In February I attended a session at the Regional meeting College Board meeting in Chicago during which Jon McGee (St. Johns/St. Bens) and Brian Zucker (Human Capital) made a pretty compelling case that college need to do a better job of describing the bigger picture when asking a student to choose their college. Both discussed the need for colleges to think about the four-year experience as well as results after college in painting a complete picture for prospective students, who they contend are more savvy than ever. Both seemed to suggest that colleges need to do a more effective job of putting all of the pieces together and neatly packaging them to help guide a student’s decision-making.
I have to admit that I left the session wanting more (which doesn’t always happen when I attend sessions at conference). I also left the session with a bunch of ideas rolling around in my head. I was asking myself, “What we could do at Augustana College to respond?”
As I sorted through all the thoughts in my head the idea of a “prospectus” along the lines of what a start-up might put in front of an investor started to have some appeal and I started to wonder if we could put something similar together for prospective students.
When I returned to campus the first thing I did was Google “investment prospectus” and began to sort through templates and examples. I found a few that looked pretty good and then decided to pitch the idea to the admissions and communications & marketing team.
Here is the email I sent:
“I have been thinking about piloting (during yield season) and developing a prospectus on choosing Augustana. This would be aimed at some of our top students. Think prospectus like trying to convince an investor, etc. Within this prospectus we might include information about a 4-year plan and the high-impact practices we offer, as well project what four years will cost and then connect it to outcomes. I am thinking a couple of fancy charts and some narrative. Again, this would be aimed a tip-top recruits who have not yet decided to attend.”
I asked my admission, financial assistance and communication & marketing team if they thought we could develop a customized prospectus for prospective students? I asked them if they thought we could customize academic information and combine it with personalized financial information that would paint a clearer picture for prospective students who are in the process of making their final college choice?
Because I have a very creative team, which is always ready to rise to the challenge, they responded affirmatively and we started work on developing a customized “investment prospectus” for accepted students in selected programs.
Last week we mailed a “customized prospectus” to about 100 high-achievers in select academic programs who remain in our accept pool.
Within each prospectus we have the following sections:
- Distinctive Augustana Academic Programs and Resources (we describe college-wide programs that we believe stand out and help our students stand-out)
- Four-years of Signature Experiences in (insert the major the student in interested in) (we identified aspects of each academic program that we believe define the major and offer some distinguishing experience to our students)
- The Qualities and Skill Employers Seek (we cite a Job Outlook survey and identify the skills employers seek in new employees and provide examples from a recent alumni survey we did to reinforce how we prepare graduates in these areas)
- Great Results and Earning Potential (we cite Payscale information about what our graduates earn two and fifteen years out and compare it to eight peer colleges)
- Conclusion (we describe retention and graduation rates for this targeted group of students and provide additional information from our recent alumni survey related to how Augustana contributed to our graduates’ success and happiness)
We also provide each student we a customized letter outlining “a balanced financial commitment.” In the letter, which I’ve copied below we describe the following:
- Estimated total cost for four years (we estimate increases for the next three years)
- Estimated four-year college investment in the student (
- Estimated four-year net cost (subtracting merit and need-based assistance)
- Estimated debt responsibility
This is a new effort and I am not sure how it will work out. I guess only time will tell if it proves to be successful.
We developed a prospectus for the following programs: Accounting, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Education Geology and History. If you would like to see an example, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will gladly provide you with an example.
I am proud of the effort because I think we’ve done a better job than ever before thinking about questions of value and what makes an experience valuable. I also believe we’ve made stronger investment arguments than past efforts because of the way we chose to organize the information. I am also very proud of the admissions, financial assistance and communication and marketing teams for their creativity in putting together attractie materials and for thinking critically about this project.
I am also cautious about this approach and am not sure how this will also work out. We will do some research on this effort after May 1.
I am interested in your thoughts and reactions to this approach. Let me know what you think.
W. Kent Barnds @bowtieadmission