting on board!

What You’ll Learn From This Study:

  • Are student feelings about you in line with what you want them to be?Emotion study box
  • Positive and negative feelings students have about a wide variety of attributes and characteristics of your college.
  • Positive and negative feelings of other colleges they’ve considered.
  • The relative influence of student feelings in college selection.
  • How admission counselors can effectively uncover and respond to the feelings of prospective students.
  • How prospective student feelings can be captured and categorized for use in mass communications.
  • How to have richer, more productive conversations that will lead to enrollment.

It can be very expensive for an individual college or university to do the scope of research needed to get the answers and insight we get. But by co-sponsoring with other institutions you get the best of both worlds: Data and insight about your pool of prospective students coupled with a national picture, resulting in a very comprehensive study for a fraction of what it would cost to do it on your own. These studies are affordable at just $2,975 (all inclusive) per institution.

I hope you’ll join in and be a part of this important new study. You’ll be glad you did.

For more information or to reserve your participation in this study, contact Rick Montgomery (913) 492-1265 ext. 708 or (rmontgomery@longmire-co.com), Nick King (913)492-1265 ext. 711(nking@longmire-co.com), or me at (913) 492-1265 ext. 709 (blongmire@longmire-co.com). Colleges are signing up now so we encourage you to contact us soon if you are thinking about participating. CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE INFORMATION.

Continue the conversation on Twitter @LongmireCo. Be sure to Subscribe to Versions of Conversion today so you don’t miss any of this highly-valuable information.

RHL_Photo_100x100Bob Longmire is President of Longmire and Company, Inc. He is a recognized expert on the topic of how prospective students and parents form their college selection decisions – and how colleges can use that knowledge to grow and control their enrollment. He can be reached at (913) 492-1265, ext 709 or at blongmire@longmire-co.com. Connect with Bob at Linkedin/in/boblongmire.