Niche Marketing Yourself

<p>Aside from great essays, SAT scores, good GPA, athletic or arts skills - etc. what else can students do to better position themselves for admittance and even scholarship monies to specific schools? </p>

<p>FIND THE NICHE...Discover which specific interests, abilities, personal traits or situations (i.e. geographic, schooling, ethnic, parent in the military or ministry, etc.) different colleges seek in the applicants they accept. </p>

<p>I'd mentioned on another site that I'd heard bowling and golf scholarships at certain schools go begging for applicants. That sports like water polo and lacrosse players (even third stringers from my state) usually get into colleges (many with acholarship money.)</p>

<p>The best example I can give was our own experience last year when my S was applying to colleges. Trinity College in Ct. was one of his top choices. On researching the school, we learned that it:
1. had one of the highest prep school student bodies in the U.S.
2. had a very high percentage of students from New England and also from California.
3. was located in a not-so-hot section of Hartford but had just spent nearly $200 million dollars revitalizing the area around the school with Boys and Girls Clubs, etc.</p>

<p>Because of these things, we also learned that Trinity was making a concerted effort to broaden it's base and hence, sought:
2.more students not from New England or California;
3. more minority students;
4. more public high school students;
5. individuals who were significantly involved in, and committed to, community service activities.</p>

<p>My S hit all four of those criteria, was accepted into Trinity, and received over $30,000 in aid. </p>

<p>Now that was a fluke -- Trinity turned out to be a great match for him. However - I guess what I am saying is that if Trinity is a school that interests you and you know it seeks students dedicated to community service activities (and not simply token volunteerism), the sooner you find a volunteer activity and the longer you can commit to it, the more attractive you become to that institution.</p>

<p>It is the same for any institution I would imagine...UPenn has one of the best archaeology depts. in the US - if that field interests you -- even as a hobby -- maybe start volunteering at local archaeology digs. Dickinson is big on languages - so maybe consider learning two languages in High School and volunteering with a local ethnic group where you can practice one of the lamguages and do community service at the same time. Or take U. of Hawaii -- it has a wonderful world music/ethnomusicology dept. They also have one of the few gamelon troupes in the US. Have you lived in Indonesia? Is a parent Indonesian? Do you play any different types of instruments? -- if not, find one and start learning it. Princeton likes water polo players - Hopkins like lacrosse players. Find the niche that not many others can fill....</p>

<p>Wouldn't it make more sense for a student to find their own niche or passion... and then simply look for schools where that might be an asset? I mean, you've kind of turned the notion of "fit" upside down -- which I would think would be a recipe for disaster unless the student serendipitously discovers a real affinity for water polo or ethnic music. Otherwise, I can picture a very unhappy and soggy student whose stuck for 4 years playing a sport he hates, just because somewhere along the line a parent thought it would be a good way to leverage into a particular college. </p>

<p>The idea of looking for a school that is looking for students with particular sets of talents or interests is a great one -- I just think that the idea should be to develop the interests first, looking for the college that fits only later, if the kid still wants to pursue the particular interest, sport or art.</p>

<p>calmom,</p>

<p>you have it right!</p>

<p>By the time a student has developed an interest in college, say, junior year, it is far too late to learn ice skating, playing an instrument to a high level of excellence, become a champion hockey player, etc... The college should fit the student, not the other way around.</p>

<p>I didn't really think crash was suggesting that one try to fit oneself, or one's child, to the niche but, instead, was suggesting that if your student/child has a particular interest that it would be wise to note which programs had a particular fondness in students with those particular "niche" interests.</p>

<p>That's the way I took crash's comments over on the Colleges You Can Afford thread, and I suggested a new thread. ;)</p>

<p>I'm not exactly sure how one finds out what niche fondness various programs have at a particular point in time - except by scouring their websites or maybe running a news search regularly...but I'm mighty wet behind the college search ears.</p>

<p>I do recall reading that Johns Hopkins was interested in enlarging the number of non science majors...but I'm not sure if they have a particular penchant for students who write novels or have taught themselves an instrument or want to study Japanese and major in English, or what.</p>

<p>I did not express myself very well on this post but I think Blumini understands where I am trying to go with this. </p>

<p>I certainly would never expect a kid to mold themselves in a certain way just to get into a school, Calmom - and I agree, by junior year it might be too late to pick up new interests even if you wanted to, Marite. </p>

<p>However, if one can get an idea of what sorts of niches colleges are looking for, see if any of those peak your interest and/or are a good fit and develop expertise there, that might be an effective strategy especially if you start early enough -- 8th, 9th, even 10th grade. </p>

<p>For instance, our middle S is a tall boy, very strong but not very fast. He played soccer growing up and enjoyed it but is really not into contact sports all that nor is quick or agile enough to compete with other boys. But he enjoys sports very much -- so we began hunting around for a different sport for him to try. Building on "context" -- that is, on his physicality and where we live (near water, beaches, temperate climate) and cognizant that many schools were interested in kids adept at water polo, golf, volleyball, and crew -- we threw these sports out to him as suggestions to try -- all of these were sports that he might never have ordinarily considered. He tried golf and didn't really like it. Then he tried crew and is having a ball! He is a ninth grader and has three years to perfect his skills. Along with a weekly community service project that builds on his interests in zoology and (cross fingers) if he keeps his grades up, I think he's extended his chances of getting into a school of choice. I could be wrong but if I am, at least he's discovered a brand new area of interest he would not have otherwise tried....</p>

<p>I can't imagine using this approach to determine fit. I do understand that sports, music, and things like that can narrow the search among schools that would be a fit. If you play oboe, doesn't it make sense to give stronger consideration to the school that's desparate for oboe players than the one that has 4 to spare? It's only one of many factors, of course.</p>

<p>I do think it's perfectly reasonable to try to understand how your good points could be presented, marketed, in a way that increases the interest of a school. Fit does come into play, but only in a common sense way. Don't apply to schools, even safeties, if they're not good fits.</p>

<p>As for getting into ECs because a school might be interested in them, well, if you're excited about math and you know MIT looks hard at kids who do well on the on AIME and the USAMO, getting involved might make sense. If you're not excited about math, you're probably better off being involved in something you love even if it's not one of their hot buttons.</p>

<p>Crash ... I thought you expressed yourself very well in your original post. I had little doubt about what you were suggesting. OF COURSE a student should find a school right for him and not artificially create a personna to attract a school's interest. Having said that, among the MANY schools that are right for a particular student, it's no more wrong to selectively emphasize and/or deemphasize the qualities that might be attractive or unattractive to a particular school any more than it's wrong for a student with perfect grades, perfect test scores, national competition winners, recognized sports excellence, and so on and so on, to be expected to remain "silent" about his accomplishments. And clearly it makes perfect sense to target certain schools -- AMONG THE GROUP OF SCHOOLS THAT FIT HIM -- where for whatever reason his entire REAL personna does fill an actual or likely niche. Why not do this? The numbers at selective schools are overwhelming, the odds are daunting. Any student is advised to put some thought into schools where there might be a mutual good fit, put his best foot forward ,and hope for the best. No regrets. I completely understand what you meant and couldn't agree more.</p>

<p>Crash:</p>

<p>Your advice, as directed to parents, is very good. As a parent, however, I would want to de-emphasize the "getting into college" aspect of things and just urge kids to strive for excellence in some areas in which they show interest for the sake of the enjoyment they will derive in pursuing that interest. Using the getting into college argument is either not going to be very effective or will produce burn-out well before senior year. But it should not prevent parents from being aware of the longer-term perspective.</p>

<p>As usual, Marite makes an excellent point. I'll elaborate. "Niche marketing" strategies are not a replacement for simply doing what you love, developing abilities and learning life skills, or finding a school which really, truly fits. Nor should these strategies be considered a long-term way to "game" the system. However, late in a student's high school career, when they are who they are (at least from the perspective of what a given college will think they are getting in them), these so-called "niche marketing" strategies can be a useful tool to make your chances a little better among schools where you already like the fit. As long as parent and student understand what they are (and what they aren't), there is nothing wrong with using presentation and focus to put your best foot forward, and, not so incidentally, increase your yield (hmmm ... does anyone else we know do that?). Not only will this likely provide some tangible benefits (and allow you to sleep at night without regrets about not having tried your hardest), it is also good practice for the way the real world operates in pretty much every business imaginable -- corporate business, small business, law, education, politics, whatever.</p>

<p>Marite - we never urged our S to try crew so he could get into college. But in doing research for our first S, I learned that there are several sports hosted by colleges that are "underplayed" (if you will) by high schoolers such as crew, squash, fencing, diving, shot put/discus, rugby, bowling (!), or golf. Every kid in our area plays football, soccer, tennis, lacrosse, baseball, and sails so the competition is fierce. By eigth grade, if you aren't good, many kids simply drop out -- like our S did. But there are other sports to try -- So the thinking here is why not see if your child wants to try one of these sports and if they like it, great. If not, okayt. There's no pressure - it's just trying to help them find a niche in which they can develop. For our S it happened to be crew. And there happen to be alot of NE LAC's with crew teams so maybe this will help him in the long run...who knows? (Maybe by the time he's a senior, he'll want a school in the midwest, too....)</p>

<p>So much of the college game these days isn't necessarily about smarts or worthiness - for there are thousands of extremely bright and worthy students out there. There are also many more whose parents pay a fortune to have them prepped, essay edited, and tutored. But for lower income and middle class kids whose parents cannot pay full or even 50% of the tuition, who SATs are 1300, not 1550, who have a 3.8 GPA and not a weighted 4.4 ,and are not a star athelete or musician, it can be a tough sell to get your child into a school no matter how wonderful a kid he is. I see the niche strategy as a potential win-win - it helps the child develop some new talent and it may help him get into a college of choice. But again, it's not a strategy something you begin in 11th or 12th grade...but in middle school or early high school....anyway, each to his own.</p>

<p>Crash:</p>

<p>I think it comes down to a slight shift in emphasis, not a disagreement.
I agree that there are different sports or skills kids could try, and parents should encourage them to do so. But I also remember the advice of an Ivy interviewer that our S might be in better position if he had learned to play the oboe rather than the piano. Apart for his lack of interest in the oboe, there was the danger that, by the time he applied to colleges, there might be a surfeit of oboe-playing applicants at his colleges of choice. I do know of a woman who swears she was admitted to Radcliffe because of her willingness to crew. I just wander if another applicant the following year would have the same luck.
So, I agree that parents should encourage their children to try different things--not necessarily the most common. We did it with our older S, a BWRK; our goal was to get him to join clubs and teams because we knew once he did, he would enjoy it (as he agreed afterward). We just did not mention college; it did not enter our minds, as we were not clued into the importance of ECs. But, lo and behold, his best essay was about the club he'd joined at our urging.</p>

<p>Actually, Marite, I agree wholeheartedly with your post. You've said what I've been trying to say better than me. Can I hire you as my spokesperson.</p>

<p>Another example - based on geography or ethnicity...- we have many friends in Hawaii whose kids attend a top prep school there. Each year a significant percentage of these kids get into HYPMSC as well as the top 25 LAC's. But the competition is fierce for the top east and west coast schools. One friend's daughter, a stellar student with an impressive community service resume (but weak in sports or music) applied to all the same schools as most of her classmates. I kept encouraging her to also include mid-west, southern, and mid-Atlantic schools, especially since she is also racially-mixed -- perhaps another plus in her favor if a school sought more diversity. She was very disappointed because she did not get into any of the east coast Ivy's or LACs she applied to. But she did get into a top West coast public (where she's a legacy) as well as a very good southern and a m,id-Atlantic school. So thank goodness she included those at the last minute as back-ups or she might have been a very disappointed girl...</p>