The True Road Warriors: Tips for Surviving Travel Season
The creation of the term “Road Warrior” is often attributed to Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. This is the movie where Mel Gibson wanders around a post-apocalyptic wasteland fighting local tribes. Today, we use the term to reference people whose work requires them to travel, usually extensively, collecting enough car rental or airline rewards points to transport a small army.
The difference between those two images, for some admissions counselors, is minimal. Traveling to a different school every day and surveying the hundreds of teenagers roaming a college fair is challenging. It’s not like they have signs over their heads indicating, “I’m a great fit for your school!” A standard day is 8-10 hours of talking to teens and then folding yourself into the driver’s seat of a rental car to reach your next destination. Doing that over and over again for the next few months is just tiring to think about, but we know that’s it’s through this work that you can connect to those amazing students who will ultimately call your institution home.
As fall approaches, admissions offices have to arm their road warriors with tips, tricks, and insider knowledge to transform what comes startling close to the plotline of Mad Max 2 into something a little more George Clooney from Up in the Air.
1. Know Your Stuff. It’s not uncommon that the newest (read: youngest) admission counselors often end up taking on the bulk of the travel season. If these reps went to your institution for their undergrad, you’re in a solid place, but if they’re unfamiliar with the school, you’re in for a cram session.
You could have your team reciting all of the admissions criteria by heart but you know that’s not what’s going to sell a college. What entices 16 to 17 year olds is going to be the insider information; unique offerings from the institution, cool restaurants and activities near the campus and the credentials of professors. Study abroad opportunities, internship connections, dorm room offerings, cafeteria ratings and financial aid information also rank at the top of prospective student curiosities. This is what your team needs to know.
- Pro-tip #1: Showcase some unique event held at your institution. Have visual aids.
- Pro-tip #2: Don’t panic if you don’t have the answer to something. Take the student’s information and promise to figure it out. And, hey, you just got a contact card
This piece of “know your stuff” advice isn’t just regarding your college or university, it also applies to the high schools your staff will visit. Have your team find out a bit about the students, the income level of the area, where a lot of the graduates from the high school go to, then prompt your advisors to tailor their presentation or talking points to the demographic’s specific needs. If your team really wants to go the extra mile, making an opportunity to chat with the high school guidance counselor is a stellar way to gauge the student temperature.
2. Travel Successfully. Remind your team to take advantage of every mile they travel by signing up for all rewards programs available. Use a credit card with travel rewards.
When it comes to flying, make sure that carry-ons contain the following:
- A professional outfit
- Contact cards
- Anything required for a presentation
Luggage horror stories happen every travel season. Don’t let anyone on your team be that admissions counselor.
When it comes to hotels, remind your team that they don’t have to uproot themselves every single night. If they play their cards right beforehand, they can reduce stress during travel season by:
- Finding a centrally-located hotel to stay multiple nights
- If possible, getting a room with a small kitchen and doing a bit of grocery shopping
- Knowing that neither coffee nor McDonald’s are food groups
- Unpacking bags, as living out of luggage just feels depressing
- Making sure the hotel serves a free and hot breakfast
- Bringing an HDMI cord to hook laptops up to the TV or, even easier, get a Chromecast
- Using this hack to keep hotel rooms at a preferred temperature.
When it comes to time logged on seemingly endless roadways, a solid battle plan for whiling away all of those traveling hours is crucial. Encourage your reps to do the following:
- Make a podcast playlist
- Listen to audiobooks
- Jam out to favorite hits on a pre-made playlist
- Bring a phone charger and a car charger
Pro-tip: Have your team input everywhere they need to go into their phone’s calendar along with all of the addresses so they pop up just when they’re needed and no one’s shuffling through dozens of emails to find the street number.
3. Make Friends and See the Sights. Listen, your team is working hard, they’re tired, probably jet-lagged and their arms are sore from carrying a hundred pounds worth of viewbooks. At the end of the day, however, make sure they leave time to enjoy the new locale. Tell them to dine at a mom ‘n pop restaurant, hit up a local tourist attraction, and connect with other counselors on the road. Remind them that through all the work they still need to find a way to relax and make the journey fun.
You and your team are traveling, seeing new things, and making a difference in students' lives. You’re fielding questions left and right, making appointments, planning school visits, and reviewing essays and applications like the tireless admissions counselors you are. But, most importantly, you’re playing an active role in helping students choose the institution where they’re going to spend the next four years.
Forget the dude with the flamethrower, your school’s admission representatives are the true road warriors.