Monday, February 2, 2015

An Early Thirsty From Dr. Amelia.

I think we have all cringed at the things you hear campus tour guides saying to their charges as you walk past the tour. But at Chez Amelia, the eldest offspring is getting close to college age, and we are having the real deal recruiting experience and have learned some interesting things.

Tours: We've been on tours at a few schools so far and they share one thing in common...they don't mention academics. Campus traditions? Sure thing. Greek life? You betcha. Football? Natch. But time that you might, you know, go to classes and learn stuff? Hardly worth a moment, except for one guiding darling who told us all that "They make you take at least one math class here, and two sciences." My future engineer offspring was not very impressed by that. The overall messages seem to be a) we're a school with an identity and b) these will be some kind of personal discovery/formation/best years of your life.

Letters: Offspring recently took the PSAT and scored quite well (nerd parents, you know). He has been receiving missives from various fine institutions of higher learning seeking to interest him in the fine-ness. The thing that is so interesting is that every single letter is using the same tactic: We have a freebie to offer you (usually some kind of electronic pamphlet that offers college advice, sometimes a quiz that will tell you what to major in) and here is your super-special name and password, so just log in and give us some personal information (a parent's e-mail address) and we'll let you have it. We did a few, just to see what would happen, and they take to you a site, not in the university's domain, that has the information you requested and a micro web site of information about the school (again, non-academic stuff). A few have sent me an e-mail with a link to a helicopter parent oriented micro site including FAQ parents have and a list of parents of current students who will talk to parents of prospective students. Very strange, and kind of like they are all using the same marketing consultant, or all the admissions directors get ideas at the same conference session.

Fairs: We've also been to a college fair, about 100 schools there. This is a very odd kind of thing, because the people working at them seem to just want to hand you a brochure with campus visit dates and answer questions. Yet some of these were pretty small, not-well-known schools. I try to let Offspring handle these kinds of transactions himself because, you know, he's almost a grown-up and I'm not the one going to college, but you'd think people who do this for a living might be willing to help a kid out by having some kind of elevator speech or asking a question about what the kid is interested in and having some kind of thing to say about that. Anything besides "Here you go. Any questions?"

It made me wonder how my own school recruits students, which I don't really know besides the sometimes cringe-worthy tours.

Q: How do they do it at your school? What kind of message does it send?


  1. Judging from the increasingly large number of students my high school sends to High Point "University" each year, I'd say school tours are simply catering to kids who care more about swanky facilities than academics.

  2. I shudder to think about how well we do. Hell, even the faculty here don't seem to take academics seriously, so who knows how bad the recruiters are?

  3. Pretty much the same at my PhD institution. It was always hard to hold myself back from telling the dears to run away from the school. Most come for the sports teams or the new recreation center, but a few (a handful) come for the great Hamster Building program.
    My places of employment...I have no clue how it is handled. I do know at one place I have seen students and faculty lead tours. Usually they open my classroom, interrupting class to show off the only large lecture hall on campus. Apparently, no one has classes after 2PM??

  4. My school makes a big deal out of our Eldritch identity. It influences the required courses, student life offerings, and the physical elements of campus. Some Elves live on or near the campus and occupy prominent roles on the faculty and administration.
    I once heard a student tour guide brightly offering up, "Oh, some Elves live here, but you'd never know it! We hardly ever see them."
    At least you know he's not just feeding them a canned script from the PR folks.

  5. They show a picture of the back end of a sheep, with the caption:

    "Like what you see? Then come to Fresno State!"

  6. Over at Miskatonic U., they show off the horrifying non-Euclidean architecture copied from that "city" on the Mountain.

    Ia! Ia! Shub niggurath!!

  7. Public JuCos shouldn't need to recruit since we aren't ranked based on admission rates. We take all comers. But we and our fellow campuses buy ads on buses and billboards anyway, and we have administrators dedicated to branding (though not the kind they indulge in at Fresno State). One nearby campus says it's "a global community college for the 21st century. " Okay. Does that mean something?

    Like Amelia (and a shoutout to the RGM for the tweaked graphic), I recently started getting piles of recruiting mail coming for my teenager. Most of it goes right into the recycling. University of Chicago? Ha! Like I can afford that. (And we won't be eligible for much financial aid.)

    So far, Teen and I have paid the most attention to the brochures from Christian evangelical colleges. They're so entertaining. Diversity means there's a brunette raising her hand in class. None of the faculty are named, but every page has a large inspirational quote. We haven't seen one yet that offers anthropology. Our favorite calls itself a university, but the only degree discussed is an Associate of Arts. (For fellow miserians in furn places, an A.A. in the U.S. is a two-year degree, the lowest degree possible after high school.)

  8. I don't think we recruit much in-state (we're a pretty good deal, a good first choice for many students due to family and/or financial situations and/or vocational interests, a top transfer choice for students in the local community colleges, and a solid backup choice for many others).

    We do recruit out-of-state students like mad, because we need the tuition dollars (but I'm not sure how; since we love to contract things out, I wouldn't be surprised to learn we've got one of those sites you mention, Amelia).

    And we're big on recruiting international students, which we do through another private-sector "partner" (which didn't perform very well at first; I haven't heard whether that's improved). All of the logic for the partnership sounded pretty good (it seemed to fit with the school profile -- lots of first-generation immigrant students already -- the location, etc.), until I started running into people at conferences whose own very-different schools had very similar partnerships. It seems that many underfunded U.S. schools are convinced they're going to balance the budget by bringing in planeloads of wealthy students from Asia, the Middle East, etc., etc. I rather suspect the U.S. demand exceeds the supply, which doesn't bode well for such agreements (many of which include long-term contracts. Eek.)

  9. At Wolf359, we had a representative stand outside of the local mental health clinic with brochures.

    1. That's how my alma mater ran search committees for adminiflakes.