Three Communications Pitfalls that College Recruiters Should Avoid
Happy 2013! This is a big year for our Lipman Hearne Student Panelists, who are graduating high school in a few months and heading to college in the fall. We’ve had some insightful conversations with our high-achieving panelists recently about which factors make the difference in their college search decisions, including this past November in New Orleans at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. Four of our panelists joined us in a session to speak candidly about their college search, and they definitely didn’t hold back in front of our audience!
Even outside of our session at AMA, the time spent in New Orleans with our panelists gave us significant understanding into the factors that affect their search. During these conversations, we learned there are a few ways institutions communicate with prospective students that don’t resonate with them. Here are three general communications pitfalls that could stop our panelists from choosing your school.
- Acknowledge how far prospective students have already come. While our panelists acknowledge that college offers them the opportunity to mature, they already feel they’ve grown significantly by recognizing the seriousness of college and navigating the application process. As one student noted, “One of the biggest surprises [has been] how much you learn about yourself while trying to pick a college.” These findings suggest that an effective way to communicate with prospective students may be to not only recognize the development they’ll gain in college, but to also acknowledge the personal growth they’ve already experienced as a result of their college search process.
- Remember to recognize the role students play in their own happiness and success. As our panelists grow and learn throughout their college search, many are aware that their happiness in college rests on their own shoulders. Our panelists increasingly note that success in college is their own responsibilit. As a result, some are convinced they can succeed anywhere, and that there may not be just one perfect school for them. As one panelist noted, “I can learn, I can meet new people, and I can study abroad at any college. All colleges give you the same basic tools, but it is up to the individual to take advantage of them.” An institution may not want to emphasize itself as the sole creator of happiness and success for its students; instead, speaking to the active role students have in their own achievements may be more appealing.
- Don’t rely on scripted, disingenuous communications. Our panelists can easily spot overly scripted videos or pamphlets, and they are instantly turned off by communications that feel inauthentic. They prefer candid communications; for example, one panelist noted: “Prospective students love to see truth. We don’t want to hear over and over how great your engineering program is because there are a lot to choose from… I would love to see [a student] sitting in his nice dorm, if it’s nice, telling the ups and the downs of the school. I would love to see a natural conversation.”
— Samantha Hacker, Research Associate