In the famous play, No Exit, by the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, prisoners Garcin, Serrano and Rigault are locked in a room in Hell, tearing their minds apart about how to get out. At the end of the play, the door finally opens…but they can’t bring themselves to leave.

Why are so many of us afraid to leave “the box” we live in, even when there are opportunities to get out? It’s conditioning. And it’s a powerful force.

Most of us “know what we know,” and there’s comfort and security in that knowledge. Even if our current thinking is limited, we are more likely to stay with what we know than venture into the unknown of what we don’t know, and what’s unfamiliar.

This is part of the problem in the world of enrollment and retention in higher education. It’s not an issue of intelligence–Some of the world’s brightest people work in higher ed. It’s an issue of comfort, and the fear (yep, I saidfear) to try new things that might deliver better results than they’re currently getting “inside the box.” The key word here is might, because when you’re inside the box, you don’t know for certain what’s outside of it. And so, most enrollment and retention professionals are more comfortable doing things the same way they’ve been doing them for years, because it’s safer than venturing outside and trying new things.

But higher ed “customers” are vastly different than they were even ten years ago. And like it or not, schools need to engage them in ways that work best for them, not in ways that work best for schools. We’re talking about Millennial customers, who want and expect you to WOW them and do things differently.

So don’t be afraid to think–and act–out of the box. (The door is open.)