Bring Your A-Game on the Road

One thing that comes with Fall – aside from pumpkin-spiced everything – is traveling to college fairs and attending conventions.  This can be a demanding environment for even the most skilled counselor: long hours on your feet, moving pubs around, and gauging a slew of interest levels, not to mention personalities, on the spot.

Here are some tips to help you take control of stressors that can have a crippling domino effect on you and your career while setting you up for success to shine with any prospect.

24 Hours Pre-Event

Human performance is affected by two dominant items in our control: hydration and sleep.

Hydration

Did you know temperature control units dehydrate you?  Having the luxury of air conditioning or heating depletes our bodies of their resources just by being inside.  Now picture what you should prep your body for the next day. Bigger spaces such as convention centers or high schools blast cold or hot air to keep temperatures comfortable.  That means you need to think about what you put in your body the day before.

Get your hydration on by making a few changes the day before:

  • Cut back on the caffeine – a little goes a long way.  For every cup of coffee or caffeinated soda, you should drink two 8 oz cups of water.
  • Up your water intake by 50% –  Preferably you want to double your usual water intake the day before, but that can be challenging.  Upping your intake by a couple more bottles of water can really pay off and give you an energy boost the next day.

Sleep

Sleep is a key indicator of how you will perform the next day, so make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep.

Here are some tips to ensure a good night’s sleep:

  • No screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime
  • Limit as much light as possible in your bedroom (either natural or artificial light from electronics)
  • Soften lighting during dinner time to signal your body to start winding down
  • Don’t look at your clock
  • Avoid napping throughout the day
  • Stop caffeine intake at 2pm to aid a good night’s sleep

During the Event

You’ve done your pre-event work by hydrating and resting; now it’s game time.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Mentally prepare a plan to continue to take care of your mind and body throughout the day:

  • Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your event to give yourself plenty of time to set up and run through your key talking points.
  • Make sure you bring:
    • Healthy snacks
    • Two pairs of comfortable shoes (ladies avoid heels)
    • A bottle of water you can refill throughout the day
    • Cash in small bills for parking and food just in case
  • Plan at least two 10 minute breaks every 45-60 minutes during setup time.
    • Tip: review the event program or venue schedule – when are program times that will leave the vendor hall empty or when are students in class?
    • You’re going to be surrounded by stimuli that will drain your brain’s energy levels. It’s important to step away either to a restroom, out in the hall, or even better outside for a breather.

Remember those extra pair of shoes we recommended you bring? Switch out your shoes about halfway through the event to avoid foot and leg pain. Make sure you’re working in some easy stretches such as rolling your ankles, neck, and wrists when the vendor space clears out. Encouraging blood flow throughout your body is key to helping you think on your toes… literally.

Don’t forget to eat and hydrate. Sometimes it can be difficult to get a proper meal, but you can set a goal for yourself to eat a snack every hour or two if that’s the case, as well as how many bottles of water you’re going to drink. This goal is especially important to set and stick to if you have a multi-day event.

Good luck out there road warriors!

Don’t Have a Meltdown! Understanding Summer Melt and How to Fight It

May 1st has come and gone, and college recruiters are now turning their attention to the dreaded phenomenon known as ‘Summer Melt.’ Here are a few facts and takeaways to help you prepare for (and reduce) melt for your incoming fall class.

How do you rank?

Although summer melt rates fluctuate from year to year, we find that our partner institutions experience melt as low as 5% and as high as 30%, depending on the institution’s student body and financial requirements.

What are your primary predictors?

While there are many reasons, here are the primary factors for melt this year that we’re seeing:

  • Affordability: Students struggle with finding additional sources of financial assistance, securing loans, and often don’t reach out to the institution for help or don’t know how.
  • Safety: Students often experience anxiety – the fear of being away from home, making new friends, and facing new experiences.
  • Diversity: (Or lack thereof) Students may not perceive that they fit in with a particular institution.
  • Barriers to information: Students may struggle with completing college registration forms, making housing decisions and registering for orientation programs. This could be a particular issue for first-gen students, where the parents themselves may also lack information and not know about resources available to assist them.
  • Second choice: When students are removed from a waitlist they often will decide to attend their first choice school and forfeit their deposit or other commitment to attend their second choice school.

What your top strategies for preventing melt?

The goal of an anti-melt campaign is to make the individual student want to attend one particular school to which they have made a commitment more than any other school to which they have also committed (deposit or otherwise).

  • Offer ways to connect with students on a personal level, letting them know they are wanted and already a part of the community. For example, offer students a discount at the bookstore to purchase their very first piece of spirit-wear so they feel invested in the brand.
  • Take the time between making a deposit and enrolling in classes to learn more about that specific student, engaging them in online with personality and interest surveys.
  • Send a newsletter to parents and students to keep them apprised of what is going on at your institution in the spring and summer months. Who is your commencement speaker? What new internships are you offering, what are your current students planning for the summer?
  • Leverage social media channels with informal invitations and posts.
  • Engage students online by encouraging them to post photos from their summer life. It is essential to connect with students starting June through August, showing them what you can do together can’t happen anywhere else. Create an exclusive relationship.

What are you doing differently from prior years, or different from other institutions?

  • From a marketing perspective, create content that is authentic.  An example would be student ambassador-made videos/ social media vs hiring professionals.
  • Put less emphasis on National Decision Day, and more emphasis on individuals to help students find the institution that is the right fit for them, and why. Personalization is key.
  • Focus on financial resources and ways to reduce debt.
  • Make every effort to stay connected throughout the summer.
  • Students who decide to attend your institution expect to be in constant communication. At this stage, they welcome calls, emails, and text.

Summer melt can be stressful, so remember to keep your cool! Treat your incoming class like family and continue to remind each student that they are a valued new member of your campus community. At TWG Plus, we know the benefit of establishing a personalized, one-to-one connection with each student. Ask us how we can customize an anti-melt plan for your institution!

Focus Your Search: A Guide to List Buying

With tight budgets and increasing goals, searching for the right students can often seem like an uphill battle. You know you should purchase a list, but where do you start, and how do you narrow down your options? We’ve put together a list of concerns you may have, to help focus your search efforts.

Geography: Before buying all names in your state, consider your past enrollment data. What zip codes yielded actual enrolled students? Start your marketing efforts there.

Feeder Schools: What high schools have historically contributed to your incoming classes? Start with these in your buy and begin visiting them.

Score Ranges: What is your sweet spot in terms of score ranges, both for the SAT and ACTs? Start with a wide range of students that live close to your campus. The further away from campus you look for prospective students, the narrower the range of test scores should be.

Special Preferences: Consider your brand, your achievements, and your history. Does this appeal to a particular type of student?

Denominations or Religious Beliefs: On this topic, is your school a secular institution, or are denominational services part of your curriculum? Students who have expressed interest in a similar lifestyle are often a good fit.

Majors Preferences: When pushing a specific college, program or strength your school may hold, it is important to market to students who are also interested in that specific area of study- especially if those students will have to travel to visit you.

Extracurriculars: You may want to push enrollment to students who engaged in specific extracurricular activities. For instance, a religious university may want to designate ‘1 year of activity in a religious organization’. Other examples might include ecology and conservation, equestrian arts, worship and ministry, aviation, student government, or many others.

Athletics: If you’ve got a strong athletic program or you’ve recently started competing in a specific sport, it makes sense to search for prospective students who have also competed in, or would like to compete in that sport.

Alumni: Friends and family are your biggest proponents. Leverage that free marketing by identifying the purchased prospects who share a last name and address with alumni. We call it legacy matching!

Transfer students: Transfer students are often an untapped resource. Purchasing a list of ready-to-transfer students provides a unique cross-section of prospects that are most certainly going to transfer to a four-year university. While it is expensive, it may be your best resource.

In all your list buying and search efforts, research and discovery are key. Knowing where you’ve been, how you’ve historically performed, and who the “likely to enroll” prospects are, is vital to unlocking your prospects. Don’t be intimidated by the entire list buying and search process. Taking it one step at a time will get the job done, and TWG Plus is here to help. Reach out to us anytime to discuss how we can offer assistance, or even create a custom list purchase for you!

Donor Appreciation Season

‘Tis the season for giving! Gifts of time, talent and treasure are precious, and this time of year provides a great opportunity to recognize those who give back to your institution. We’ve assembled some of our favorite ways to say ‘Thank you’ to your donors- some of the most important people in your campus community.

‘Thank You’ cards written by students.
One of the easiest and most elegant ways to say thanks is with a handwritten note, particularly one written by someone who benefitted directly from that gift: a student. Make a practice of sending a handwritten thank you following each donation, and your institution will earn a well-deserved reputation for good manners and gratitude.

Donor appreciation garden.
Dedicate a space on campus and cultivate a beautiful garden in recognition of your donors. Your campus will benefit from the aesthetic, and donors will appreciate a living tribute to their generosity.

Unique campus art.
Your donors give because they love your institution. Thank them with a gift that will be close to their hearts. Commission an artistic image of the entire campus, your flagship building or a special campus location. Whether it is a rare aerial shot, a drawing, photograph or other rendering- create a numbered, limited edition print to send to donors to let them keep a little piece of campus at home.

Personalized ‘Thank You’ video.
Time to get creative and have a little fun! Create a personalized video that can be emailed to your donors. It’s a fun way to showcase your institution’s personality and keep your donors engaged.

Year-in-review piece.
Design a sophisticated publication depicting and describing the ways in which donations have benefitted your institution that year. This piece can be printed or digital (or better yet, both!). Include images of improvements, additions, and student groups who have been impacted to show your biggest fans that their donations have been put to great use.

Invitation for a VIP tour of campus.
Remind your donors that they are always welcome on campus. Encourage them to visit and offer a literal trip down memory lane with a tour designed just for them. Hosted by specially trained student ambassadors, the tour should focus on historical areas of campus, discuss updates and renovations, and include a commemorative photo at the donor appreciation garden (see above!).

Call!
Engage your students to call donors just to say thank you. A thank you call without a solicitation is a wonderful way for donors to feel connected. The opportunity to speak with a current student will give your donors a unique perspective of student life, and will help them to know that their gift has made an impact on a personal level.

Showcase your talent.
Utilize your campus music groups to record a nostalgia-inducing rendition of your alma mater or fight song! Send your donors a link for a digital download for a one-of-a-kind thank you they can add to their favorite playlists.

Whatever method you choose, just remember to always say thank you. A feeling of gratitude from your students, faculty, staff and administration goes a long way in making your donors feel special and appreciated. For more creative higher education marketing ideas, or help on any of the above, be sure to contact TWG Plus for a custom-designed solution to fit your needs.

Creating a Priceless Experience

At NACAC 2017 we asked the question: “If money were no object, what would you do to increase enrollment?” Multiple enrollment professionals said they would provide free campus visits to prospective students and families as their number one item.

It makes sense that so many would feel this way since the majority of students who visit campus eventually enroll (some universities we work with have cited up to 80 percent of prospects!) This means your odds greatly increase when a student steps foot on campus, meets the team, and gets familiar with the experience awaiting them at your institution.

Perhaps your budget is limited, and while you recognize the value of a great campus visit, planning a priceless experience seems nearly impossible. We’ve put together a checklist of items for your team to consider when planning an unforgettable visit.

Preparation

Weeks of planning and preparation go into pulling off a successful open house event, but some items might still be overlooked. Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure a memorable and smooth open house event:

Communication Flow: Do you have a fluid plan for reaching out to students to push registration and as a follow-up to registering for the event? Does your plan include information regarding the event schedule, lunch details, parking, etc.?

Minute by Minute: Does your team have an internal agenda that shows where each staff member will be throughout the event? This will help your team guide students to their counselors as needed and allow team members to fill in for a counselor who is busy helping a family. Open house events should feel like a well-oiled machine, but there are always unforeseen circumstances that can occur, and having a clear agenda for the whole team to be informed is in your best interest.

Registration Package: Do you send a package via email or mail that includes instructions on where to find the check-in table or reserved parking? We recommend considering this to alleviate stress and family feuds the morning of their arrival, which will help them start the day off right.

Drop-Ins: Of course we always hope to have students register in advance, but a student who makes the drive to campus and shows up the morning of the event still deserves to have a great experience.  Do you have a plan in place for students who show up the morning of the event without registering?

Signage

The best prep in the world will do no good if the student’s first experience on campus is frustrating, if they spend 20 minutes driving around trying to find parking or get lost on campus and have to rush to get to registration on time? Save your prospective student and family the trouble and have everything clearly marked for them.

Parking: Do you have reserved parking for prospective students and families? Is it free parking? Is it near registration or check-in? Has this information been communicated to them prior to the event? Are there arrows showing where to park once they arrive to campus?

Registration: Do you have check-in broken out by alphabetical order? Do you have signage indicating which segment of the alphabet can check in at each registration table? Does it indicate whether that’s by first or last name (while it may be obvious to us, students may get confused)? Clearly communicating the expectations for the morning will make for a smooth start and set the tone for an enjoyable day.

Buildings & Lunch: Do you have buildings clearly marked to help direct any stragglers who aren’t being led by an ambassador? Do ambassadors have different colored lanyards for groups to know how to break out, if applicable? Are there instructions provided on how to navigate the dining hall and where to take trash or return dishes? Again, make it as simple as possible to guide the prospective family through the day to ensure a wonderful experience. Things we take for granted can often feel overwhelming to a prospective student.

Atmosphere

What do students notice when they step foot on campus? Is it welcoming? Lively? Are people excited to meet them? Or is it awkwardly quiet and formal? Decide what tone you want to set for your target audience and work to set that atmosphere well.

Music: Having music playing, even rather softly, sets the mood. It also provides the opportunity to engage with others because it won’t feel as awkward to talk if the room isn’t silent.

Opening Assembly: This sets the mood for the day. Do you have skits and interactive pieces that engage the prospective student and get them talking with other families or picturing themselves as a student on your campus? Do you have the president greeting them? Start the day off with energy and excitement.

Ambassadors: Are your ambassadors well-trained? Are they engaging and relatable? Do they tell stories that share their experience and enable students to see their future with you? One of the worst pieces of feedback from a follow-up evaluation was about how awesome the day was, but that a student is no longer interested because of their experience with an ambassador. Screen and train your ambassadors well.

Success! Now What?

Your preview day was a smashing success, but now what? What do you do to keep those families engaged?

Follow Up:

How you follow up with students after a visit matters. Did you have a great discussion with the family over lunch? If so, make note of it on your list and include something from that discussion to personalize your follow-up.
Do you have any cool photo opportunities like a photo booth so you can send a photo in your follow-up email? Side note: It helps you recall who the student is later on (just be sure you make note of who’s who, or that could get awkward).

Evaluate:

Do you have a debriefing meeting on the calendar? You should be talking with your team about all aspects of the day to see what feedback they received and how to improve the flow of the day after every event.

How do you evaluate the student and family’s perspective? Do you ask them to complete a survey by the end of the day to be entered to win some swag? Do you send a link to a survey in a follow-up email? The best way to ensure you’re meeting the student’s needs and expectations is to ask for their feedback.

Personalization Is Key!

Determine your goals for the event and make sure your planning and atmosphere align with those goals. You don’t have to spend a small fortune or pull out all the stops for your guests. Providing them with a stress-free and enjoyable day on campus with smiles and a touch of personalization is enough to leave them with a positive feeling about their experience with your institution.