Recruitment: Letting Students Guide the Conversation
Last issue’s column was a proposal to recognize your own value in the recruiting process. Research shows that prospective students grant their pastor and friends greater influence in the decision-making process than they do official seminary personnel. But knowing who students listen to isn’t the same as knowing why they choose to attend a particular seminary. What factors are important to students in a potential educational home?
According to the ATS 2012-13 Entering Student Questionnaire, theological perspective (12.2 percent) and academic reputation (11.3 percent) are the top two reasons students choose a particular institution. These are followed by the faculty (7.5 percent), spiritual atmosphere (7.4 percent), and denominational affiliation (7.3 percent) of the institution. New students at BSK answered this question slightly differently. This fall’s incoming class similarly listed theological perspective (17.1 percent) as the top reason and had faculty (11.4 percent) high on their list. However, more practical concerns such as financial aid assistance (11.4 percent), being close to home (11.4 percent), and a flexible class schedule (8.6 percent) edged out factors like academic reputation and denominational affiliation. Students also pointed to the Seminary’s ecumenical setting (11.4 percent) as one of the top reasons for choosing BSK.
Part of the recruiting task is being able to transform statistics like this into topics of conversation. These answers show me that our newest students are theologically reflective, pragmatic, and heavily invested in their local communities. The specific appeal of BSK is that it affords them the opportunity to learn from quality faculty in a theological environment that simultaneously values their particular denominational background (predominantly Baptist) while allowing them to interact with and learn from differing traditions. Just as importantly, BSK students like that they are able to participate in such a community while remaining close to friends, family, and home churches, without going into debt, and while continuing to work full-time as ministers.
Numbers and lists of strengths are meaningless by themselves; it is in contextualizing them, showing how such factors add real value to student lives, that they find their merit. Thus, in the recruiting process, it is essential to ask current students why they chose BSK and to let their answers guide your conversations with prospective students. This is the second tip in our series. Incorporating the most significant reasons for choosing BSK (reported by actual BSK students) in recruiting conversations ensures that such discussions remain relevant to students and representative of the BSK experience.