A Road Warrior’s Guide to Engaging Students

Fall travel season will be here soon! You’ve barely finished recruiting the 2017 class and instead of catching your breath, you’re caught in the busyness of gearing up for travel season and the next cycle. The seemingly endless hours spent on the road traveling from visit to visit; engaging parents, students, alumni, and counselors about your institution; long nights entering data and catching up on emails; lots of sandwiches; and extreme amounts of hand sanitizer. But despite the long hours and exhaustion, you know the conversation with any given student could be the one that makes their decision and that makes it worth every long hour.

We’ve pulled together a list of five tips for engaging students on the road. Some tips come from admission teams around the country and others come from our very own team’s prior experience in admissions.

1. Interaction is key

You’re exhausted and another student just walked up to your table, pointed, and asked the dreaded question “what’s this?” Mentally you’re responding with “a university, duh, can’t you read?” But instead, you smile and kindly respond with an explanation of what your college or university is about. You know the variety of dreaded topics we’re talking about: sports, majors, inappropriate or just plain awkward questions. But what some counselors fail to realize is that your attitude may be the only impression a student has of your institution. Plus, other students may be watching to see if they want to approach and learn more about you.  Be kind.

2. Gen Z is all about personalization

This generation has been marketed to their whole lives, and they’re not interested your sales pitch. Most don’t want to walk up to your table to be asked “do you have any questions?” You should engage them. “What are you interested in? What are your long-term goals? What do you enjoy doing in your free time?” Then personalize your response to what they’re interested in knowing about your campus. It takes the pressure off them and makes it feel more like friends getting to know one another. You’ll notice they stay longer and are more willing to fill out an inquiry card or give you their barcode to scan.

To take that a step further, a handshake goes a long way. Let them know you’re willing to reach across the table and view them as another person, not a sale.

3. Meet your students where they are

On social media! Have a solid communication flow of how you’re going to let students know you’re in their area. Make phone calls or send texts to your inquiry pool letting them know what day you’ll be at their high school. Schedule events at a local coffee shop to hang out with students who have applied. Make an effort to let them know in advance you’ll be visiting near them.

Don’t forget to use Snapchat. That’s where Gen Z is hanging out the most right now. A social media presence is huge, and a company like TWG Plus can help with your image.

4. Take care of your counselors and alumni

These two groups of people are your biggest assets when it comes to getting in front of students. As they share their encounters and experiences with students, you want to be sure that relationship is well nurtured. One of our team members at TWG Plus told a story about how she used to take a tea – “Route 44, unsweet, with two Splenda” as she recalls the story- to an alumna teacher at a school on the way home to visit her parents. She said, to this day she still gets a thanks when they run into one another at homecoming or campus events. That teacher brought groups of students to visit and was her biggest advocate, and the school became one of the top feeder schools in her region, and it all started with going a step further.  Take care of those who interact with future students.

5. Don’t forget to rock your pubs

We know personal interactions with people do the most for your image – especially for smaller schools – but don’t forget that your display also takes effort. Your travel piece, table top banners, and other pieces are all part of your story and they will or will not continue to engage the student and their parents after their encounter with you. Give them materials that are informative and stand out. If you’re needing a refresh, a marketing agency that specializes in Higher Ed publications, such as TWG Plus can help.