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.

Out-of-the-Box Recruitment

Soon, your Fall 2017 class will be moved in and settling into your campus (their new homes). You’ll be giving your team a pat on the back for a job well done just before diving headfirst into the next recruitment cycle and starting all over again. The countless hours spent between travel and file review add up, yet somehow there’s still a margin that leaves you sweating and wondering if you’ll make the goal or set a record-breaking year. The pressure is on!

We’ve got some fun and out-of-the-box ideas to expand your recruitment toolbox and personalize your outreach to incoming students, using your best assets for your benefit.

Engage students, alumni, and counselors with these 6 simple ideas that will make you and your institution top of mind.

Start Younger

Did you know that many universities around the country are already reaching out to junior and even sophomore students? Which means if you’re waiting until a student’s senior year to start reaching out, you’re way behind.

That may not worry you if your inquiry pool is large enough and you’re feeling good about your goals, but if not, Search can be a huge asset to your team. Buying lists that fit within your target markets, creating engaging content, and reaching out to junior and sophomore students is a great way to stay ahead of the curve.

Keep It Comfortable and Casual

Host events in areas with a large population or with feeder schools of your incoming class. Consider hosting a two-hour come-and-go coffee night where families can swing by and ask questions or a sit-down dinner at a local restaurant. Feeling comfortable with you and the environment is a significant factor for them. Keeping it casual makes it easier for them to ask questions and get to know you, so don’t be afraid to meet them where they are.

Another option to connect is to host alumni events or mixers in the area. Whether that’s a sporting event of some sort or a party before fall orientation to send off students, engaging your alumni brings that personalized touch to life. Remember alumni are your biggest advocates!

Take Care of Your Counselors

We’ve heard of admission counselors taking students treats when they come for a visit at their high school. One of our team members noted that when she was in admissions, she applied that strategy to the high school counselors and teachers who had let her present in her region. Needless to say, they never turned down an offer for her to stop by and visit!

Students Love Swag

Even though not all conferences allow giveaways, don’t miss the chance to attract students to you during lunch visits or after presenting at a high school or college. Don’t forget to encourage social media engagement using their newly attained swag.  Giveaways not only go a long way to attract attention, but are also great for brand recognition and become free marketing as the students proudly wear, display or post them.

Engage Their Parents

Millennials had helicopter parents, Gen Z have lawn mower parents – they’re flat out paving the way (or so we hear). Parents are more involved in the admission process than ever before. Some counselors even report hosting full families with grandparents on campus visits because as they say “it takes a village”. So, while it’s great to target the student, don’t forget to show some love to the parents through outreach.

Host Lunch and Learns

As we know, the landscape of admission is changing. While the majority of schools are still appealing mostly to the traditional student, the non-traditional population is an increasing market. Try reaching out to local businesses or alumni around the area to host a lunch and learn. Have guests RSVP in advance and provide food (sandwich boxes are easy and affordable). Use the hour to talk about programs relevant to their field and experiences. Tip: they likely have students who will soon be searching for a college too, so it’s a win, win.

Don’t get left behind, have fun while engaging students, alumni, counselors, and your community in new ways. Fall travel season will be here before you know it and there will be a whole new cycle to test out these methods on. Remember to think outside the box, explore new opportunities to meet those around you where they are, and don’t forget to let your best resources help you.

Please contact TWG Plus for more tips on successful recruiting, and other ways we can help you hit your enrollment goals.