By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
Most of the emails, letters, and brochures that colleges and universities are sending prospective students right now are filled with facts, figures, history, and blanket, generalized statements.
You know the ones I’m talking about. Things like your faculty to student ratio, the average class size, “96% of students are employed or continuing their education…” and phrases like “experiential learning,” “professors who care,” and a “welcoming community.”
The problem with all that is your competitors are saying the exact same things, and the students you’re trying to attract not only notice it, but they’re becoming increasingly frustrated and confused.
“You know how you always ask students what make them different? Tell us what makes y’all different. Why should I choose your school over anything else.”
Direct quotes like that continue to show up in our focus group surveys when we ask students to give admissions counselors advice about communicating with this generation of students.
Simply put, you need to explain how your student experience is different, unique, and/or better.
To effectively do that, you don’t need to speak negatively about other schools. Instead, I want you to do a better job of telling your school’s ‘story’.
More stories, less stats.
Telling a better story includes using direct quotes and authentic videos from current students to make key points in your communications.
Focus on leading a conversation around the what, how, and why of things like:
- Your school’s location (pros and cons, popular hangout spots and off-campus destinations)
- The classroom environment (curriculum, professors, hands on learning)
- Campus life (clubs, organizations, living in the dorms, service opportunities, the community and atmosphere)
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Resources your school offers to help new students with the transition to college (don’t forget to include stories about the people behind these resources)
- Internships and careers related to different majors and programs
- Life after college (ROI and not just what your alumni are up to, but how different things they learned at your school have impacted their career)
- Being a small college vs. a medium or larger university (or vice versa)
Without context it’s incredibly difficult for prospective students and families to justify why they should take the next step in the process with your school. Instead, they’ll continue to rely on things like which college is more well-known, is closer to home, is where their friends are going to (or applying to), and which school appears to be the least expensive option.
You can re-frame the conversation. Consistently take the approach I’ve outlined, and you’ll see an immediate difference in the way students begin to picture you, and, more importantly, how they define your school compared with the competition.
One last important point to remember – Segmentation will help make your communications feel more personal. Besides separate stories for first-time freshman vs. transfer students, consider stories for other groups such as first-generation students, local students, and out-of-state students.
If you’d like to talk more about this article, go ahead and reply back or email me here.
And if you found this article helpful, I encourage you to forward it to someone else on your campus who could also benefit from reading it.