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Personals Ad and Aggressive Marketing

In my work as an educational consultant to families going through the college search and application process, I use information and humor to support students and their parents. As early admissions decisions have been rendered and seniors now wait for the next round of regular admissions decisions I want to share some thoughts to lend perspective, offer advice and provide some levity.

Aggressive marketing by colleges has added to the frenzy and confusion and made it harder for students to pay attention to what should matter most. After honest and ongoing reflection and self assessment, students should be considering the differences in college environments and how they match their preferences and requirements and will further their growth and development.

Urging colleagues to take a values-based approach to promoting their institutions, Joanna Broda, executive director of enrollment management at Pace University in White Plains, spoke to that point when she said, “The current guiding principle in marketing colleges is attracting as many students as possible. We sell the sizzle but not the steak, and we market ourselves against our competitors instead of making students aware of the essential elements that distinguish our own college from other institutions.” Bruce Poch, vice president and dean of admissions at Pomona College in Claremont, California conveyed similar sentiment when he said, “We talk to students about our new dorms and our new gym. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing a time-share sales pitch and all I need are balloons to complete the effect.”

Since a college education is earned by students through active engagement and hard work and is not conferred upon them by virtue of “place”, I urge students to think about educational values such as curricular requirements and educational philosophy. At this time, with some admission decisions in hand and others yet to be rendered, there is another window of time for seniors to consider the differences in college environments and how they fit and support their personal and unique preferences and goals. I also invite students to think about how they will take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead and the contributions that they will make.

Thinking of how colleges market themselves caused me to construct a “personals ad” for a typical high school student applying to college. If you see yourself in that profile, know that you are not alone!

Healthy kid. High school senior. Undecided about major and academic focus, inclined toward the sciences and working with numbers. Had heard about your preference for students earning As in a rigorous curriculum; instead earned Bs. Enjoys playing guitar, acting, hanging out with friends, running, not feeling too much pressure. Seeking same in liberal arts college for four years of learning, laughter and a sense of future direction.

Published in the Spring 2008 E-Newsletter of the New York State Association of College Admission Counseling (NYSACAC), the April/May 2008 Insights, the Newsletter of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), and as an Op/Ed in The Sound and Town Report on January 25, 2008.

Posted by UberMusings / Posted on 25 Jan