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What Are You Really Saying?

 A prospective student excited about maneuvering the college admissions process walks into your office with intentions of learning more about the required steps to become a student at your prestigious institution. You answer all of their questions, your institution has their program of study, you’ve shared internship and study-abroad opportunities. You’ve provided a wealth of information and when they leave, you have all of the confidence they will enroll at your institution for the upcoming semester — until you get that email informing you they have decided to enroll and pursue an academic degree elsewhere.

So, what went wrong?

The lack of regard for two major components that assist in creating an ultimate service experience is how it all began to go wrong. You’re probably asking yourself, what could have possibly happened that caused this student to enroll at another institution of higher learning? Survey says, your body language and tone.

Who cares that you were prompt and accurate in responding to their questions? The display of body language that sends an unpleasant vibe and use of a tone that insinuates little patience can totally undo all of the hard work you’ve put into educating yourself with the information needed to effectively serve them. Even though your institution offers their program of study and a plethora of career and academic opportunities beyond the classroom, your non-verbal and verbal communication carries significant weight in their decision making.

Body Language

Body language has four times the impact on impression than anything that may be verbalized and is an important aspect of communication between faculty, staff and prospective students. It is vital for faculty and staff to recognize and interpret body language signals displayed by prospective students; this tremendously decreases the opportunity of a negative interaction. In contrast, faculty and staff must identify and interpret basic body language signals of their own, as they have a great effect on the overall quality of the student’s service experience. Or in this case, it can affect a prospective student’s intent to enroll.


It has been said , 10 percent of conflict is due to a difference of opinion and 90 percent is due to delivery and tone of voice. Prospective students will decide if they trust your faculty & staff not by what they say, instead how they say it. How they say “it” is relative to their tone of voice. Tone of voice is made up of tempo, pitch, and volume. These factors are a few of what prospective students will assess to determine level of trust and if they want to continue their interaction. Most importantly, tone of voice is controlled in totality by faculty or staff members themselves. Therefore, interactions with prospective students require faculty and staff to check their tone to ensure they convey a message of trustworthiness.


Whether your interaction with a prospective student is via telephone or face-to-face, respectively, tone and body language are key during the initial stages of the service experience. Body language controls any vibes radiated which impacts the tone of voice.

To ensure your body language is A1, display good posture, smile, and make eye contact. Additionally, naturally match the positive body language of the prospective student and refrain from forcing that body language which will present an impression that lacks authenticity.

As for proper tone, maintain a steady tempo, clear pitch, and sound volume level without shouting. Tone has a great impact on words and the prospective student’s reactions and decisions are influenced tremendously by tone. If a prospective student tends to use a certain set of acceptable words during an interaction, it is highly recommended that faculty and staff use the same language to eliminate confusion.

Remain cognizant of the non-verbal and verbal areas of communication to ensure the opportunity for more positive and consistent interactions with prospective students occur in the future; failing to do this has the potential to negatively impact your enrollment.

Jeffrey Pierce, II, is the Director of Recruitment & Admission at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, TX. He is the author of, Be My GUEST: A guide for creating an ultimate service experience.

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