Render authenticity (Part 1)

be-authenticIt’s that time of year. The ball is no longer in your court. Your accepted students are in control and they decide which institution they attend next fall. It’s time for you to get real, ditch the script, and connect with your best-fit students.

Authenticity. It’s a topic mentioned both directly and indirectly in higher education circles and in articles talking about ways to get the most from your college visit experience. However, it isn’t always the easiest subject for campuses to wrap their head around, especially this time of year.

Admissions leadership is constantly forced into a corner, thinking “Ok, accepted student, I know you want to see what is real, but now you want us to roll out all the stops when you ask to speak with a faculty member, tour a residence hall, enjoy ‘chicken tender Thursday,’ and do your laundry in a washing machine on campus just to see what it is like.” Okay, maybe not the last one, but still, you understand the point.

Families know that they are in the driver’s seat and that colleges are going to great lengths to enroll students. How can you remain real as you try to meet their needs?

At what point do you have to realize that it is time to give up the “canned speech” as Donna Krache calls it in her CNN blog article titled, “How to get the most out of your campus visit?” Donna encourages families to “ask questions that can’t be answered by canned responses” in order to get answers that render the authentic and real side of the student experience.

I couldn’t agree with this advice more.

Jeff Kallay, TargetX VP of Consulting, and I constantly find ourselves on tour with families just looking at each other in amazement at the questions families ask that prove they have done little to no research on the institution. We stand there just wishing families would ask questions that truly matter to the student experience rather than asking if the school has their son’s or daughter’s intended major. Really? You didn’t find that out before you registered for a visit?

Sometimes a campus’s enemy to authenticity is their own audience. How can you be authentic if families don’t give you the chance? If they don’t ask those questions that let you get beyond the surface details?

The answer? Your campus tour. You provide them with “real” before they get the chance to ask whether or not it is. You empower your student guides to talk about what their experience on campus is like, to tell their stories, to talk about their conflicts and resolutions, their coming of age moments, and their memories.

Read “How to get the most out of your college visit: CNN School for Thought”

Next week: Read Part 2 of Emily’s advice on rendering authenticity.

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