3 Trends in College & University Recruitment

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For many years I worked in administration overseeing college and university recruitment and retention efforts. Our household currently has Junior and Freshman boys and I am enjoying watching this process from the other side of the desk! As we embark on this journey I wanted to share three recruitment trends that I am observing as a parent of teens.

  1. Micro-Collaboration. In the past, events like large College Fairs have been a key way that colleges cut travel costs and save time. By having colleges and universities meet in one location, students can access dozens of options in just a few hours. However, a new iteration of this macro-collaborative effort is now occurring and it is something I call micro-collaboration. We were recently invited to a micro-recruitment event. Operating under the moniker 8ofthebestcolleges.org, eight different liberal arts colleges are running five collaborative events in large US cities. These colleges all offer highly selective residential liberal arts education. Not by coincidence, they are located in eight distinct regions in the US which stretches from California, to Colorado to Connecticut. This type of collaboration demonstrates both a fresh approach to college fairs for students and the emerging necessity for competitors to collaborate,
  2. Personalization. My oldest son has received several publications that are addressed directly to him. You probably assumed that this refers to the mailing label but it doesn’t! He is receiving publications and brochures printed with his first and last names in the text of the materials he is reading. In an era of mass-marketing, instant-printing is allowing universities to personalize their content in new ways. Only time will tell if this generation – one which is suspect of hyper-marketing – will respond positively to this tactic or not.
  3. Service 3.0. During the past 20 years colleges and universities have moved from being gatekeepers to providers of customer service. Over this time the mentality shifted from “apply and we’ll call you if you are accepted” to “I’m calling you to see if you would like to apply”. This marketing pendulum has continued to shift and colleges are now offering prospective students incentives prior to application. A university in our region recently offered our family an expenses paid trip to visit campus (a 4 hour drive away). In addition, the recruiter for this university lives full-time in our city and provided my son with local expertise and insights about attending her school. As the number of high school graduates in the US flattens, schools are becoming very competitive in marketing and communication!

These are only three of many shifts which are occurring within the higher education landscape. What changes are you experiencing?


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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

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