The Biggest Blunders Universities Make When Talking to Students

Not sure what your new university representatives are doing wrong when they’re communicating with students? Here’s a few things they’ll want to avoid.

A university’s admissions office talks to a dizzying array of students each week, so it can be hard to pinpoint when you’ve made a mistake, particularly when you’re new to the admissions office.

If you’re not trained to handle queries and alleviate concerns or you’re undertaking training now, communicating effectively with students on a one-on-one basis can be tricky.

Our QS Enrolment Solutions team is trained to deal with these issues and has a handy list of absolute don’ts for any new staff in the admissions office.

Making promises you can’t keep

The admissions process is a highly stressful and emotional journey for many students, so they don’t need false hope or unfulfilled promises.

Don’t promise or imply that they’ll be accepted.

Don’t promise that they’ll get a scholarship.

Don’t promise that they’ll hear back quickly.

Manage expectations and be a source for advice and support, not false promises.

Not being upfront

It’s clear that honesty is key when building these relationships with prospective students. Students want to trust and respect your advice and feel that they’re in safe hands.

To achieve this, you must be honest and upfront with students, not too lenient or kind to spare their feelings.

For example, if a student applying for a master’s degree isn’t likely to be accepted due to a lack of work experience, limited English proficiency, and no bachelor’s degree to their name then it’s better to be upfront with them before they apply.

Not replying in a timely fashion

Speed of response is a crucial component of any communication between an admissions office and a prospective student.

In our 2019 International Student Survey, respondents revealed that they perceived universities with faster response times more favorably with 77% stating that a quicker response time would suggest that a university was efficient at processing applications.

Whether it’s communicating that they’ve been accepted or simply answering a question about on-campus accommodation, you need to ensure that responses are timely and relevant.

Not knowing what you’re talking about

Students can quickly sniff out an admissions office representative that doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Projecting confidence, quickly identifying and sharing information, and expressing passion in your area of expertise are all ways to demonstrate your aptitude and your university’s professionalism.

Every student wants to feel confident that their university will be a good fit, so if they sense that you don’t know what you’re talking about then that erodes their confidence in both you and the university.

Providing incorrect information

This is an obvious one, but it must be said. Providing incorrect or misleading information to students is a huge don’t.

Particularly if a student is in the final stages of an application, inaccurate information could be extremely damaging, souring their relationship with your university and potentially causing you to lose a prospective student.

Making basic mistakes

As a representative of your university, your mistakes reflect negatively on your institution.

If you make basic spelling and grammar mistakes in your emails or communications with students, then this can influence a student’s perception of your university.

Maintain your professionalism and attention to detail throughout any communications with students to avoid this misstep.

Students use these communications to not only get a sense of your professionalism but also the level of teaching quality that they could receive, something as simple as a spelling mistake could be a big turn off for a student when choosing a university.

Overcomplicating things

Here at QS, we use the classic anagram, KISS, keep it simple stupid.

It’s crucial that you keep all communications short and simple, the admissions process is stressful enough as it is!

This is particularly important when communicating with prospective students who speak English as a second language, as the last thing they’ll want to read is a dissertation-style email.

Using stock responses

Are you currently relying on a range of stock responses that you can just copy and paste into an email?

While this may save time and energy, it can feel impersonal for prospective students.

Students want to feel like they’re a priority for your university, so try and stray from the script and provide personal, individual responses to students.

Losing focus

This attention to detail should also be upheld in your conversations with students.

Pay attention to what they’re saying and don’t ask the same questions repeatedly. Focus on the information they need at that time, listen to their concerns, and try to understand where they’re coming from.

Having said that, it’s hard to individually connect with prospective students when you have so much on your plate. Use these blunders as a guide and don’t be afraid to reach out for help or support.

If you’d like to learn more about how your university can better communicate with students, contact our QS Enrolment Solutions team today.


About the Author:

As the B2B Content Marketing Manager, Sarah Linney is responsible for communicating the insights, research, and market analysis that have positioned QS as a thought leader in the higher education sector. After completing a Communications-Journalism degree at Charles Sturt University in Australia, Sarah worked in radio news and B2B print publishing before joining the content marketing sector. While working at a content marketing agency, Sarah was transferred to their New York office. She then led content marketing efforts at two tech startups in New York as a Content Manager before deciding to make the move to the UK and QS. 

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