Our CEO has a favorite phrase, “doing good and doing well”. It’s not that he’s a Kantian or an ascetic, but rather that he strives to do the right thing while serving as an effective steward for his institution.
Admissions officers are stewards of the financial well-being, membership, and reputations of their schools, as well as of the futures of their applicants: adolescents betting their identities and futures on membership in an institutional body. Like any responsibility, it can be a cynical undertaking or a process of bringing needed and meaningful change, of both doing good and doing well.
As all decision makers do, admissions officers toe a line between institutional need and human need. And they seek out intersections where these needs meet.
Lately, I’ve been speaking to a number of practicing admissions officers. It’s become increasingly clear that video for admissions can serve as one of those intersections. How else can admissions officers balance all their responsibilities with the resources they have?
What Admissions Officers Owe Their Applicants
The single most important predictor of yield is campus visits, all admissions officers told me. Not unrelated, the single most important impediment to yield, particularly with underprivileged and first generation college students, is access. For this reason, admissions officers travel the country and the world in search of excellent yet disadvantaged students with the goal of guiding them successfully through the logistical and financial intricacies of the college application process. (Privileged students are not difficult to get to apply; they can and will seek schools out and take advantage of all opportunities to make contact.)
The reality, however, is that rural and impoverished students rarely ever reach the application stage. Most students’ horizons do not extend past their home state, or past the upfront cost of submitting an application. Guidance counselors and parents aren’t familiar with the constellation of available schools and aid resources, and even when students are aware of a school and apply to it, they may not be able to afford to travel or take time off work.
Students to whom a college education has the most to offer are those least able to access it. The best admissions officers struggle to balance the desperate needs of these students with the needs of their own institutions.
What Admissions Officers Owe Their Institutions
Admissions officers also have a responsibility to their schools. They must attract the best students. Then they have to use their finite aid budgets on the most diverse and highest quality students possible, balanced by finding the best possible tuition paying applicants. The outcome of the admissions process determines a school’s competitiveness, ranking, alumni, and development outcomes. Admissions is the first and narrowest bottleneck in an educational institution, one that effects the success of all other initiatives. Building an excellent, diverse student body without making the school go broke requires casting the broadest and finest net possible.
How Video Solves Admissions Officer Needs
Admissions, unlike many other components of a school, operates in a competitive market. There is a pool of excellent students over whom schools compete, and the most effective admissions offices see a greater yield on their investments. That yield multiplies through every area the admitted students touch, from research and rankings to athletics and alumni engagement. Admissions offices respond to this competitive market by innovating, seeking new ways to reach desirable students with compelling narratives. As a result, admissions has often been one of the more forward-looking groups of technology users on campus.
Video is the rare tool that stands at the intersection of many admissions needs.
The best predictor of yield is a campus visit. But not everyone can visit campus. Admissions officers need to offer students compelling and, importantly, easy ways to access campus.
Video can make admissions tactics scaleable. Those students that couldn’t visit can see the campus at its best, view sample lectures, access admissions resources, and even upload interview recordings without the expense of visiting. Video expands access to those students, schools, and regions for whom your school was never even on the horizon.
Return On Fixed Costs:
Most of the costs around students are fixed. Financial aid, campus beautification, dorms and athletic facilities, faculty; these are costs a school must pay regardless of yield or the quality of its incoming class. The goal of an admissions office, and an administration writ large, is to maximize the return on these fixed costs. Admissions officers seek to seduce the best students with the available financial aid, display the beauty of campus to as many eyes as possible, fill the dorms and gyms to capacity, bring students who will genuinely engage with faculty, and give faculty the tools and incentives to facilitate that engagement.
Admissions operates in a competitive marketplace. Budgets are finite and justify themselves by return. The best tool is the one that amplifies the return on fixed costs, opens new markets, and generates new possibilities. Video reaches the student without a mailbox, at a school too small or too distant for an officer to visit. Video reaches the students who don’t know to apply.
Admissions officers are charged as much with cultivating a school’s identity as with generating applications. To do this, they must communicate their school’s je ne sais quoi. This is a task beyond copy-writing and pamphlets that demands a medium that engagingly communicates the experience of attending. A campus visit predicts yield because it gives visitors a glimpse into the life they could have. How do admissions officers extend this window into their college life to those students who can’t visit?
Video conveys a controlled narrative other media can’t convey, bringing the physical instantiation of your campus to those who can’t visit, and presenting the best possible face. Video is not subject to seasonality or construction or any of the ephemera that make campus visits unpredictable. It makes it easier to make a compelling emotional argument than can be done with letters or pamphlets, so admissions officers can show off the authentic identity of their school.
The Case For Video for Admissions
Admissions officers have a responsibility to stretch their dollars to reach the students others couldn’t reach. The moral case for video rests on the obligation to both students and school: with video, extend an opportunity to those students that otherwise would not have had one, and, with video, provide the richest soil for your school’s roots, the applicants and students who will be its purpose, champions, and sponsors later.
Video is the tool that admissions will use to convey identity, improve yield, increase returns, and reach the most inaccessible of students.
In short, with video for admissions, admissions officers will do well, and do good.
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