Double-Edged Advertising

Anyone who has ever taken a standardized test understands the weight behind the saying “don’t check the box!”

No, it’s not that you’re signing away your freedom or first born child. Instead, you’re subjecting yourself to hundreds of emails, letters, and phone calls a day from random colleges all over the world (which, after going through it, I might have been more willing to do the former. Bye Joey!).

Even without making that fatal mistake, however, teenagers all over the world are constantly flooded with advertisements from colleges and universities. Pamphlets, brochures, emails, posts on Facebook and Twitter- you name it, colleges use it, all with the hope that they’re endless deluge of shiny stationary and well-designed web-layouts will make you apply to their school.

But are they really achieving the intended goal?

In a survey conducted at St. Luke’s, more than 80% of students receive six or more emails from colleges a week, while 57% receive six or more physical pieces of mail a week. In addition, of all the students surveyed, 77% almost never read the information sent to them and only 8% of them actually further investigated the schools that they were contacted by.

One student commented on the situation, saying “I receive so many emails and letters on a weekly basis that I have a vast pile of unopened envelopes and hundreds of unread emails, but I have learned to effortlessly ignore them all by now.”

While the advertising can be good to get the college’s name out there, the constant flood of information often leaves students feeling more fed-up than intrigued. “For most of the colleges that send emails to me constantly,” a student said, “it’s like they literally know nothing about me. Almost all of them don’t have my major and it just shows me these colleges are interested in me solely for grades and SAT purposes.”

It just shows me these colleges are interested in me solely for grades and SAT purposes.

In my personal experience, over the past three years since first taking the PSAT, I have received exactly 1,981 emails from colleges and about 2,190 mailed letters (at least two, if not three, a day). That’s a lot of gigabytes and cut-down trees to send information that, nine times out of ten, I immediately throw into the trash before even opening.

Beyond just being annoying, however, over-marketing also tends to change students’ perceptions about the school in question. Overheard names become common and less desirable. One student blatantly said “The more the school sends me emails, the less interested I am in the school”

There is a collection of schools that almost every upperclassman receives information from, and within them lies a stigma of commonality and dullness. For the most part, these pamphlets are coming from schools that are trying to get their name out – not necessarily Harvard or Cal Tech – but the reaction is, more often than not, a negative one. One student said that it “makes it seem like they are desperate for people and makes me not want to apply there.”

 [It] makes it seem like they are desperate for people and makes me not want to apply there.

So what should schools be doing? Where do they find the balance of advertising and desirability? Outside of the negative feedback, there were certainly some students who appreciated the contact and information, including one student who said that “it is helpful to get emails from colleges explaining upcoming events or things I might be interested in going to/hearing about, which shows me that they care about informing the ‘fans’ of the school about what’s going on.”

There is a fine line between traditional advertising and complete over-marketing, and attempting to walk that line is where most admission departments stumble. In the end, when all the letters are ripped and the emails deleted, it will be the school itself that remains. Strip away the pretty pamphlets or mass emails and you are left with a university, and that is what students need to base their decisions upon. That is what the college experience is supposed to be all about.
Monika Gabriele, Editor-in-Chief

Posted by on November 11, 2014. Filed under School News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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