Students who have started their journey to become an AFSer may have questions and reservations - or their parents might! This is an extremely important time for AFS volunteers to build relationships with these students and their parents. This article will cover:
- How to Support Applicants
- Tips for Calling Applicants
How to Support Applicants
There are several ways that AFS volunteers can support applicants and their parents, such as:
- Phone calls: It is important to reach out to students or parents especially as they move to Next Steps in the application process. Calling them to answer their questions and arrange for an interview is a great way to introduce yourself and let them know you are there as a local resource. Ideally, volunteers would reach out to interested students at least once a month – perhaps more frequently closer to application deadlines.
- Emails: Send an email to introduce yourself and your role as an AFS Sending Volunteer. Explain when to set up the interview and include links to the program deadlines and scholarship information on the AFS-USA website.
- Local events: Invite students to a local event such as a hosting orientation or gathering. Hosted students are a wonderful source of information for Sending students. By listening to the currently hosted students talk about their experience, it is a reality check about what to expect from the experience and puts a real face to some of the countries that students have only read about.
Key points when connecting with applicants
- Most importantly, begin building relationships with the students and parents.
- Answer any Frequently Asked Questions about Study Abroad and direct them to www.afusa.org or their Study Abroad Advisor for more information. It is okay if you don’t have the answers to all of their questions; you can still be encouraging and helpful. Or help them track down an answer to make them feel supported.
- Encourage students to submit the online application to secure a spot on available programs. Students can find deadline information on www.afsusa.org and you can also check out the Sending Programs Report.
- For a comprehensive outline of a conversation with an applicant, see Tips for Calling Applicants below.
- Any time you reach out to Sending applicants, please leave a comment in the Global Link contact log (or send your email directly from Global Link to be recorded in the contact log).
To pull a list of applicants in your team, go to the Find Sending Applicants article.
Tips for Calling Applicants
The objective of making phone calls to sending applicants is to ensure that students and parents are welcomed into the AFS family. As a volunteer, you are able to offer applicants support and encouragement to complete the application process and direct them to helpful resources. These initial steps create AFS affiliation for the student and parents, and provide a tangible way for volunteers to support AFS. Below you will find talking points and tips for making calls to applicants.
Before you make the call
- Set aside uninterrupted time and create a comfortable and quiet environment for yourself.
- Retrieve your list of new applicants from Global Link, see Finding Sending Applicants.
- Have these talking points on hand when making your call so that you can refer to them.
- Remember, you are reaching out to begin forming a relationship -- you do not need to have all the answers, but instead you should be familiar with the many resources available to you and to students such as www.afsusa.org, the Sending Programs Report and the Study Abroad Advisors at email@example.com or 1-800-AFS-INFO ext. 1.
- IMPORTANT: Please review the student’s Contact Log and Portal and OA Status before you make the call to ensure you have the appropriate information about the student and have a history of any questions or concerns the student might have raised already.
Making the call
Start the call with an introduction like
"Hello, my name is ____ and I am a volunteer with AFS. I’m calling to introduce myself to ____ or one of his/her parents. I am an AFS volunteer and also live in ___. I see you have started an application for an AFS program to (country). I wanted to check in and see how you are doing with your application and see if you or your parents had any questions."
- Begin the conversation with a parent if the student is not available.
- Be sure to provide your local community name so the student/parent knows you are local, which provides a personal touch.
- Refer to the student's preferred country or program length to build a connection.
- After you state why you are calling, be sure to PAUSE and let the student or parent respond to what you have said.
Engage the student with open-ended questions
Some questions to get the student talking might include:
- "What made you decide to apply go abroad with AFS?"
- "Are you still considering going to (country?) How did you decide to go there?”
- "How is your application coming along?"
- "Do you have any big concerns that would be helpful to address such as money or being away from home?"
- Be sure to let the student/parent do most of the talking.
- Rephrase what you have heard to make sure you are understanding s/he correctly and to build trust that you are a good listener.
- Always be empathetic in listening to the student’s concerns. Consider reviewing the Overcoming Objections section.
Clarify next steps in the application process
Based on your level of understanding and comfort, highlight pieces of the application process, including:
- An upcoming Info Session (interview) for the student
- Medical Forms
- Academic Forms
Offer helpful resources
Ensure the student is aware of the available resources. Be sure to highlight the following:
- The steps of the application process
- The AFS Snapshot Videos that walk through some of the most commonly asked questions about the AFS experience.
- Frequently Asked Questions and the program information at www.afusa.org.
- Encourage students to submit the online application to secure a spot on available programs.
Wrap up the call leaving your contact information or the information of AFS staff should they have any follow up questions
“It has been great to speak with you. I wish you the best of luck as you complete your application. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. You can also be in touch with our staff at 1-800-AFS-INFO ext 1, or firstname.lastname@example.org”
- This can be a great time to let them know of upcoming events too!
After the call
Unfortunately the call isn’t over after you hang up!
- Once you finish the conversation, send a follow-up email letting the student and/or parent know it was great to speak with them and include any links to www.afsusa.org that may be helpful or any other information you promised to send.
- Be sure to log the call in the Global Link contact log.
How to leave a message
When reaching out to students and parents, you often reach voice mail instead – especially the first time you call. Here is a sample message you can leave:
"Hello, my name is ____ and I am a volunteer with AFS. I live in ____. I'm calling to introduce myself and answer any questions you might have about (applicant's name) application for an AFS study abroad program to (country). It would be great to speak with you, feel free to get back to me at (your number or email). Good luck with your application and talk to you soon."
- It's helpful to say your phone # or email slowly and then repeat yourself.
- If you prefer, you can provide 1-800-AFS-INFO ext. 1 or email@example.com instead of your own contact information.
- Please record in the student’s contact log that you have left a voice message.
- Set up a reminder for yourself to try the student again in about a week.
- Consider sending a follow up email directly from Global Link with a similar message since people tend to be more likely to respond to emails:
Hello, my name is ____, and I am a volunteer with AFS. I tried leaving a voice message for you earlier today and wondered if it would be easier to connect with you via email. I'm writing to introduce myself and answer any questions you might have about doing an AFS study abroad program. It would be great to speak with you, feel free to get back to me at (your number or email). Good luck with your application; I hope to hear from you soon.
Thank you for helping to make calls to applicants and their parents to support their interest in studying abroad with AFS! If you have ANY questions, please contact your Sending Coordinator, TDS or firstname.lastname@example.org at any time.