By Abby Wargo
Washington College’s Admissions department wants to give prospective students a preview of college life here. As a result, they have been re-branding their recruitment efforts to help students feel at home from their first visit.
“We’re doing a lot to really talk about the WC experience in a way that prospective students get some of the same feeling as students who have been here for a while,” said Lorna Hunter, vice president of enrollment management.
In order to accomplish this, Admissions has increasingly been using digital marketing to access students who may not be able to physically visit campus.
“Our communication plan is pretty intense, and we try to do multimedia communications,” Hunter said.
Multimedia communications can include print and video, and the admissions team is in the process of redesigning their website, Hunter said.
“One of the things we’re just looking at, because we feel that we need one, is a virtual tour so that students — international students, students who live further away — who can’t get here quite as much can have an opportunity to see some of the exciting things that are happening on campus,” Hunter said.
The on-campus tour has also seen some changes to switch the focus of the visit to the experience itself.
“Generally, current students agree that the experiences and opportunities WC offers shape a one-of-a-kind college experience, so we’ve changed our tour route and, largely, our approach to admissions to showcase that,” said admissions ambassador Shannon Finnegan, junior. “What we really want is to show students why each of us chose the school and what the school is doing for us to prove to them why WC is so unique and special compared to other schools.”
“They need to know what life is like here; what the possibilities are, what the opportunities are. And there are many,” Hunter said.
Some of the other communication pieces that Admissions uses, like handouts and flyers, have also been redesigned. The new materials highlight the individuality of WC and how students can customize their college experience.
“There’s so much information out there. We try to use the information that we have about students to get them the information they’re looking for rather than try to search down through layers and layers,” Hunter said.
Admissions has been taking the WC experience and “distilling it down to small bites,” Hunter said, for prospective students and finding ways to give those students that information in a form that is accessible.
“We’re trying to look at where students are, what they need, and how we can get our message across,” she said.
Admissions has also been looking into different populations of students to bolster face-to-face recruiting. One way to do this is through touring. Admissions counselors will travel to different regions and international locations to connect with groups of interested students.
“We travel to very specific areas that we started out sending information to students, and when those students are talking about how interested they are — we call that, if they raise their hand — then you start to build areas where you should go, because these are students who have an interest in [coming to WC,]” Hunter said.
Another way to recruit international students is through a digital viewbook, which is currently in progress.
“While our viewbook is really very good, it is not going to package and go well overseas,” Hunter said. “We’re segmenting our markets and trying to reach out to students where they are. If international students need a digital viewbook, that’s the way we’re going. If students who live further away need a virtual tour, that’s how we’re pushing out.”
The emphasis is on student individuality. Every prospective student is different and have different needs or interests, which means not every prospective student needs the same information about a college.
“Some students are far more interested in the social aspects of college, some are interested in the financial aspects, others the academic…but we want to be able to reach out there in a multitude of ways,” Hunter said.
Students can arrange for personalized visitor tours that can include a campus tour, an information session, an interview with an Admissions counselor, lunch with students, a tour of downtown Chestertown, class shadowing, as well as one-on-ones with campus offices and organizations, to “do their day their way.”
“We want [tours] to be more conversational and personal so that prospective students see how WC shapes and molds…an intelligent person. I really try to emphasize the reasons I chose the school. The honor code, the personal relationships with professors, and the global outreach due to our extensive history,” Finnegan said.
For the class of 2023, Hunter would like to see a more diverse class on many levels; racial, ethnic, economic, and gender, as well as students with varying interests.
“Small campuses like this, and to me, part of a liberal arts education, is not only who’s teaching you but who you’re learning with. So when people bring different perspectives to a topic, it makes the education richer.”
The target number of students for 2023 is 400. By comparison, the class of 2022 has 318 students.