By Jonathan Oleisky
Last week I went back to college, four of them to be exact. Our youngest daughter started her college search and I had the pleasure of putting on my “prospective parent” hat. Over the course of three days we visited four very different colleges in the greater Boston area.
As an educational marketer, I was keenly interested to see how each school would engage our daughter. These four highly competitive colleges had impressive admissions offices, offered full campus tours and three of the four kicked off the day with a detailed hour-long information session. The fourth school had a special “Women in Engineering” half day session (more on that to come).
Let’s start with the similarities. The price tag for each school is a mind-numbing $60,000 plus per year (for those of you who just fell out of your chair, you are not alone). With an investment of that magnitude our daughter was greeted with a warm smile, the most beautiful marketing collateral you can imagine, and a well-spoken admissions professional at each school.
Now for the differences. Some were subtle, but two were very unique in their engagement.
College #1. This highly selective, small women’s college, put the seven prospective student’s front and center. With a small touring group, the Assistant Admissions Director asked each young lady to take a seat around a large conference table. The parents were asked to sit in chairs around the wall. I was impressed with the approach. It was clear to me this would be an intimate discussion that would be primarily student-focused.
College #2. This mid-sized school had over 150 students and parents attend the information session. As we checked in at the admissions office it had the feeling of a crowded open house. The Director of Admissions (yep, the top dog himself led the information session) did an excellent job and introduced a panel of four current students. Everything was well done, but no personalization here.
College #3. This small to mid-sized school had another group of 150 students and parents, an Assistant Admissions Director (she did a great job), and a very enthusiastic student tour guide. Once again, no personalization here.
College #4. As a highly specialized Engineering School with 350 students, the five hour session was radically different from the other three. To be fair to the other schools this was a special annual workshop, highly targeted and customized to attract female high school students with an interest in engineering. However this was all about making these young ladies feel empowered and the center of attention. From the name tag, to the complimentary lunch, to the faculty panel, to the hands-on engineering project, this was a full court press. Did I mention that each accepted student is offered a 50% merit award which covers $20,000 per year of tuition? That got my attention.
Each of these schools is highly regarded and I’m confident would offer our daughter (and yours as well) an outstanding education. If I were handing out style awards for successful marketing engagement, clearly Colleges 1 & 4 would be declared the winners of this round. They each offered something a little different and it showed. Our daughter left those two schools with the impression that her college education would be a hands-on experience, with strong student faculty interaction and a focus on mentoring and empowering young women.
For those of you who are getting ready to begin your child’s college search, I wish you the best of luck.
Jonathan Oleisky is the President of Kalix Communications