Helping college-bound students find their kindred spirits

My son is a sophomore in college. My youngest daughter is about to leave home in a year and-a-half. So finding that “just right” college has been at topic at our house for quite some time now.

We actually hired an educational adviser for my daughter, who is working with her to create a list of college options. She’s spent hours online trying to figure out which ones to visit. It’s a tough job. For the most part, they all look just alike online. It is hard to capture a soul of place with an online brochure.

When my son was visiting one of his college options, he looked at me after the tour and said, “Not my people.” Finally he “found his people” and made a great decision. That phrase, “not my people,” stuck with me and has intrigued me for some time now.

So here ‘s my question: Why haven’t colleges and universities embraced the idea of engaging their customers (students) to amplify and tell their story? Some are adding blogs of real students, but it’s a bit buried. And, well, the students chosen to be a part of the story seem a bit hand-picked or filtered to me.

Wednesday, Dr. Bruce Yandle from Clemson University shared something he was a part of a long time ago at Clemson. He decided to hire a student from each department to help the University generate new ideas. (Sort of a student advisory board.) He paid them a very small sum of money and was stunned at how excited and engaged they were right out of the gate. They wanted to see financial information, meet weekly, etc. They were eager and excited to have a voice.

At Brains on Fire, we’ve seen the power of giving passionate, smart people a voice first hand with RAGE, the South Carolina teen anti-tobacco use movement.

Here is the opportunity as I see it: Colleges and universities are struggling to do more with less marketing dollars. Why not create a community of loud and proud customers (students) and arm them with knowledge and tools to share their passions? Follow the Fiskateer’s model of finding leads that can unite a slew of students and voices – current and past. It seems like this would give prospective students a chance to find “their people” a lot easier online. And colleges could spend more time with students that have basically “pre-qualified” themselves.

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