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Higher Education

How Campus Culture Affects Perception of Your College or University

Posted by Justin Smorawske on Mar 9, 2017 10:34:41 AM


You get back in what you put out - it's a mantra that's evidently true for college and university campuses that market themselves as more than just stuffy institutions of academia. In fact, campus culture can play a big role in how you're perceived by prospective students, as well as in the enrollment and college-selection process.

A recent national survey of freshmen found that among the top 10 reasons a student chose a given college for attendance were "a visit to campus" (41.8 percent) and "college has a good reputation for social activities" (39.5 percent).

So what does your college or university marketing say about your campus culture, and how can you best take advantage of this messaging to improve your reputation and recruiting?

Don't Fear Humor

You know you've got it. Now just show it off a little bit. A sense of humor is key to impressing student prospects with your positive, welcoming campus culture. The tendency in marketing an educational institution can be to stick to the book-learning, but there's more to your school than just the school itself. It's also about the many personalities - from professors to your student body to staff members - that help make your little corner of the community inviting and conducive to a two- to four-year stint that's enjoyable enough to allow for proper academic excellence. Don't be afraid to entertain. 

Fly Your Freak Flag

It's a cold, hard truth - as much as 29 percent of high school seniors apply to seven or more colleges. So when sifting through what makes each particularly special, you don't want to get lost in the shuffle come enrollment time. That's why showing off your uniqueness is a key element of exemplifying your campus culture. What do you do that no one else does? Or what do you do better than any other college or university in your region? Whether it's a unique tradition, a particular club sport that sets you apart or a truly (on its face) kooky major, tell that story. Be a sore thumb.

Image, Image, Image

Particularly with your Gen-Z target audience, imagery is incredibly important to your marketing. And it has to be imagery that resonates. Are you tending toward the typical "eager students in classroom" or "professor emphatically lecturing" photography? If so, you're likely getting the "hasty scroll" versus the "pause... then scroll." Make sure that you're taking advantage of image-based social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat to depict what it's truly like to be on your campus, whether it's residence life, clubs and organizations or student activities. Offer a visual peek into the day-to-day life of a student once the classes dismiss.

Empower Your Students

Just like any other brand, your biggest brand evangelists are going to be the ones experiencing it first-hand. In that regard, your most powerful messengers of your campus culture are often your own students. Give your students a platform to speak to what it's like to be enrolled in your college or university. From blogging to posting on social media to more traditional media like print viewbooks, empower your current students to give testimonials (both written and visual) of their positive experiences at campus events, move-in week or fascinating coursework. Give your students a megaphone.

Sources: National Association for College Admission Counseling, UCLA

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