Connecting with Advisors & Guidance Counselors
In an undergraduate environment, the guidance counselor is usually the gate keeper for information. Some counselors take the extra step to inform their student charges on the next step in their education after high school. That’s fantasy land. Most are overworked with too many students too keep up with in a thousand lifetimes.
If you are in a graduate environment, your target audience is specific advisors or faculty members at undergraduate institutions. Some schools have dedicated advisors, but often times these duties for advising students on their graduate school options is relegated to a faculty member already saddled with classroom and research priorities.
How can you drive through the clutter and get to the top of their list? Several ways:
I don’t mean lavish these overworked advisors with gold jewelry and chocolates (although I know they would appreciate it if you did). A simple acceptable gift may be a nice coffee mug, clock or a pen. Something that is useful, not just something that will be thrown in the corner and forgotten about. Of course, you have to make sure you are not violating any law by giving a gift, but I’ve never run into that problem throughout my career.
It is imperative to contact these gatekeepers often and establish a rapport with as many as possible. Take them out to lunch if possible or bring along a small snack when you show up for a meeting. Low cost can go a long way.
Invite these individuals to your campus. If they touch, taste and feel your campus, they are more likely to recommend your school (as long as you present yourself well!) Many schools offer this option and will pay some or all of the travel expense. Get this into your budget.
Find out their interests
Sales 101 is to find out the interests of your contact and find some common ground. It could be something very small. If you notice that this person has an interest in fishing, send over articles of interest on the subject every once in a while. Use your imagination and be observant.
Communicate with specific faculty
Unless a school has a policy not to contact the faculty, it is a great opportunity to make these individuals as you ally. At a former institution, we had dozens of articulation agreements around the country and in 95% of those we were able to briefly speak to classes. We were having difficulty in getting into classes with one or our partner institutions and I suggested to my recruiters that we nicely go around the gatekeeper and communicate directly to the faculty. They indicated that the faculty had no interest in having anyone speak in their classes, even for 5 minutes. One of the faculty members the recruiter contacted indicated that it was his birthday on the day she was to visit. She made sure he had something sweet for his birthday (complete with a candle). Do you think she got into his class? You bet.
Hand written notes
If you meet someone or have a great conversation with him or her on the phone, send a nice hand written note. Does it take longer? Yes. Is it effective? You better believe it. How do you react when you receive a hand written note? It’s nice to see it when someone takes the initiative to physically write out a note. Take the time and reap the rewards.
You want to endear yourself to the advisor, guidance counselor, faculty member, or other gatekeeper. Not in a deceptive way, but in a friendly way. Long-term success with a particular school often hinges on your relationship with the main influencer. Don’t neglect this part of the process.