Each of Conway’s three colleges takes a somewhat different approach toward marketing to prospective students. Officials from the three schools recently shared how they work to get young minds on their campuses.
University of Central Arkansas
Jeff Pitchford, vice president for government relations at the University of Central Arkansas, said marketing is vital for both the college and the state.
"Marketing to students who are looking at going to college is one of the most vital tasks we do at UCA. If we are not marketing to potential college students, then we are not doing our jobs. It is vital to not only UCA, but to the state, to encourage students to go to college and get a college degree. Our state’s economy is dependent on this as well. We also want to have a strong enrollment at UCA, and marketing helps us recruit students.
"We want to attract quality students and have to market to show all the programs we offer, such as the honors college, business, health, sciences and education."
Pitchford said the school’s view book has been a very effective marketing tool. Thousands are printed each year, and every high school counselor in the state receives copies. The book contains information on financial aid, housing, tuition, room and board, fees, an estimated cost of books and an application. It also includes degree programs, majors, student organizations, activities, athletics and information on student life, Pitchford said.
Also, the university’s four recruitment officers visit every high school in the state to do one-on-one recruitment.
A recruiter also goes to all two-year colleges in the state to visit with students who are ready to transfer to a four-year school, he said.
"We also follow up with e-mails to students that contact us," he added.
Dr. Allen Meadors, president of the university, said, "The most important thing is to get out to the high schools and talk to the students and counselors. The number one thing is to get them to come to campus and visit. We are extremely confident if we can get them on campus, we’ll get our fair share. You can’t just accept that everyone knows you’re there."
The university is preparing to hire an advertising firm to work toward some new goals, Pitchford said.
"We have done a lot of television marketing in the past, branding. … Over the past four years, everyone’s seen our commercials, the Center of Learning campaign. I’d imagine we would refresh that a little as we go along."
He added, "We would like to have a more holistic approach and focus more on reaching students."
Pitchford noted, "We try to go where students go. We’re on Facebook and MySpace."
UCA places ads in various publications throughout Arkansas if cost effective, Pitchford said.
"Students may not read those publications, but their parents do. Parents, guardians and family members help them make decisions too. Making the parents and grandparents feel good about UCA helps too."
Central Baptist College
Central Baptist College is aggressive in its recruiting, according to President Terry Kimbrow.
He commented, "Central Baptist College, like all colleges, has a niche. Ours is the small, Christian environment with a family atmosphere. With that we provide a program of academic rigor. That combination is one many parents and students alike are seeking. Targeted marketing lets us tell our message in a succinct way to a broad audience. Our aim is to match the students and parents needs with what we have to offer. Marketing is a great way to accomplish that."
The college has an admissions team of three who are each responsible for different territories. Representatives go to college planning programs at high schools, mainly in the fall, and the rest of the year, recruiters work with the prospects.
"I think we have that advantage — we can work personally with the student," he said. Recruiters develop relationships with prospects, and by the time they arrive on campus, they know them, he said.
CBC coaches go to high school games and tournaments and work with high school coaches to recruit student athletes, Kimbrow said. Representatives also go each year to SOAR, a youth event in Dallas that draws 3,000 teens, he said.
Kimbrow said prospects also receive a view book, which provides an introduction to the college and its programs along with admission requirements, tuition information and scholarship application deadlines.
He continued, "Our goal is to get the student on campus for a personal tour. That’s a big marketing tool for us. One of our distinctives is that personal touch. If we can get them on campus for that tour, we feel like we can recruit them."
Students can schedule individual tours five days a week, any time, he said. He visits with the student if he is on campus, and if they are an athlete, the coach visits with them as well.
"I think that’s what makes us very unique," he added.
Another benefit of having a small campus, Kimbrow said, is that employees know the students. Everyone speaks to prospective students, and if they see someone who looks lost, they drop everything and help. It makes recruiting a campus-wide effort, he said.
For students who cannot attend a personal tour, there are three group tour opportunities per year, Kimbrow said.
The college also relies on its Web site for marketing, as some students find the school, apply and come from out of state or out of the country without ever having visited CBC or Arkansas.
"These prospective students demand a cutting-edge Web site," he said.
Commercials on You Tube also play a role in connecting with students, as well as reaching them on Facebook.
"For this generation, you have to make that connection with them," Kimbrow said. "In an all student meeting, they asked how many had a Facebook account, and only three didn’t. They were all non-traditional. We don’t even e-mail them anymore. They don’t want to be e-mailed."
The school has an "extremely limited ad budget … we look for good value," Kimbrow said. The college has commercials on a Little Rock television station and advertises in a few local magazines.
"We’re more personal with our money than the ads and TV and billboards," he said.
Mark Scott, director of media relations for Hendrix College, said the college specially targets students through its marketing efforts.
"One hundred percent of our efforts are spent marketing to students who would make good Hendrix College students, and we are very strategic and creative in the ways we attempt to reach students," he said. "Where other colleges are very broad in where they spend their money, we’re very specific. The audience we’re trying to reach is high school students. More specifically, intelligent high school students who meet admission requirements and who would be a good fit for Hendrix."
"As a benchmark, we look closely at the National Association of College Admission Counselors," he said. The group’s survey shows colleges with fewer than 3,000 students spend an average of $2,963 per student. Last year, Hendrix spent $2,946 per student, he said.
"We’re right at the average. So, as a benchmark, we feel like we spend what other colleges spend to recruit students," he said. "We take a best practices approach to recruiting students, which is why we have the benchmark. We make an extra effort to recruit the best students for Hendrix."
The college recruits from all 50 states, and more than half of its students come from out of state, Scott said. A significant amount is spent on travel so that admissions counselors can travel to all 50 states, he said.
Dr. Timothy Cloyd, president of Hendrix, said, "I think the bottom line for us is we’re not looking for consumers. We’re looking to build long-term relationships with students who we want to recruit to come to Hendrix. We have to be much more personalized, to get to know the family of the student."
He continued, "We rely on word of mouth. We target certain high schools, certain cities. It’s more of a rifle shot than it is a shotgun."
Cloyd said marketing dollars can be wasted if institutions do not understand who they are.
"We’re not out to recruit in the mass market," he said. "I think this holds true for institutions that are like Hendrix. You don’t see Rhodes or Vanderbilt … out doing a mass marketing (campaign). They’re developing relationships with students."
Scott added, "We think it’s important for students to experience Hendrix before they choose to come here."
The school offers overnight visits, allowing students to attend activities and stay in a residence hall.
Hendrix also has a high school counselor fly-in program, in which the school pays to fly in about 20 counselors from 10 states to visit the college so they can tell their students about it, Scott said.
Once students are admitted, personal touches are added to make the students feel welcome, including confetti in their acceptance letter and send-off parties in large cities.
"We put a lot of personal touches in how we utilize our admissions department," Scott said. "We think that’s more important than broadly advertising our college."
(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1277. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)