Key Questions to Engage Prospective Students

hallway

 

A simple shift in perspective can transform dialogue and engagement

 

Today I got to shake hands with over 300 students. No, it wasn’t convocation – it was kind of the opposite of convocation. It was…the annual College Information Fair.

That’s when hundreds of (mostly) high school students pour into a massive convention centre by the busload, and let loose on aisles of kiosks and pavilions, each promoting specific academic institutions and programs. Some students were 100% clear about their post-secondary journeys, some expressed uncertainty about which school to attend. Others candidly acknowledged that they didn’t have a glimmer of an idea about where they wanted to head after high school. Some were leaning toward a program that wasn’t going to get them to their ultimate career destination, and many were just there to hang out with friends and pick up some free swag.

Last year I approached my role with the primary objective of offering information about the academic programs that I administer. This year, I decided to try a slightly different approach, more in line with motivational interviewing, where the goal is to evoke versus educate. In other words, instead of asking potential students “How can I help you?” / “What would you like to know?”, I opened the conversation with a couple of questions designed to briefly elicit each person’s “big picture” goals before honing in on the specifics of a particular program of study.

Instead of… I asked…
How can I help you? What programs are you interested in?
What would you like to know about Program X? What made you decide that you’re interested in Program X?
What other questions can I help with? Where do you see yourself in terms of your ultimate goal or career?
Here’s some additional information… Can I share how Program X (and/or Y and/or Z) might fit with your goals?

The results were amazing. Because many teenagers aren’t the most voluble conversationalists, our interactions were brief but much more meaningful than the conversations that I held last year. Students were engaged, they felt heard and affirmed, and for many who were unsure about their future, a couple of follow-up questions (“What kinds of courses in high school captured your interest most?” “If you could have any job, what would it be?”) helped them to clarify some possible directions. I also heard some amazing stories and made deeper connections.

And from a purely selfish perspective, at the end of the day I too felt energized. I felt like I contributed more than what’s written in the academic calendar!

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: