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Through Another Lens: Your Prospective Student’s

There is a phenomenon called “Hamilton,” an original Broadway musical from a few years ago that is still selling out every show. Part of the attraction is that it is multicultural, with a multi-ethnic cast; the other is the contemporary style of music – all of which falls uniquely into a story set in in the early part of U.S. history around Alexander Hamilton. People are fascinated by seeing America’s history from a new perspective, delivered by way of a new American musical style.

The musical makes seeing and hearing a new perspective on an old story and art form fascinating. In the higher education marketplace, wouldn’t we serve our prospective students better if we could view our programs and processes through a newly imagined student lens? It is natural to see things from our own perspective, not so easy from someone else’s. So how do we view our programs and processes through a lens other than our own?

Begin by knowing your prospective student. Are we looking at this from the perspective of a current high school student? A 23-year-old with career aspirations that requires more than a high school diploma? A 36-year-old parent of young children with a full-time job? The more we can learn about the needs of the student segment, the better we can understand their perspective. Be careful not to make assumptions, or give anecdotal stories too much weight. Set up several focus groups for each segment, conduct a research survey, or do usability studies to get a sense of commonality.

The next step is to improve your product knowledge. Know inside and out the program or admissions process or whatever it is you have to communicate. Ask and answer:

  • How does this benefit the student?
  • What motivation does the prospect need to complete this task?
  • Why should they want this?
  • What are the outcomes/reward for them?
  • How will they feel successful?

Then map out your process for engaging students by segment. Maybe you want to map out the process of inquiry and application on the college website. What is intuitive and what is not, for your student? Based on the need of your segment, it may be important to be sure they know of scholarships, campus jobs, internships, or job opportunities off campus as they inquire or apply for admission. Another example is to map out the benefits of an academic program. How does this segment become engaged? Why should they want to study this subject area? What are the benefits to them? What outcomes are likely should they complete this program?

What we want to do is turn the conversation from, “What do we want them to do? What do we want them to know?” to “What motivates them? What do they feel is important to their decision?”

This change in perspective will not only make your programs and processes more desirable, but it also boosts your customer service. Basic principles of customer service include empathy, listening, caring, and success.

When people feel that the process or program meets their needs, they feel someone understands, cares, and when they see the outcome of success at the end, they are more likely to engage. At the same time, you are building loyalty through good customer service.

The next time you are looking at your recruitment of students, consider approaching the problem from the prospective student’s perspective. By listening, you will find solutions that are more satisfactory to your audience and more effective in achieving your enrollment goals.

To learn more about Paskill Stapleton & Lord’s Admissions & Marketing Assessment, visit psandl.com/assessments.

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Jeanne Gosselin,

Born and raised in the Northeast, Jeanne graduated with a B.A. from North Adams State College and an M.S.Ed. from Hofstra University. "The world of digital communication and social media gives us so much to work with when approaching prospects. The tricky part is finding a way to have real conversations."

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