It’s all over but the crying

As the songs say, It’s all over but the crying.  Hank Williams Jr. or Garbage depending on your preferred genre.

It's all over but the crying.

It’s all over but the crying.

The college process is over…for now.  And all that is left for me, the Mom, is the crying. The crying at this week’s Mother/Son breakfast.  Seeing my son speak at a graduation event Thursday night.  Baccalaureate on Saturday night and finally, watching him cross the stage on Sunday to receive his high school diploma from St. John’s Prep. People tell you it goes by fast. They are right – it flies.

So a blog about reflections of the college search, application and selection process from a marketer. My top ten list for college admissions officers to learn from:

10. Map the customer experience – it starts with parking. Make visiting your campus easy and hassle-free. Validated parking tickets for free parking is a nice touch. If not possible, clear notification and availability of quarters for meter parking by BU undergraduate admissions office was well thought out. Frustrated parents do not make for a happy and supportive tour group!

9. Survey your prospective customers!  After a campus visit, find out what they liked and what they did not so you can continue to improve. Consider perspectives of BOTH students and parents in your survey design and sampling.

8. Marketing 101: Update your value proposition. Review and update your key messaging.  Make sure it is accurate and is relevant to your ideal target audience. Kudos to Drexel University.  Liked their tagline. Like that they clearly document and present The Drexel Difference.  They know who they are and clearly present and appeal to their target student.  Impressive.

7. Automated, inaccurate emails damage your brand. Just like any other consumer-interaction, there is nothing more stressful than receiving indications of missing information as part of an application process only to discover that was ‘an automated reply’ and can be ignored.  Yikes. Get your internal processes in order!

6. Book store. Make it part of the tour.  Best tour route:  Georgetown University. Ended in the student commons by the book store. Basic stuff. Smart.

5. Food.  It is important.  It is a differentiator.  Prospective students care about food.  Parents care about food and healthy options.  Kudos to tours that ended with coupons to try the food. Kudos to tours that took us through actual dining areas.  A big thumbs down to schools who do NOT address allergies and the demands of prospective students.  This is not a new requirement.  There is enough stress of thinking about your 18-year-old being on their own without wondering if kids with allergies will be at risk walking into a dining hall.

4. Tour guides make or break it. Critical success factor for any school to have top-notch highly trained tour guides! These students need to be vetted, trained and mystery-shopped! It is amazing how many stories I have heard in the past 18 months of prospective students removing great schools from their list due to the impression the tour guide made. Admission officers take notice! These kids are a critical success factor.

3. Shout out to University of Loyola in Baltimore for great emails to prospective parents, well-designed mailers to prospective students and for their impressive and timely communications the week of decision-making to address head on the safety of its city as the city was erupting.  A job well done. I was very impressed with the tone of the communications and the consistent affirmation that this school has a strong brand identity that came through in all of its written communications.

2. Use video. It is engaging and interesting. Hint:  George Washington University. Sitting in a large room for our 3rd college tour of the day with no video was rough. When a 12-year-old comments on how poor the group presentation was, that is a big clue!

1. No one cares how many volumes are in the library.  Remove these stats from your standard tour.  Prospective students don’t care and either do parents. It is a useless fact. Not a differentiator.

So, it is all over but the crying…at least for me. Likely a two-year break before we ramp up the process again as my daughter heads into high school next year. Oh, and the winner is:  Bentley University.  Very proud.

 

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