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They Prefer Comfortable Conversations

They Prefer Comfortable Conversations

This piece follows “Five Barriers to Yield Improvement” and focuses on the second barrier.

Your admissions counselor wants to feel good about the work they do and that they are contributing to the ultimate goal.

Ironically, it is this drive that is preventing you from increasing yield.

When you have a conversation with a student who is skeptical about enrolling at your institution, is actively considering an alternative, and is asking many probing questions, you feel like there is a good chance the student doesn’t enroll.

When you have a conversation with a student who is all but decided about enrolling at your institution, views your institution as better than the alternative, and is mainly asking questions to reinforce your strengths, you leave feeling like there is a good chance the student does enroll.

So, naturally, admissions counselors are drawn toward the second conversation.  They’re comfortable, they’re easy, and they feel good.

However, it was the first type of conversation – the awkward, uncomfortable, challenging conversation that is actually improving your yield.  The student asking difficult, probing questions isn’t doing it to prove a point or to make you feel bad – they are doing it because they genuinely want the answers and to feel good about enrolling at your institution.

If your counselor doesn’t have the awkward conversation with them, one of two things will happen:

  • The other college they are considering will and have a better chance of enrolling that student
  • The other college also shies away from the awkward conversation, and both institutions are leaving it up to chance to see where the student lands

Of course, your counselor doesn’t know what type of student is waiting for them after their campus tour.  I’m not suggesting that counselors are bobbing and weaving out of these conversations – but their training, impulses, and personal biases guide them towards scheduling and engaging in more comfortable conversations than uncomfortable ones.

Think about it.  Who is more likely to schedule the visit to even have the individual post-tour meeting?  Who is more likely to answer the phone when they see your institution is calling?  Who is more likely to reply to an email asking a question?  Who is more likely to participate in a zoom event? 

Comfortable, comfortable, comfortable, and comfortable. 

At every turn, the infrastructure for how we do our work draws out comfortable conversations.

To improve the yield potential within your recruitment strategy, your counselors need to dig deeper into their applicant pool, be more intrusive with scheduling requests and initiating conversations, and look for opportunities to answer difficult questions from students.

The outcome range of your strategy is shrinking every day.  Having a comfortable conversation with an already persuaded student has minimal impact.  But each day, you miss an opportunity to hang on to a student who has yet to be persuaded is time lost that cannot be recovered.

Teege Mettille
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