Norton Norris Campus Marketing and Branding Schools since the late 1990s Thu, 18 Jan 2018 22:49:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Norton Norris 32 32 January Tales from the Trail: Defrosting Icy Admissions Interviews Thu, 18 Jan 2018 22:08:01 +0000 As we’ve watched the temperatures here in our beloved Chicago go from ridiculously frigid to reasonably frozen, we’ve seen plenty of representatives with demeanors just as chilly as our trademark wind! From snarky compliance answers to refusing to provide ANY information during phone interviews, we’ve seen a flurry of bad-mannered behavior.

We totally get it here at Norton Norris – when you’ve read through thousands of college evaluator reports, all of the interviews start to blend together! We can’t imagine what college reps go through when they meet with hundreds of potential students each month. All of the students’ questions must start to sound the same, to the point where you feel you can end their sentences before they’ve really asked anything.  But interrupting can break the conversation flow and cut off interesting student questions… and sometimes, the student just might be our evaluator!

I felt a bit rushed during our conversation, as Miranda did not wait for me to finish my thoughts and sentences before starting to answer them. She interrupted me several times.

George tried to pressure me to enroll for 13 minutes. He kept interrupting and explaining that I was starting the process so I could meet with Financial Aid to see if I was eligible for grants and loans. I told him I wanted to speak with my uncle first and he said my reasons didn’t make sense. He abruptly ended the conversation and hung up.

Another thing we can understand: when you have a lot going on at work, it can be so tempting to say, “That’s not my job!” We encourage representatives to keep in mind how prospective students may be weathering their college search, which can be tough when you’re trying to balance other responsibilities. Will students come back to a school with representatives who don’t want to do their jobs by introducing students to the departments with the answers they’re seeking?

I asked about the placement rate and whether students were usually hired after their externships. Courtney replied that it depended on student performance and openings. She informed me that keeping track of students getting hired wasn’t her department.

We’re not saying every student should be treated like the rays of sunshine that Chicago could use right now, but they should definitely take precedence over braiding hair or discussing the faculty pizza party that’s happening in 20 minutes!

When I completed the student information form and tried to return it to the receptionist, I stood at the counter as she was far across the area behind the desk, braiding the medical assistant instructor’s hair. She asked me if I was finished and said she would let my rep know. She did not return to the desk so I put the clipboard on the counter and went back to my seat. It took her another five minutes to get up and call anyone.

The receptionist took a personal call and discussed rental car arrangements for ten minutes. Instead of calling a rep to let them know I was waiting, she called a nearby pizza place and let the person on the line know that they were having a pizza party soon. She proceeded to order the different pizzas in front of me. I waited 35 minutes in total before she looked up and said, “Oh gosh, I forgot about you,” and called a representative to the lobby. She did not apologize and rolled her eyes as she spoke to the rep on the phone about me.

We are hoping that with incremental weather, representatives will go to work with sunnier dispositions!  Our evaluators are looking forward to their visits – will they be able to report sunshine and rainbows at all of the campuses they visit in February? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook how you plan to trickle good customer service and compliance on students this month! Please do not hesitate to reach out to our Assessment team for help from our covert operatives who can let you know how you can make sure to turn gloomy students into luminous enrollments today!

Why SEO Needs to be Part of the Digital Marketing Mix Thu, 14 Dec 2017 16:58:38 +0000 Search engine optimization. SEO. It’s important because it helps you make the most of your web presence by drawing more traffic to your website. SEO is paramount to the success of your digital marketing. You want your business to be one of the top search results when internet users enlist the help of search engines to find what they’re looking for and perhaps things they didn’t even know they needed.

Your business may already have a website and a certain degree of social media presence. But how do you know if it’s working the best it can? With Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), of course. But which one? Therein lies the problem. There are a great many, perhaps too many, metrics you can use to track the progress of your SEO efforts. So which way is the best way?

To figure that out the most effective way to monitor your SEO’s performance, you first need to take a few different questions into account:

  • Do you value SEO based on the keyword (KW) positions?
    • How do you determine the value of those KWs?
    • Is it based on what you would pay for it to be a PPC ad?
    • Would you even necessarily be paying that much for the PPC ad? Do PPC Ads necessarily even bring in the same audience as organic?
  • Do you value it based on how much organic traffic is coming to the website in total?
    • How do you determine if that organic traffic is relevant traffic?
    • What good is a million website views if you end up with the same amount of conversions as 1,000 targeted views?
  • Do you value it based on the number of conversions you see coming in as organic traffic?
    • Can you be certain that conversion came from your SEO efforts or did they stem from other marketing efforts?


To help answer some of these questions, we’ll provide some insight on SEO that might help you view your website and the value of SEO.

When you first launch your website it’s often like starting a business out in the middle of nowhere. The only people visiting your business are the people who are going out of their way to find it, either by typing your website URL in a browser or searching for the exact name of your business in hopes of finding it.

SEO is building paths and roads for people to easily pass by your business.

You begin to increase your search engine visibility by ranking for different keywords. As you build these keywords, you’re adding paths for people to start seeing your business. The more keywords you rank for, the more paths and roads there will be for people to take to find your business.

It is important to keep in mind that not all keywords are equal; some paths will be frequently traveled, while others will bring in only a few a visitors each month.

The other thing to keep in mind is that not all visitors are equal. Some have no interest in buying what you’re selling. Some are lost – not quite sure what they’re exactly searching for. Some visitors, however, know exactly what they’re looking for and they fully intend to spend money on your product or service.

Sometimes web surfers come across your website even if they were searching for something not quite related to your business. The lesser-used paths (the ones that bring in a few visitors to your site every month) result in unexpected visitors. This is precisely why you want to avoid writing off less popular keywords. They are what brought the added traffic to your site, which can lead to higher sales.

Implementing the right SEO efforts may result in thousands of paths leading to or near your business. With the right tactics you’ll not only have these paths in place but the right types of travelers: travelers who are interested in what you’re selling.

How do you determine those leads are coming in strictly through SEO efforts and not other forms of advertising? People could be searching for your site after hearing about it through referrals, TV ads, radio, or even a billboard. Obviously, SEO isn’t your only medium of advertising. Those other forms of advertising are also effective. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t be shelling out the money for them.

But how exactly do you calculate the value of SEO? As a marketing agency, determining the value of SEO is a conversation we have frequently.

There are far too many constantly changing variables to determine an exact dollar amount. Google, for example, utilizes more than 200 different ranking factors in their search engine algorithms. Instead, think of your website as a brick-and-mortar store, with SEO buildings roads for travelers to discover your business on the web.

While you’re building your roads, it’s still important to monitor your KW Positions and overall organic traffic as indicators of your SEO success.

It’s also worth noting that SEO applies not only to web searches using engines like Google but to social media and online stores as well. Users on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can search for content using keywords, hashtags (which also contain keywords) and specific names of businesses.

The number of social media users, both personal and business accounts, will only continue to increase, making social media platforms worth your time as far as SEO is concerned. Social media may not yield the number of conversions as your blog or website, but it does help generate sales. All sales are good sales, especially when most social media platforms are free to use.

Online shopping is more popular than ever, as people are more likely to make purchases through online businesses than to go to a physical store. With this fact in mind, it’s important for you to value your website as much as, if not more than, your physical location.

In both of these situations, it’s important to hone in on keywords to help potential customers find you. What’s one way for you to create the optimal online search presence for your business? If you don’t know much about the intricacies of SEO, there are plenty of skilled professionals who do. These knowledgeable individuals are SEO specialists.   

Having a good SEO specialist on your team can shape the world for your business. They will help place you as the first stop any relevant visitor will see. They’ll do this by compiling a list of keywords that will be put to use on your web pages, optimize them to most relevant pages and link support to ensure your website rises to the top of the SERP list. An expert SEO specialist can prove to be invaluable to the success of your business.

As businesses become increasingly digitized, SEO will continue to be one of the biggest factors in the success of your company’s digital marketing mix. No matter how you decide to use SEO to enhance your business’s digital marketing, it will undoubtedly improve your web traffic if implemented and measured in ways that are best for your business. Increased traffic can easily translate into higher conversion rates and ultimately a stronger bottom line for your business.

Digital Marketing Trends to Shake up 2018 Wed, 22 Nov 2017 18:00:18 +0000 A look at the digital marketing trends poised to shake things up in 2018

The one constant in life is change. It may be an old and somewhat overused cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

And in a world where marketing and marketing-related initiatives are being shaped by digital technology at a pace that couldn’t have been imagined even a decade ago, it’s more important than ever to understand what’s on that digital marketing horizon.

It’s no surprise that for institutions of higher education, marketing budgets remain tight. At the same time, it’s crucial to milk as many inquiries, applications, acceptances, deposits, and enrollments as possible out of every marketing dollar spent.

So as the end of 2017 nears and budget planning for 2018 moves ahead, here are some things to think about in terms of digital marketing trends and tactics that could impact your bottom line.

Talk to Us

We’ve all seen them. The quizzes, polls, and puzzles on Facebook and other social media platforms that will tell you which celebrity you were in a former life, or what European city is the best fit for you, or whether you’re in the top 1 percent of all humans who are able to see a particular shape in a picture first. It’s called interactive content, and it’s a great way of actively engaging readers or visitors to your website. Think about ways to incorporate interactive content into your digital marketing efforts, such as a personality quiz to determine the best healthcare career for you, or a survey about campus technology.

Mobile, Mobile, Mobile

There’s no denying it—the use of mobile technology continues to rise and it’s not going to change anytime soon. Couple that with the fact that everything is trending toward video, and it becomes clear that mobile video will continue to rise in popularity. In fact, many reports indicate that while video consumption on computers and laptops has started to decline, video views on phones and tablets will rise by 25 percent. So whether it’s a video about a particular academic program, learning facilities, student outcomes, or whatever, make sure it’s properly rendering on mobile devices. And if you’re not taking a “mobile first” approach to your digital content strategy, it’s time to start.

Stream It

As video continues its powerful presence across most social media platforms, expect more and more users to want, and in fact expect, live video content. Not only did video streaming constitute a solid majority of all internet traffic in 2017, studies show that viewers will watch live streams three times longer than pre-recorded video content. Look for events and activities around campus that would make for good live streams, like athletic events, social gatherings, extracurricular activities, visiting speakers, etc.

How Can We Help You?

Forging an immediate, personal connection with viewers and visitors to your website and social media channels should be a high priority in anyone’s strategic marketing plan. One way of doing just that is through artificial intelligence (AI) tools and chatbots. And all indications point to the use of this type of technology gaining steam. Chatbots are ways for a school or business to interact with visitors in real time, helping to personalize the experience of its interface, and direct them to information that’s most relevant to their needs right then and there. This technology is being used by schools currently; look for it to become even more present and to offer expanded capabilities.

If You Hack It, They Will Come

There’s a good chance your institution has already engaged in growth hacking, a digital marketing tactic that will continue to help organizations shape their online presence. One of the more common forms of growth hacking is search engine optimization (SEO), which is all about increasing the odds that someone who’s already expressed interest in your offerings will find his or her way to your digital interface. Other examples of growth hacking include offering incentives for someone to spread the word on your organization. Creativity is the name of the game in growth hacking, and that game is about increasing your brand awareness across a broader audience.

Get to the Point

This one isn’t necessarily limited to digital marketing, but it’s too important to ignore. There’s power in brevity, especially when it comes to your audiences and the amount of time they’re willing to devote to your messaging. When it comes to your mobile content—whether that’s website copy, photo captions, or videos—it’s crucial to keep it short.

October Tales from the Trail: Eclipsing Noncompliance Thu, 26 Oct 2017 18:35:40 +0000 Did you know that compliance best practices drop by 35% during a solar eclipse based on our studies?

Well, not really! But we sent out a staggering amount of exception reports this quarter, all of which just happened to align with the eclipse. From grumpy FA reps to overly aggressive admissions reps, everything was just a little bit crazier this quarter!

We all have our “off” days at work, no doubt — however, professionalism should still be key when dealing with potential students! We ran into this Grumpy FA Grinch who couldn’t sit still long enough to provide the most basic financial aid information, and an Admissions rep who made the situation worse by confronting the Grinch in front of the student.

Jack was slouched back in his seat and repeatedly readjusted himself, and his facial expressions made it seem like I was wasting his time before he rushed me out. When I returned to Mary, I told her that he wasn’t very helpful as he gave only short answers and provided no actual explanation of the financial aid process, so she left me in the hallway while she spoke with Jack, telling him that I felt uncomfortable with him, which made me even more uncomfortable. We both sat down with Jack again, and he confirmed that my financial aid would pay my tuition in full, although he had an aggravated look on his face.

How do your reps address uncomfortable moments that come up during a tour of the school? Like the Admissions rep above, do they just make the situation worse by engaging too aggressively with the source of the conflict? The rep below not only made our evaluator uncomfortable, but he also directly told a current student that he smelled! Did the eclipse make everyone lose all inhibitions?!

Michael gave me a quick tour of the school, which did not last long since it was late and the school was virtually empty. He took me into the nursing classroom and emphasized they use the latest technology. At one point on the tour, I noticed the smell of marijuana. Michael saw me sniff the air, and he laughed and said, “Yeah, that is really strong.” We entered a computer lab, where a student was working and the smell was quite strong. Michael looked at the student and said that he needed “to do a better job of covering that up, like buy some air freshener or Febreze.”

Our last nugget is almost unbelievable! Rather than engaging in a quick 15-minute phone interview with our evaluator, he spent almost half an hour arguing with the evaluator about why he couldn’t provide information over the phone. We can only hope that mystical forces of the sun were affecting this rep, and he usually provided stellar customer service to students who called in hopes of learning more about the school!

Alfredo said that I had to come in, even when I explained that my baby was misbehaving. He said, “I already made it clear to you that you don’t have to worry about your child. You gotta understand if that’s going to be a huge concern, how are you going to attend school?” He later said, “All you’re coming for is information. If it’s going to be that hard for you, I don’t know. I’m not trying to sell you a car. I’m not a commissioned worker.” As I kept trying to ask questions, his tone grew increasingly annoyed. He said, “I’m trying to explain to you, this is all part of the tour.” After I asked about transferring credits, he said, “I can’t speak for other states, I don’t know. Everything you keep asking me, like I said before, we’ll talk in person. I’m not trying to trick you or nothing. If you’re interested, I’ll help you, but I’m not going to tell you a bunch of stuff over the phone because that’s not how I do business. If we talk about this stuff on the phone, there’s no point to taking a tour.”

As we move into the fall season, we hope that we see that these grim attitudes are shed and we can begin anew this quarter. We love reporting good news to our clients, so we celebrate any time we see superb school representatives bewitching our evaluators! Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook how you plan on changing your approach to admissions in this new quarter! Please do not hesitate to reach out to our Assessment team for help from our covert operatives who can let you know how you can start enchanting students into enrollments today!

Bad News – Beware of Buying Education Leads from Vendors Tue, 12 Sep 2017 14:30:02 +0000 I’m not sure when lead vendors surfaced in the educational vertical. Was it before or after insurance and mortgage? Or was it around the same time when “credit repair” and “work from home” offers started surfacing. Maybe it was in the late ‘90s after Google and search engines gained traction. At any rate, their inception and early years aren’t important. It’s what they do today that bothers me. And apparently I’m not the only one who is troubled by lead vendors, as both the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Finance Protection Bureau along with state regulators have started watching their activities. And last year the Department of Education issued warnings reminding lead-generation firms that they cannot use Department logos.

In similar fashion, Veterans Education Success has published a lengthy report in an effort to help veterans “understand misleading websites and lead generators.

I wonder if 2000+ Leads Con attendees in New York last week even know what goes on?

And, how do I know the real truth? Good question. I own and operate a mystery shopping firm – and we shop lead vendors. I bet that after reading this blog you’ll want to shop your vendors, or you may just want to stop using lead vendors altogether.

Why Pay Per Lead (PPLs)?

For the uninformed reader, here’s how it works: Lead vendors sell inquiries to schools on a pay-for-performance model. Over the past several years many schools abandoned their traditional advertising (TV, radio, outdoor) and moved to the lead-vendor diet. Although contact rates are low – normally under 50 percent – and the conversions from inquiry to new student are abysmally low and average just 2 or 3 percent at most institutions, the attractive feature of scalability and paying only for what you get hooked many schools. At first it was just another tool in the marketing toolbox. But then the savvy operators discovered that coupling a call center with pay per leads (PPLs) would yield predictable numbers that could be “modeled” and the race was on. Once they perfected the model they could add more PPLs to the mix, increase call center staffing and grow enrollments – especially in the online learning environment. It was magic. But many enrollment managers never knew what was really happening. And they still don’t.

How it works for a prospective student

From the student’s perspective, using an education matching system could seem like a good idea. I mean, if you aren’t sure where you want to attend but you know you want to pursue additional training, then browsing the web and finding a solution that matches you to schools – or lets you pick from a few select schools might make sense. And that’s how many of these services work – or are supposed to work.

The prospective student often begins their inquiry journey by simply entering their zip code in response to the offer to “find schools in your area.” The less scrupulous vendors may be trolling with a scholarship or sweepstakes offer – but we’ll talk about that later. After entering their zip code and/or address, the prospective student is taken through a few questions:

  • What level of degree or training are you looking for (certificate/diploma, associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree)?
  • When would you like to begin education/training (immediately, 1 to 3 months, 4 to 6 months, etc.)?
  • What is your highest level of previous education?

The slick sites always insert some sort of teaser along the way… “just 2 more questions and we’ll match you with schools that meet your needs.”

  • What areas are you interested in (health/medical, business, criminal justice, information technology, graphic arts, welding, etc.,)?
  • How would you like to study (online or on ground)?

Lead Vendor

And then “poof!” after hitting submit, the website reveals schools that are a match. It sounds logical and makes sense. Or does it? You see, the search engine driving the selection of schools isn’t a search engine at all. The website isn’t selecting from the universe of schools at all. Instead it’s serving up suggestions of schools that have contracted for leads. So the listing isn’t inclusive. It’s limited to a short list of institutions that have agreed to buy inquiries. But how would the student know that? They wouldn’t. And that’s just one problem with this product line.

But there is one more wrinkle. It sounds innocent enough too, and even well intentioned. After the student selects a school from the list to learn more about and hits “submit”, the next screen  is typically something to the effect of: “Vince, students who research and inquire to more than one school make better and more informed decisions. We’ve also matched you with these schools in your area or that offer online instruction. You may also get information from them by clicking “yes” below.”

And then it happens. The poor prospective student’s phone implodes under the duress of multiple and incessant calls. Under the scenario outlined above, the lead has now been sold to multiple schools. And they all have the same intention: Call immediately and get this student in for a campus visit – or, if it’s an online school, get them on a phone interview ASAP and get them committed to completing an application.

How the Enrollment Managers and Marketing Managers at Colleges See the Process

Unfortunately, many schools that are buying leads from lead vendors are naïve and uninformed as to how the inquiries are really being generated. Because the inquiry comes in via a form that is emailed to the school or posted into their CRM, the school officials believe that the inquiry was submitted by the student, like the scenario described above. Sometimes this is true, as prospective students complete the process explained earlier. But sadly, over half of the inquiries that schools are buying don’t come from a student completing a form. Nope. The inquiries come from a call center.

Here’s how: The lead aggregators contract with downstream affiliates to generate leads. These affiliates buy data that resemble potential students based on socio-economic factors. Then the data goes into an auto dialer at a call center, and when the potential prospect answers, they are talking with a call center agent. The pitch can vary, but often it centers around a training opportunity, a job opportunity, or financial aid to go to school. If a positive response is received, the call center agent not the student – completes the form and hits submit

As a side note, if you are a college administrator and considering buying leads from a vendor, ask the vendor for costs and counts based on your programs of study for exclusive, non-call center leads. The response you get could be interesting and range from “we don’t do exclusive leads” to “let me check and get back with you” – but I know the cost per lead will increase.

Okay, back to the real story – what happens when we shop lead vendors. These results are based on a sample size of 100 shops spread across 20 vendors. The school we shopped offered online courses, so the geography was unlimited. The degree level was associate degree.

Problem 1: 40 percent of the lead vendor inquiries submitted were never delivered to the school.

Ouch. Think about the student’s perspective on this. They took time to research schools, found a program and school they were interested in, completed a form, hit submit, got a message back that the school would contact them – and then radio silence. No call back. No email from the school. Nothing.

How could this happen? Well, that’s easy…. If a lead vendor has reached their cap, and the school didn’t have budget for any more leads, then the lead would either go into a black hole, or worse yet – be sold to another school. Both of these options are terrible, but they continue month after month, in our shopping.

Problem 2: 10 percent of the lead vendor inquiries were told that school X wasn’t accepting inquiries.

Wow. What would you think if you were the student? Worse yet, if you are in charge of enrollment or marketing at a school – your lead vendor has just told a prospect that you basically aren’t enrolling. Really? Wait; it gets better.

Problem 3: 10 percent of “your” lead vendor inquiries were referred to another school.

Unbelievable. As an enrollment or marketing manager, I would be furious. And it continues. Each month we inquire about school X – only to be directed via the computer and even by call center reps, that we could inquire to school Y. To me, it’s worse than #2 above – it’s one thing to say a school isn’t taking inquiries, but it’s worse to blatantly direct them to a competitor. Not good. NOTE THAT BOTH SCHOOLS OFFERED THE SAME PROGRAM. And, it gets worse. One of our inquiries specifically made for school “X” was contacted by the lead vendor’s call center and then warm transferred to school “Y.”

Problem 4: Immediate re-sale of data

15 percent of our inquiries immediately got a call from another party other than the school they submitted their information too. How ironic, right? You request information from school “A” and kaboom – you immediately get calls from school “B” or from an-unrelated entity like “Rewards Redemption.” I got a call from XXX-XXX-1234, which was from Julie at Rewards Redemption. The recording stated that I recently was on one of their affiliated websites and I had won a $100 voucher that could be used at popular stores like Walmart, etc.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

  • Shop your lead vendors to keep them honest.
  • If lead vendors must be part of your mix, manage them diligently.
  • Track the number of voice to voice calls you have with the inquiries from each vendor – remember, if you never talk to the prospect you can’t invalidate them or begin the recruitment process.
  • Consider asking your lead vendor for exclusive, non-call center leads.
  • Ask your lead vendor to explain and detail how many inquiries come from:
    • Student-generated from submissions
    • Call centers
    • Warm transfers

Finally, consider going to a marketing mix that uses traditional media to drive traffic to your digital properties. A well-balanced advertising mix will fuel your organic website inquiries and your PPC inquiries. Changing the mix of leads will result in driving up contact rates, with a smaller staff. Ultimately you’ll increase enrollments and reduce cost.

About Vince Norton
Managing Partner, Norton|Norris, Inc.

Since 1979, Vince Norton has worked in higher education administration, marketing, admissions, and enrollment management, for both not-for-profit and proprietary institutions. His 35-plus years of experience include 19 years in admissions, marketing, and administration at non-profit colleges, and three years with for-profit colleges. For the last 16 years, he has served as Managing Partner of Norton|Norris, Inc. Vince is regarded as an expert on college marketing and mystery shopping and has delivered presentations on this topic for numerous associations.

August Tales from the Trail: We’re Not Ready to Enroll! Fri, 25 Aug 2017 18:00:16 +0000 We’ve noticed along the trail that a variety of tactics are used to encourage prospective students to enroll. We go into every interview expecting representatives to be focused on building relationships, answering questions, and highlighting the great things the school has to offer. Most of the time, that’s exactly what happens! We’ll have a great interview, full of valuable information and genuine rapport-building, so the conversation more often than not turns to talking about how to apply or enroll.

We love to see representatives talk through the enrollment process so it’s clear, but it’s sometimes presented as a long process requiring applications, approvals, reviews, verdicts, and recommendations… oh my! What is the intended value-building message here? The message received is that enrollment is limited; not everyone who wants to attend is accepted. “You need my approval if you want to get in.”

Roland told me that after he looked at my application, it would be submitted to his manager. He said that his manager would then send the application to an approval board, which would then send it to “the board” for a final verdict.

Manny asked if I was ready to complete the enrollment application, and I told him I wasn’t ready. He questioned whether I was really serious about bettering my situation. He claimed that he needed me to complete the application so that he could take it to his director for approval. He also added that it would then take three to four hours to get back to me if I was approved.

We train our trail travelers on how to handle any kind of enrollment discussion, but pressure can still make for an unpleasant exchange. Being asked multiple times to enroll or move forward can get quite awkward and immediately dissolve any previously built rapport. Evaluators have reported feeling uncomfortable, frustrated, manipulated, and rushed after these kinds of conversations, both in person and on the phone.

Giles navigated to the enrollment page on the presentation. I told him I couldn’t complete the application at the moment. He said he wanted to get my information to his director. He said I would have an opportunity to meet with Financial Aid and if the numbers weren’t affordable, I would be able to cancel the application. He stayed on the line with me to get me through the first page because he wanted to make sure I found his name (to include on my application).

We’ve had representatives completely lose their cool when we decline offers to complete enrollment applications. These same representatives have tended to be less forthcoming with requested school/program information, instead focusing on moving the process along. When there is a free and open discussion of the school and its programs, students will take the next step when they feel ready and confident in their decision.

We wonder how often these tactics are successful and how many of those students feel satisfied with their choice after being hurried to make a decision…

Trevor gave me curt replies to my questions about tuition and financial aid. When I explained that I was not ready to enroll, he became slightly aggressive, stating that my position did not make sense. After I told him I needed to speak to my uncle about moving forward with the process, he said that I’d already told him my uncle supported my decision to go to school. He told me to have a wonderful day and hung up the phone without waiting for me to respond or offering a way to contact him.

Choosing a school is one of the most important decisions in a student’s life. As such, it seems pretty reasonable to allow them the time and space to consider the information and pick the school and program that’s right for them.  When students make careful and thoughtful choices, everyone wins! It can impact student and graduate performance data overall, and students are more likely to be engaged in the process of finding a job right out of school if they’re pursuing the path they chose on their own.

Imagine yourself sitting in a room with Sidney, your admissions advisor, with whom you’ve just spent 45 minutes to an hour, and have shared information about your situation and experiences. The interview is coming to a close, so the conversation turns to the application.

Sidney said if I didn’t apply the same day she probably wouldn’t see me again. She said that she never had a student who did not want to apply the same day come back at a later date and apply. She said she would pack up the information and send me home. Sidney told me to tell her one good reason that I couldn’t apply the same day. I told her I just didn’t feel comfortable applying. She told me if I did call her back that I would be the first student to return to enroll. She said she wouldn’t call me and that if I needed to apply, I would need to call her. She showed me to the front door.

Most adult students lead lives that are already full with work and familial responsibilities. We always encourage admissions representatives to help students overcome obstacles and brainstorm solutions. Unfortunately, we’ve run into some less than empathetic representatives recently:

I told Shawna that I needed to speak with my husband and employer about scheduling and she said, “No, this is about you, not them.” I then said, “I need them to support me or going back to school won’t be successful.” Her reply was, “I am here to support you. You don’t need them to support you.”

Rick pressured me to enroll for the next six minutes despite my saying no and needing to discuss it with my husband. He told me I wouldn’t be going against my husband by completing the application because he needed to send it to his director for approval. Rick said he was busy and had a busy calendar. He felt I was a fit for the program and wanted to know how serious I was. He said the director may or may not approve me, so this was just the first step.

What’s the best way to disengage and potentially lose a prospective student? We’re not sure, but pushing them to do something when they’ve said NO is certainly one method. Intimidating or misleading students to encourage prompt enrollment before they’re ready helps no one. We here at Nn know that most representatives do their best to make sure students are comfortable before moving ahead in the process. If you’d like to know how your team talks to visitors about applying, give us a call or shoot us a message. We’d be happy to see you on the trail!

How do you encourage a visitor to apply or enroll? What tactics do you use to make the process exciting and easy for everyone involved? Let us know on our Facebook!

Virtual Training – A Natural Progression Tue, 08 Aug 2017 18:30:43 +0000 Taking Acclaimed EnrollMatch® Admissions Training Virtual

When convenience, affordability, and substance come together, powerful things happen. At Norton Norris, we’ve known that for a long time.

It’s that principle that has driven many of our efforts over the years to deliver the highest quality solutions to the schools and higher education professions with whom we partner in a way that works best for them.

And the latest example of this mission is one of the biggest and most exciting to date.

We’ve gone virtual with our industry-leading EnrollMatch® Admissions Training (EM).

First, let’s talk about the substance.

Long-recognized as one of the most respected admissions training programs in the country, EM is at the leading edge of creating better informed prospective students and better-informed admissions professionals.

As anyone who’s worked in the higher education arena knows, more often than not the single most important choice factor for students is “fit.” For years, EnrollMatch® has empowered admissions professionals with the training to understand and decipher the differing preferences of today’s students so that, together, they can achieve that fit.

It begins with seminar training that can range anywhere from a half-day to two full days, and from there is strengthened by custom workshops, webinars, discussion forums, eLearning programs, Train-the-Trainer (T3) options, and ongoing consulting with comprehensive reports.

That’s kind of a long-winded way of saying EnrollMatch® works. It has earned all of the acclaims it’s received. And it’s the first and only admissions training program that’s been reviewed and approved by regulatory counsel for consistency with accrediting and federal admissions related standards.

But don’t just take it from us.

“After a thoughtful review of the training workshops and materials, our firm endorsed this program for alignment with all national and regional admissions related standards,” said Ron Holt, an education legal expert.

Now, about convenience and affordability.

It’s no secret that institutions of higher education across the country are in the midst of major budget constraints and enrollment shortfalls. Public universities continue to see cuts in state funding, and enrollment shortages at private colleges and universities that rely on tuition revenue are leading to cuts in faculty, staff, and program offerings.

Now more than ever, administrators need to find ways to give their admissions departments every advantage they can in terms of their effectiveness in recruiting incoming classes.

So, given the realities that we know schools are dealing with, it only makes sense to remove as many barriers as possible for schools seeking the exceptional offerings of our admissions training.

That’s exactly what going virtual with EnrollMatch® will accomplish.

“It was a natural progression,” said Dr. Jean Norris, managing partner at Norton Norris, Inc. and the primary developer of the training program. “Given the advanced nature of the content and pace, it was important for our team to see the participants and adjust their delivery in the moment. We also stand behind our results so we had to make sure each participant walked out of that room a changed person.  At the same time, the expense of travel and pulling employees away from their jobs for a few days can be a barrier.”

By offering virtual and hybrid models for the delivery of EnrollMatch® training, schools won’t have to incur the expenses associated with sending their admissions teams away, or the loss of productivity while they’re out.

With this endeavor, we’re essentially meeting them where they’re at by offering more affordable and convenient access to the training program, without compromising even a hint of the quality that’s always been associated with it.

“EnrollMatch is a solid, proven program with ongoing support long after the initial workshop,” said Joe Sallustio, seasoned EM trainer and vice president of marketing and enrollment at National American University. “It’s exciting to know the eLearning, discussion forums, coaching, and reinforcement training will still be available. And now we have an additional method to support our efforts for those who prefer the live, virtual option.”

And with the EM’s Train-the-Trainer (T3) program also being delivered virtually and through a hybrid model, more campus-based admissions professionals can earn a license to train their staff, help their team stay compliant, and make the most of their recruiting efforts and meeting the needs of their students.

“Our team is able to effectively onboard new employees, as well as provide ongoing learning and development,” said Wendy Olivieri, long-time EM trainer, and director of admissions at San Joaquin Valley College. “The live, virtual option allows campus-based trainers to work right alongside Norton Norris Master Facilitators. It’s fabulous.”


Learn more right now about our virtual training for admissions, faculty, leadership development management, career services, and financial aid!

Is College Worth It? Tue, 02 May 2017 01:25:27 +0000 Let’s face it. With staggering debt, a substantial time commitment and no promise of gainful employment, is a college education worth it?

Deciding on going to college or even finding the right college depends on how one actually defines value, doesn’t it? For some, the value of a college education can come in the form of self-development. The sheer opportunity and joy of learning and growing can be enough to motivate someone to attend college and rationalize the expense. And yet others are looking for a more definitive return on investment such as a job immediately following graduation that pays enough to cover the bills and have a meaningful quality of life. Even more so, a college education should also pay dividends into the future through promotions and even higher earnings, right?

Is college worth the cost? There is evidence through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to support the correlation of educational attainment and increases in median earnings. Those with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, $459 more each week than someone with only a high school diploma. Even further, the unemployment rate decreases significantly with a degree. Those with an associate’s degree have a 3.8% unemployment rate while those with a high school diploma average 5.4% unemployment (a master’s degree is only 2.4% unemployment).

The investment to earn the credential or degree is a major piece of the value proposition. Vocational training can average $33,000 with average earnings near or above the tuition while a bachelor’s degree can cost $127,000 and average annual income for an entry level position around $46,900.

According to the Detroit Free Press, college grads in the class of 2016 will have a record level of about $37,000 in student loan debt for a bachelor’s degree. Those graduating with a master’s degree will have an average of $43,500 in college loans and for those studying medicine or law – the debt can easily be over six figures. Keep in mind that not everyone graduates on time either which adds to the debt and delayed earnings by not being in the workforce faster.

It is also worthwhile to consider the future of higher education given other options. Will the traditional four year, brick and mortar experience sustain? Many are still getting use to the “click” and mortar hybrid education models and yet there is so much more out there. For instance, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) have been around since 2008 and credentialing and badging have grown substantially since the introduction of open badges by Mozilla in 2011. In fact, millions of badges have been awarded to hundreds of thousands of participants and the open badges community is working on the next version. Keep in mind that the new specifications are focused on verifiable learning similar to those of higher education accrediting agencies.

A 2016 study conducted by the University Professional Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), found that one in five colleges have issued digital badges. They also coined the term “T-shaped” graduates who have a combination of deep, “vertical” knowledge in a particular area (such as a college major) and a broader set of “horizontal” skills in areas like communication skills, teamwork, and appreciating diverse cultures. The sheer speed of knowledge acquisition may bring value to this type of credential (not to mention it’s low cost and ease of access).

The good news is the acting Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is a big fan of education whether public or private. She also believes in less federal oversight and regulations with more power going to the state. Under her tenure, alternate forms of education and learning may see more growth and acceptance.

Where does all this information leave the person considering college? And if so, choosing the right college? My guess is probably in a more confused state. That is why we suggest anyone considering any form of higher education to adopt the “Five Factors of Fit” to sort through the options.

The “Five Factors of Fit” begins by considering the initial question about value. What does value mean to you? Relatedly, one has to determine their goals and where they want to be in the future. With this information in hand, we encourage an exploration of programs and interests. There are several online resources to help determine what major/program might be a good fit.

Next, it’s important to determine what skills you currently have as well as those that will be required to be successful in your chosen career field. Are you willing to spend the time and resources necessary to acquire these skills? If not, take a step back and look at other areas of interest to find something more in line with your abilities and interests. A good place to start is to determine what skills you already find as strengths. At that point you can then determine what further skills you are willing to develop.

One area that warrants focus is an in depth understanding of what you value. Think about it. If the direction you are moving toward doesn’t align with what you believe in or value, than you will more than likely feel great tension and ultimately drop out. For example, at a recent high school presentation one of the students stated they wanted to become a surgeon but when another classmate informed them about the rigor, time commitment and life of a surgeon, there was a value question raised. Did their priorities align with this kind of commitment? This factor is something that represents the core of who you are. It will include your entire life outlook. Psychology Today offers a Values Profile survey to help you uncover what is most important to you. Take your time on this factor. But most importantly, be honest with yourself. It will go a long way.

Another element that needs to be considered within the “Five Factors of Fit” is one’s life situation. Through a series of self-discovery questions, one must explore their motivations, potential obstacles to enrollment along with possible solutions. Further, there must be consideration of others involved in the decision and how their opinions and resources play a role in the decision. Finally, what is most important in a learning environment? Is it self-paced learning such as MOOCS or an online option? Or do you prefer a campus with a lively and engaged study body?

Putting all of this information together is key to determining “Fit.” The alignment of one’s goals to the school, program/interests, values and life situation is the key. For those seeking a resource that puts this all together, check and see if the colleges you are considering offer pre-enrollment advising through their admissions office or an automated solution such as MyGuidance Coach®. This legally endorsed, pre-enrollment advising software helps prospective students explore their interests, research career options, proactively identify and resolve potential challenges, and review customized school resources from any desktop or mobile device 24/7.

Given the high drop out rates in college it’s essential to take the time to review these areas to make a meaningful decision in what college is right for me. Talk to people you trust, do your in-depth research and take some time for introspection. The more time spent in this phase, the easier the rest of the process will be. Good luck on the journey!


5 Things to Know About Trump’s Pick for Education Secretary by Emily Deruy, The Atlantic, Nov 3, 2016.

Complete College America, The Four-Year Myth, 2014.

Digital Badges and Academic Transformation by Veronica Diaz, Published: Thursday, September 1, 2016. EDUCASE Review

Endorsement 2.0: Taking Open Badges and E-Credentials to the Next Level by Daniel Hickey and Nate Otto, Published: Monday, February 13, 2017, EDUCAUSE Review

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Earnings and Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment, 2015.


April Tales from the Trail: Fun with Smartphones Tue, 25 Apr 2017 16:10:06 +0000 Students that are part of the younger generation really like to use their smartphones – for everything besides phone calls! Since it can be difficult to reach students on the phone, admissions representatives should be working to engage in ways that are most comfortable for them. In our trail travels, we’ve come across more than a few instances of what we’d call bad phone form!

When an interested person calls, are representatives prioritizing them just as they would with a student at the campus? Prospective students who’ve taken the time to call in will form lasting impressions based on the conversations they have and treatment they receive. Unprofessional conduct can have an immediate negative impact that reflects poorly on the whole school. Is your ideal institute of higher learning also a place where yelling is considered an acceptable means of student communication?

While she was on the phone with me, a student showed up at her door. Rather than place me on hold, she started shouting to him and into the phone, “Jerry! Jerry! Wait right there!”

Not all interested prospective students are able to make the trip to a campus right away. Some may prefer not to visit until they know more. The same information should be given to students who call with questions as those who attend on-campus interviews. On that note, representatives should take all student communications seriously and never imply that the student is ‘not serious enough’ about school to come to the campus.

I told Fred that I wasn’t feeling well enough to come in but wanted to research schools in my spare time. He told me, “I don’t know if this school will be the right fit for you. If you can’t come in for an appointment, how do I know you will make time to come in for classes?” He then refused to answer my next two questions about the program and hung up on me.

Since many students don’t answer their phones, admissions representatives have started embracing texting their potential students. Since 58% of teens with smartphones rely mostly on texting to communicate, it seems like a good idea to have your admissions representatives reach out to these students via text. However, using emoji or emoticons can be tricky in business communication. Opinions may differ, but we can all agree that texts from an unknown number can be quite unexpected if the sender doesn’t identify themselves. Add emoticons or emoji to the mix and things can get really weird. Greetings that otherwise would be innocent can be interpreted as creepy at worst (and unprofessional at best) if a representative misses the mark.

After I completed my assessment, I went to the lobby and told the receptionist that I was ready to meet up with Ted again. After waiting 20 minutes, the receptionist told me that Ted had gone to lunch and offered me a meeting with him the next day. I said that was fine. When I got into my car, my phone vibrated. I got a text from Ted that said only, “What’s up, Sally ;).”

 Ilana texted me to ask, “Did you show the info to your uncle? :)”

We always encourage representatives to provide their business cards with contact details. If there’s a question later, how would a prospective student reach you? That direct contact info is important. We’ve faced some awkward situations with representatives who perhaps ran out of business cards and took matters into their own hands, so to speak…

I did not receive a business card, but James added his number directly into my smartphone.

Have you sent a text or left a voicemail for a student that you regret? A funny text exchange you’d like to share? Let us know on our Facebook!


March Tales from the Trail: How much will this cost? Wed, 08 Mar 2017 22:02:55 +0000 The million (well, thousand) dollar question. The question almost every prospective student will ask when they visit your college…is your Admissions team prepared to answer it?

Even at schools with access to professionally printed tuition sheets and expertly designed collateral to hand out, our covert evaluators continue to find representatives who have a hard time providing the information. Deferring the conversation to another department for the answer isn’t bad, unless the introduction to the other department doesn’t happen. Who wants to hear about how fantastic and valuable a place is without also knowing how much it costs to be a part of it?

Creed told me that he would give me a tuition sheet since he was in Admissions and not Financial Aid. He then wrapped up the interview and handed me a folder. While walking out of the building, I opened the folder to look at the information, but there was nothing inside it.


Speaking of folders…some of the school materials we receive are underwhelming (at best) – a sticky note with tuition written on it, a sheet of paper with class times and start dates written in orange marker, or a copy of a copy of a printout from 2011. We also crack open stylish school folders only to find documents so poorly printed we get caught squinting to try to read the numbers. Prospective students are more than likely visiting other schools. Why not provide a nice shiny tuition sheet to stand out from the competition AND help them make an enrollment decision?

Getting an education can be an expensive endeavor! Representatives sometimes try to find clever ways to discuss program cost without causing sticker shock. We at Nn encourage a full review of tuition, fees, and what’s included in those amounts, followed by a solutions-oriented approach to helping the student look at their options for paying for college. Every effort should be made to make sure prospective students never leave a school feeling disheartened or thinking that they might not be able to afford an education.


Tossing out a number and hoping it doesn’t make them flee, shed tears, laugh, or lose consciousness is a less than ideal approach.

Michael said, “The cost of the program is $92,000. Please don’t pass out on me.”

Other representatives opt for more questionable responses to our tuition queries. Our heads spin when we read these! When representatives make inappropriate jokes, our evaluators tell us that it makes them wonder how seriously the school would take them as students – will real students be thinking the same thing?

Meredith looked me in the eyes for an uncomfortable few seconds, and then said, “Unless you have a sugar daddy, the $350 to $400 monthly payment is another expense you will have while you’re here.”

We always encourage representatives to connect with prospective students and build rapport! We’ve seen in previous Tales from the Trail that laid-back conduct can easily be misunderstood or cross the line, no matter how good the intentions were. Even the most relaxed students expect professional behavior and correct information when they visit an institute of higher learning. A simple question deserves a straightforward answer. Anything less than a complete review of the program cost can be perceived as convoluted, confusing, or potentially deceptive. Every program has a cost and every student will want to know. Be ready to answer that question with pride (and a nice tuition sheet, we hope)!

What’s the most interesting tuition conversation you’ve had or overheard? The worst tuition sheet you’ve ever seen? Tell us about it on our Facebook!