35% of Prospect Student’s Can’t Do This ONE Thing

EDU Research Reveals Surprising Barrier to Enrollment

Dream Big.” “Reach for the Stars.” “If you believe it, you can achieve it.” These types of sayings feel omnipresent in career counseling offices, right up there with the frazzled kitten precariously dangled from a tree branch whose soft face and dark saucer eyes implore onlookers with the caption “hang in there.”

Kitten hangs from tree branch

Where did every guidance counselor get this poster?

Most people hear these platitudes about goal setting their whole lives, but far fewer are given the tools to follow through. What does it actually look like, in a practical sense, to pursue your goals? 

Enrollment Resources recently published findings from extensive EDU market research that included data from over 250,000 prospective career education students across North America and a surprising finding stood out:

When asked about goals for the future, 35.62% of prospective students surveyed selected the response “I want a better life for sure, I just have trouble imagining the details.”

How Thoughtful Admissions Practices Can Help Prospects Clarify Goals & Remove a Hidden Barrier to Enrollment

The application of practical goal setting is something many people are never taught. Those of us in EDU, especially those at private career colleges, are in a unique position to help prospective students break down the practical steps that can help them build a brighter future. A student may inquire about a particular program or know that they need some sort of professional skills in order to get ahead, but it’s not uncommon for them to struggle to imagine details beyond that. That’s where you come in.

Below are three steps to keep in mind when you help prospective students to imagine their potential future. 

#1. Break it Down: Practical, Achievable Steps
The gap from initial inquiry to new career can seem gargantuan when you don’t know the steps. It would be like trying to drive from L.A. to NYC without a road map, just two distant points with no clues of how to get from one to the other. If you had infinite time and resources that mapless road trip might be fun, but that’s not the case for our prospective students. As an Admissions professional, you can fill in that road map.

Much smaller than the gap between where a student is when they inquire and where they want to ultimately end up in their career is the gap between speaking with you and speaking with Financial Aid or other staff. That’s a manageable first step. What’s the next step in your enrollment process? And the step after that?

When you break down the enrollment, school and employment pursuit process into simple steps, you help prospective students gain an accessible road map to their future.

#2. Get Clarity: The Power of Specificity
Specifics take “pie in the sky” dreams and ground them in reality. It’s the difference between “I want a new car” and “I want a gently used 2012 Mazda3.” “I want to get married” and “I want to marry my best friend’s husband Todd.” Perhaps more relevant to our situation, it’s the difference between “I’d like to help people” and “I want to work as a patient care aide at the long-term care facility near my house.”

Thoughtful questions like “what motivated you to reach out today?” and “what makes you interested in this field?” not only help you get to know the prospect you’re speaking with, they help you to understand the prospect’s drive. This forms the foundation for the portrait of the prospect’s future you’re helping to build.

#3: Explain Potential Challenges
Have you ever hit the gym hard on January 1st only to fall off your “New Year New You” exercise regime weeks later? (No. Me Either :P). Often when we get off track from long-term goals it’s due to a failure to address potential challenges that may arise. Sometimes even just the fear of getting off track is enough to derail us.

As humans, we are motivated not only by achievement but by the anticipation of achievement. When you address potential obstacles, and help prospective students to visualize the ways they have within their means to overcome those difficulties, you go a long way to illustrating the way in which successful graduation and the pursuit of a rewarding career is within the prospects’ abilities to accomplish; this can provide incredible motivation.

TIP: Remember to Meet Prospects Where They Are
As an Admissions professional, it’s vital to remember what it was like to NOT know all the ins and outs of your school and things like education financing. Work from a place of empathy and remember that many prospects will be learning about career education for the first time.

In this role, you are uniquely qualified to provide clarity for prospective students about your school and their future. When you utilize goal-setting techniques you can help students to practically envision the steps along the way to their desired future and remove a sizable barrier to potential enrollment.

Want to see more from this in-depth research? Access the Hidden Motivations of Prospective Students report here.