For colleges: three ways to improve your FAQs

The ease of electronic communication makes it easy for interested students to fire off questions to college admissions offices, and most responders are happy to give good information in return (especially when the question comes from the student, not the parent). But it can become a grind for the staff when the same questions come up over and over again, particularly when the answers are easily located with a cursory read of the website. If you work for a college that offers an FAQ section or are considering penning one to include on your website, here are three tips to help you help students, and to give you some relief from the relentlessly repeated questions.

1. Poll the answerers
If the goal is to preemptively answer the most frequently asked questions, make sure the questions you select are actually frequently asked. The best way to do that is to poll the staff members who’ve spent the most time actually answering the inquiries. Just ask, “What three questions do you answer most repeatedly?” My guess is that they’ll answer without even having to think about the response. And those topics deserve a spot on the FAQ page.

2. Make a top ten list
A section with 50 FAQs is great quantity. But it also invites impatient web visitors to abandon the FAQ and revert back to email. Instead, make a top ten list and post it prominently. A link entitled “Here are the answers to the ten most frequently asked questions” will attract attention and subsequent clicks.

3. Explore each question in more depth over time
The questions are repeated for a reason—those asks are on the top of students’ minds. So give them more than just the short answer on the FAQ. Write a longer answer that provides context and explanations, and then post a link to the more detailed response. Share it on social media or on your admissions blog. You’ll be giving students more in-depth information about the topics they’re most interested in, and doing so at times when those students are most likely to need the guidance.