College Cuts: Making The Student’s List

Are students running into you while surfing the Internet?

In the midst of hopping back and forth between Facebook and Twitter, texting and blogging, most students are happy to encounter prospective colleges on the web.

“The latest research shows 51% of colleges and universities have an admissions blog for their school.” Most institutions, in addition, continue to utilize social media sites at levels surpassing Fortune 500 and Inc. 500 companies.

While social media continues to inform potential students about college and admissions information, many applicants don’t take note of the relationship’s two-way nature: “it is clear that online behavior can have important consequences for young people and that social networking sites can, and will, be utilized by others to make decisions about them.”

This perspective emphasizes how important of a tool these websites can be.

Schools, in addition to students, should be held responsible for routinely ‘cleaning’ and updating their social profiles to maintain a fresh, desirable image in the marketplace. Social media’s aforementioned binary essence suggests that colleges should be doing everything in their power to make sure they are not the one’s being cut from the students’ lists.

Continue reading Nora Barnes’ article.

Making Connections

Sitting in my office this morning, I received a call from Shawn Stewart, a Whelan Group veteran, (and our Vice President), explaining to me a cellphone-signal debacle…

During a conference call, in which he was the connecting party, his signal faded. Naturally, Jennifer Bagley, our Senior Marketing Consultant, continued talking, (as she was unaware of the call being dropped). Don’t laugh…we’ve all been there.

Regardless, Shawn calls me to explain and asks that I now be the “connection” for the conference call – considering I have a landline and likely will not lose a signal.

After providing me with a phone number, I place him on hold and roundup the client, place Shawn on hold with the client (to plead his case for the situation) and get Jennifer back on the line.

“Hello? This is Jennifer.”

She’s aware of what happened now and no narrative is needed to get her back on track.

“Hold please.”

Click. Conference call continued. After saying my hellos and all of us having a short laugh about the situation, I place my line on mute, and go about my morning.

This is just part of my job: Conference Call Connector.

And, I love what I do.

Small Schools, Big Impressions

While the cookie-cutter pictures of “students sitting in ragged circle on a grassy patch” alongside “a still of a professor gesturing dramatically” might catch some applicants attention, universities are better off utilizing a unique approach.

Communication materials, including direct mail, publications and email messages, can be effective tools if they add value, help applicants make easier decisions and can be used as a resource throughout the entire matriculation process.

Ann Handley, the mother of a college-seeking son, discusses how The Maryland College Institute of Art (MICA) caught her attention with their direct mail campaign:

In MICA’s self-published paperback, “the small book covers the essentials of what steps a would-be-art student needs to take in his or her education… and [suggests] the issues you should think about.” By including “smart advice about things newbies might not have otherwise thought of”, MICA added value and usefulness to their direct mail piece that reserved it a place on Handley’s son’s bedside table.

Handley encourages schools to ask themselves the following questions about their recruitment marketing:

  1. What is your business doing to stay top-of-mind with your customers or would-be clients?
  2. Are you creating content that would-be customers can use as a resource for their purchase decisions?
  3. Are you creating stuff that makes their lives easier, or walks them through a difficult decision, or helps them perform a task more efficiently?
  4. Are you creating content that helps them save money?
  5. Are you distributing whitepapers, or checklists, or tip-heavy booklets that they can use and keep, either offline or online (or perhaps both)?
  6. Are you adding value? Or are you producing stuff that’s quickly disposed of?

So while a 150-page paperback might not be the answer for every school’s recruitment efforts, there are other unique solutions that can be developed to drastically increase the value and effectiveness of collegiate marketing campaigns.

A College Applicant’s Best Friend

Whether used for comfort, when a stuffed-animal just won’t suffice, or as a “chick-magnet” on campus to draw in other dog-lovers, most students are thrilled about new dormitory rules allowing pets to join them as they venture off to college.

Stephens College, among others, is making big changes this year to accommodate a growing number of fuzzy friends accompanying first-year students. By renovating an entire dormitory and reserving rooms exclusively for residents with pets, Stephens hopes to “smooth the transition of some students who may be so anxious about leaving home or adjusting to college life that a stuffed animal will not be of sufficient comfort.”

While some critics worry that “taking a pet to college could slow the transition for some students”, Stephens argues that pet-owners in their school’s dormitories are noticeably more organized, responsible and academically successful.

As if these benefits weren’t compelling enough, Stephens has an even more strategic approach to the situation: “in an increasingly competitive recruiting market for top students, becoming known as pet-friendly is another way for a college to differentiate itself.”

While “Pet Central,” as it has been named, definitely poses a threat to surrounding residential business, it could potentially serve as a take-off point for neighboring complexes to adopt more hospitable housing incentives. Although the demand for pet-friendly housing will undoubtedly increase because of Pet Central’s homely options, surrounding campus apartment complexes can still bank on “bookworm” residents looking for quieter accommodations.

Will students be willing to sacrifice study time to make sure ‘Scruffy’ gets walked and fed? That is something that most residents are prepared to deal with. Even though Pet Central risks unhappy and, more specifically, quite sleepy residents due to unruly pets, Stephens promises to “[enforce] a lengthy list of strict guidelines” that will prevent roaming cats, yapping dogs and early morning howling during finals week (the students have that covered).

So, are pet-friendly colleges truly gaining an advantage over others in the market? Or, are dormitories like Pet Central just giving their neighbors something to growl about?

SOURCE: Jacques Steinberg’s article at NYTimes.com

Attitude Can Determine Retention Rates

When predicting student retention rates, one detail trumps factors such as students’ standardized-test scores, their study habits, or whether they live on campus: their attitude.

Two University of Maryland graduate students, Jessica Mislevy and Corbin Campbell, said “students’ enrollment patterns at their institution were strongly predicted by how they answered a survey question in the eighth week of their first semester: ‘Do you like it here?’”

When comparing continuous enrollment with other variables, such as students’ self-reported study skills or their organization involvement, Mislevy and Campbell concluded that their “general attitude toward the campus” was the single most powerful predictor of enrollment behavior.

In discouraging circumstances, Mislevy and Campbell recommend that faculty members and dormitory resident advisors work personally with first-year students to ease the acclimation process and, more importantly, find out why students strongly dislike Maryland.

Here are more recommendations for campus retention plans.