This article discusses tips for contacting students interested in studying abroad. See Find Interested Students on how to look up students to contact.
Reaching out to students early in their Sending Journey to give them a local contact and provide them an avenue for asking questions about AFS allows students to move forward in the application process with confidence, realistic expectations, and direction. Students how 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. Click here for some specific talking points when calling Get Started students, especially.
This article also covers:
- How to Support Study Abroad Applicants
- Phone Calling Tips
- General Tips for Connecting with Interested Students and Parents
How to Support Interested Students
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 early 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 Specialist 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 missing pieces of their 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 interested sending students, 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).
Tips for Calling Applicants
The objective of making phone calls to interested sending students 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 interested students from Global Link, see Finding Interested Students.
- 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 Specialiats at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 him/her 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 Interview for the student
- Medical Forms
- Academic Forms
- Host Family Letter
Offer helpful resources
Ensure the student is aware of the available resources. Be sure to highlight the following:
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 email@example.com”
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com at any time.
* ASK, don’t tell. Engage students with open-ended questions then let them convince themselves! Ask how they heard about AFS, what got them interested, and what they hope to get out of the experience. They won’t always talk your ear off, but sometimes you’ll uncover useful clues or ways you can relate your own experiences with studying abroad to what they’re about to take on. Once they’ve told you their reasons, be supportive and reaffirm that their interest is a good thing! They may not be hearing that anywhere else. Leave them with a simple roadmap of what to do next to get started.
* The more calls you make, the more kids will take. If you agree to call 40 students, 15 will answer their phones, 10 will be interested, 5 will eventually apply, and 1 will actually go. Don’t be discouraged by this, let it motivate you to make more calls and reach out to more students in your area. That said, providing special attention to the students you know are truly motivated to go can often make all the difference, so make sure to balance quantity with quality relationships! Having a local contact and encouragement can make all the difference for a student and his/her parents.
*Get comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. It’s okay to not know all the answers when you call: you don’t have to. It’s great if you can point students in the direction of the information they’re looking for on the website – or ask your sending coordinator or study abroad specialist to help follow up. We are working with a lot of intangibles here at AFS – sometimes right up until the point a student leaves. We have to generalize a lot, and it can be very helpful to start setting expectations by saying, “well it depends.” Flexibility will help students succeed as AFSers.
* Don’t give up on leads! Even if they are super interested and sends you a thousand emails, sometimes nothing happens and they don’t fill out the pre-app. Not to worry, check in with them in a few months and chances are they will be ready. And always, ALWAYS call them twice (or email, if that’s how they like to communicate). Kids these days are going in a thousand different directions, and sometimes calling them in a couple weeks after they’ve had time to mentally process your voicemail and email really works. Making a strong connection with parents is also incredibly worthwhile.