Texting Is a Trigger Word: 5 Key Insights from College Fairs

The Uversity team went to Denver, Colorado to conduct research at a local high school college fair, the National NACAC College Fair and three high school visits. Here are our key takeaways.

Spoiler Alert: If you have ever gone on the road to recruit high school students, you will be nodding your head.

  1. Presentation and Personality Matter: Time and time again, students described what a huge impact a ten minute presentation made on their college search. The energy and charisma can easily make or break whether you get added to the list of a high school junior. Students wanted “more than just website info.” Hearing authentic stories about the school left an impression: the Taco Bell burrito invented by a recent graduate, the slip n’ slide party that occurs every semester as you point to the lawn on the front page of your brochure and how every local restaurant has your logo waving outside. If you’re lethargic with your pitch, according to one group of students, “you’re off the list.”
  2. Texting is a Trigger Word: As high school students and parents walk away from a booth, the question becomes – what’s next? If it was up to the kids, it wouldn’t be texting. At the NACAC College Fair, that term was immediately met with statements such as “invasive,” “crossing the lines,” and “spammy.” One high school junior was the President of her class and helped organize the event. She went so far as to say, “I would think less of the institution – it’s too casual and not what I want from a college!”unnamed-1
  3. Give them what they want: Personal, timely, and mobile!: While students clearly do not want texting, mobile apps with relevant content that was personally sent from the recruiter that they met in-person would be more than welcome. The college admissions process is daunting and often different for each school. Getting information about open houses, scholarship applications and other deadlines can help students keep track while keeping in touch with the person that matters to them – the recruiter that they trust.
  4.  Balancing Act for College Recruiters: One thing is for sure – recruiting new students across the country is a very demanding role. The busy travel schedule coupled with the requirement to be on your A game is quite a challenge. We learned that while you’re helping students “window shop,” recruiters are often managing seniors with emails and phone calls who are completing the final, and sometimes most important steps in the application process. This juggling act is a tough one and there’s certainly room to improve the experience.
  5. “They don’t want me and they all sound the same!”: Students want personal and timely information because right now their physical and digital mailboxes are full. In fact, they aren’t just full but according to many students, they are largely ignored after the first few come through. Alternative mediums were encouraged by one high school junior, “Oh gosh I’d love a message from the counselor I met – she was so helpful and passionate.” After dozens of conversations, it seems like personal communication with a focus on the relationship between a college counselor and student is a much better experience for both parties.

We’re looking forward to attending more college fairs and high school visits over the coming weeks. One thing is for sure – personal relationships matter. We’re hoping technology can be a means to enable more of these relationships across the country and increasingly the world, as international students diversify enrollment.