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Pick up the phone… please! #emchat #admissions #highered

March 12, 2014

Maybe I am “old school,” but I still believe a telephone call is one of the most important communication methods for college admissions counselors. The give and take—relaying and gathering information—is unmatched and frequently mutually beneficial. However, it’s harder and harder to get students and parents to pick up the phone.

While this is not always the case and there are certainly surprising instances when people do answer (i.e. in a public restroom, at concerts, in class or at work), it’s become increasingly difficult to reach people by phone.

I get it. We have the technology and the inclination to screen calls.

I am guilty of it. I screen my calls at home. I have sympathy for families who are bombarded with calls—wanted and unwanted. I filter calls and answer only those from organizations or people I know or from whom I want to hear. Caller ID serves as my gate-keeper and enables me to spend time talking to the people and organizations that I want to talk to, while ignoring others.

I suspect this is the same behavior for students and parents who are overwhelmed with phone calls. But, to be honest, I am not sure that’s the case. I wish I could be certain.

Are students and families just too busy to take calls?

Is it just not the right time to answer a call?

Are our calls being ignored because of lack of interest?

Are students and families too timid to “break up” with us?

I suppose many families might wonder why we are calling? And that a good question. I like to think we are calling to relay or gather important information, rather than bug, harass or bother students. When we make a call or schedule a call it is usually with a clear purpose in mind.

For example, right now, we are making three very specific types of calls: 1. To inform a student that an element of his or her application is missing and we need it to complete a review and offer an admissions decision; 2. To determine if a student remains interested in Augustana; and, 3. To discuss the detail of their financial aid award letter and make sure the student and family understands every detail of the award they’ve received.

Each of these calls is designed to serve our students and provide timely decisions and communicate thoroughly. However, we can’t serve students and families in this way if they don’t answer the phone.

I plead with students to pick up the phone, especially this time of year. Pick up the phone and provide feedback—tell those colleges you are still interested in that you remain interested, and break up with the rest. Pick up the phone and communicate with us, even if it is to take the 20 seconds to say, “I am no longer interested in your college.” Don’t leave us trying to figure out if you are interested and playing hard to get, or if you’ve moved on.

I also plead with parents and partners—guidance and independent counselors—to join me in this plea to help stop the unnecessary calls and serve all of our interested students and families more effectively by eliminating the guesswork about who’s in and who’s out.

When the phone rings and it’s from a college, just think of it as a question—and answer it. 

W. Kent Barnds a.k.a. @bowtieadmission

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott Myers permalink
    March 12, 2014 11:03 am

    I feel your pain! I’ve left tons of voicemails this spring too. Quick questions: For the 3 types of calls, do your admissions counselors make each of those calls or do the financial aid folks make the FA calls, etc?

    • bowtieadmission permalink*
      March 12, 2014 11:10 am

      Scott. Thanks for the sympathies. We do have counselors make all of those calls, including the closing call to discuss and aid award. We do thorough training with the staff (led by our colleges in financial aid) and expect students to be called with 7 to 10 days of an aid award letter being mailed. I get a daily list, by counselor, notifying me how many closing calls each counselor has completed within their territory. We do have aid make some early calls to assess the effort, though.

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