04/01/2012 | Kevin N. Ladd
Outreach is key because it ensures the student is aware of the opportunity at a particular school while simultaneously improving the quality and possibly even the size of the freshman class at a given college or university. For the student, this is equally desirable because many of these students just don’t have all of the information they need and this is just another way for them to potentially discover a college or university they wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Now the student is being actively recruited by colleges even as they search for scholarships and other financial aid information.
Traditionally, students have based a great deal of their college choices on school name, ranking or reputation. Schools like Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Stanford get tons of attention simply because they are some of the oldest and most reputable universities in the country. All too often, this very important decision is based far too much on this sort of thing: where their parents attended, where their friends plan to go, etc. With the advances in communication and technology we enjoy today, there is no reason for students not to have the facts necessary to make an informed and less-biased decision. Contact and exchange of information between a student and prospective school is crucial to a successful pairing.
For example, Scholarships.com acts as liaison by providing students not only with scholarship opportunities but information about every college and university in the country and the potential for recruitment by these schools. Depending upon the student’s profile, they can opt to be recruited by different colleges and are also encouraged to provide information to any and all schools they are considering attending. This enables us to let colleges know when a student is interested in their school and that they may then reach out to them if they so choose. For their part, college or university recruiters are providing the other side of the matchmaking equation by telling us what they would like in a student and following-up with all those that are of interest to them.
Once a student has discovered a particular school or list of schools, it is crucial that some serious research takes place. Depending on the student, it can be difficult to isolate the most critical traits a school must possess in order to qualify as one to which the student should apply. Prioritization of these qualities is helpful for an efficient college search and ideally, students would begin searching for colleges during their junior year in high school — first just researching information on schools online, perhaps.
Degrees conferred, school size, standardized testing requirements, graduation rates and even virtual tours are all useful and as the student learns more about the process, the list can be narrowed to a manageable number of schools before the actual college visits begin. For the school, it is much easier to identify needs — and they have the benefit of experienced professionals who do nothing but fill the needs by reaching out to prospects via multiple media, including direct mail, email and other digital means. Ensuring the positive experience of both student and school is vital, as keeping the flow of information open between the two and counseling both on how make sure the right fit is found breeds the best possible relationship.
There is going to be a considerable amount of work for both student and school but the good news is that it pays off. For students, anywhere from $5,000 to $55,000 could potentially be saved by avoiding an additional year of college or having to transfer from the “wrong” college and spending additional time and money on credits that were not accepted. Ambivalence about the “where” and “what” of postsecondary education can be costly. For the school, of course, graduation rate is important as is retaining a student. If the student leaves and goes to another school, both sides lose but the availability of information on both sides of the equation is likely the best chance they have at an efficient and enjoyable educational experience.
Think of the process 20 years ago. Maybe you recall how much more work it was just to get some basic information on a particular school, writing or calling and asking them to mail you a catalog or brochure. A student today can obtain information on five different schools and have a typed report on each of them in under an hour if they had to. They can watch virtual tours of campuses across the country, saving hundreds of dollars in plane fare. They can get recruited by a dozen schools that they never would have connected with before and be contacted by a recruiter just moments after they showed an interest in them. They can discover colleges of which they had been unaware or had not considered before, only to find these schools are actually the perfect fit. It’s still a lot of work, to be sure. But college has never been more accessible than it is today. Not just college. The right college.