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How Can Colleges Get Your Attention?

Sally_RubenstoneSally_Rubenstone 3012 replies1111 postsCC Admissions Expert Senior Member
Karen Herbst, an independent college counselor in the Denver area, asked a good question on her Facebook page:

Alright, students, weigh in. How best can colleges get your attention? From what I hear, the millions of emails you receive get lost in your inboxes, right? So is there some social media outreach that would work to get you to notice a certain college?

When my son was in high school, he rarely read the college propaganda that came to him via email and snail mail. With apt cynicism, he doubted that collegiate suitors such as Princeton, Columbia, and Yale had even the slightest interest in him at all. Yet I know that colleges often have “institutional needs”—those mysterious priorities that most of us can only guess at. One school may be looking for more German majors while another is seeking future accountants or engineers.When a student body is short on males from the Southwest, females from Eastern Europe, or tuba players from anywhere, the admission office is often told by the top administration to rectify the deficiency.

So why keep us guessing? I think that effective contact from colleges should be more transparent and personal, featuring customized missives along the lines of, “We see you’ve taken four years of German in high school, and we’re eager to enroll students who will study German here. We've already got bio majors up the wazoo, but German is another story."

If a student feels wanted by a college and also knows why, it could spark excitement and curiosity that the current abundance of generic communications doesn’t.

So ... how do other folks feel that colleges can get student attention?
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Replies to: How Can Colleges Get Your Attention?

  • usualhopefulusualhopeful 1615 replies12 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think transparency would be risky for schools, with a chance of increasing acceptance rate, and automatic merit like Bama's would be too financially risky for many schools.
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  • steffers456steffers456 12 replies0 postsRegistered User New Member
    I can honestly say that those schools that highlight their merit aid and their new dorms such as University of Alabama Huntsville did with the postcard they sent my daughter definitely catch her attention better than emails and long-winded snail mails. Tell us what makes them stand out from the "crowd"
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  • planner03planner03 1335 replies24 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I don't think they can. It might be a novelty at first, but it quickly grows old, the emails get sent directly to trash, and snail mail to the recycling bin. And please, please, no phone calls.
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  • goldy410goldy410 65 replies5 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    For me the best forms of mail were ones that discussed specific projects going on at the school and defining aspects of the school. Ones that simply said "come visit" or schools that were too aggressive with their mail had it thrown away and their college taken off the list
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  • ScienceGirlMomScienceGirlMom 410 replies23 postsRegistered User Member
    Its been a few years, and I still remember the names of the schools that called her on the phone. (Just a parent perspective.)
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  • amandakayakamandakayak 2396 replies57 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    No god awful quizzes which just a mktg trick to get kids emails so you can spam-mail them from that day to the end of time.
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  • amandakayakamandakayak 2396 replies57 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^ ps the letters telling you to go to the quiz look like they were written by the exact same agency - do you really want your letter to stand out if you outsource to an agency that uses the same template for 50 other schools?
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  • Sally_RubenstoneSally_Rubenstone 3012 replies1111 postsCC Admissions Expert Senior Member
    Its been a few years, and I still remember the names of the schools that called her on the phone

    @ScienceGirlMom - But do you remember them with fondness or with rising blood pressure? I HATED when my son got calls from admission staff at colleges that he had no interest in and had never contacted first himself.

    I remember one young woman left a message on our answering machine that was so muffled that I couldn't discern anything that she was saying except for my son's name (mispronounced). Since he was out at the time, taking one of his first trips as a driver to another state, I was worried that something was wrong until I played the message multiple times and stood close enough to the machine to realize that it was just a cold call from a college.

    Conversely, there were a couple universities to which he sent questions via email. It took the admissions rep from one of the schools forever to write back, and the other school never responded at all. So I might have been impressed if the emails had been answered with a personal call to my son from his admission counselor.
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  • novicemom23kidsnovicemom23kids 248 replies11 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    My D received a wonderful phone call as a follow up to a tour and personal meeting with a student (same student then did the follow up call) but another call was a disaster. The student calling messed up, started laughing, said we should plan a visit to XYZ school - we had just recently visited - then "forgot" to hang up before talking with her friend about having to make "lame phone calls"! This is all on our answering machine - not a good impression.

    My D has enjoyed the puzzles (I forget - maybe Chicago?) and scavenger hunt (IUP) marketing. She LOVED the personalized birthday cards/postcards from schools. She is following some favorite schools on twitter. She has been disappointed that friends have received "stuff" from schools and she hasn't yet.

    This is an interesting topic and I am curious what others have enjoyed.
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  • 18yrcollegemin18yrcollegemin 249 replies3 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    It's so hard to stand out because as soon as one school does something that makes it stand out, all the others follow suit and soon nobody stands out again.
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  • carolinamom2boyscarolinamom2boys 6895 replies223 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Personalized birthday cards were also a nice touch for my son. A strong social media presence with prompt responses to inquiries were also greatly appreciated . Follow up phone calls from tour guides and faculty that we had met on tours. The thing that caught his attention the most was a Skype from the Dean of the Honors College and a professor of the LLC inviting him into the program.
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  • shawnspencershawnspencer 3098 replies12 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Honestly the schools themselves have very little information about the students and I doubt have been tracking students closely enough to know that they have "taken four years of German." Most colleges probably start contacting students because they signed up to take a test such as the SAT or the PSAT. As far as I am aware, most schools don't disclose that information about students prior to applying either unless the student has accomplished something super extraordinary because it would be a violation of FERPA laws
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  • DustyfeathersDustyfeathers 3321 replies75 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Beloit had great email marketing. The emails were attractive, not wordy. Quirky funny. Allowed you to click on the portion of the email that interested you. Overall, we decided to not apply to ANY schoo (and take gap years) but I recommended Beloit to several people as a result. They used my child's name in the emails. I found it charming and effective. I actually enjoyed looking at them.
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  • ScienceGirlMomScienceGirlMom 410 replies23 postsRegistered User Member
    @Sally_Rubenstone I distinctly remember a couple extremes. One call was from a far away, well known school, and they called in April, a month before high school graduation! They were very late to the party. I got the impression that students were making the phone calls.

    At the opposite end, she was called three times by a nearby school. The first call was the day after ScienceGirl's name was in the newspaper for an accomplishment. I always wondered if the school compared the kids listed in the article to their contact list, and then made a few phone calls. I think the person who called was from admissions because the person readily discussed the net cost of attendance after my daughter disclosed her GPA and test scores.
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  • FaultystartFaultystart 1177 replies9 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    College mail that catches my eye meets a few general requirements (or at least one of them): the mail they send relates to what I'm interested in as a major, the packaging/layout of the mail is interesting and unique (swarthmore had something really cool I liked!), or the content of the mail is unique/interesting (u chicago has got me with this many times!)

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