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September 16

Breathing Life into Higher Education w/ Experiential Storytelling


The educational landscape is shifting drastically, making in-person storytelling by admissions professionals critical to keeping healthy enrollment numbers. Learn more in our conversation with Phil Cook.

Going to a four-year college or university was not always such a tough sale.

Most families understood that a liberal arts education was the right way to go for their children’s success.

In the wake of the pandemic, however, we’re seeing a dramatic shift to online schooling.

Couple with this a decrease in enthusiasm for liberal arts and you’ve got a volatile mixture for higher education marketing.

In other words, it’s harder now to convince prospects that a four-year degree is worth the expense, time, and effort.

Marketing alone cannot pull this off.

That’s why admissions professionals are essential to student recruitment, and why education marketers like us should seek to better understand their role in the enrollment cycle.

Recruitment staff have the distinct advantage of high-touch, personal interactions with prospective students.

Within these in-person encounters, admissions professionals can communicate with emotion and passion, articulating the benefits of higher education.

And when they do it using storytelling techniques, it gives enrollment an even greater push.

In this post, I want to give you some of the highlights of my conversation with Phil Cook, Executive Director of the North American Coalition for Christian Admissions Professionals based in Huntington, Indiana.

After spending 25 years in admissions at Lee University, Phil not only has insights for us regarding admissions, he also has a great handle on where enrollment needs to go so 4-year institutions can remain strong in the coming decades.

Here are the highlights of that conversation.

How does higher education impact individual lives?

There is a major shift towards online schooling, which brings into question the significant costs of a 4-year education.

To keep enrollment numbers healthy, schools need to communicate the unique value proposition they have to offer.

In other words, how does higher education impact student lives? Phil gave an incredible answer.

We’re working to have admissions professionals help change students’ lives, to transform their lives. Higher education does that. Education does that. 

How can I have a better life? How can I be a better member of society? How can I get ahead in advance in my career?  Education can do [all of] that.

[Regarding] earning potential and income, those data are still out there that show students who get a four-year degree will make more money over the course of their careers in their lifetime.

 [We] want to help students find the “right fit” school, where they can get an education with excellence to prepare them for their career. But [we also want] to find the “right fit” where their holistic development is fully in place. 

What is the big picture when it comes to a student’s higher education?

Lots of parents are looking for alternatives, cheaper alternatives, for their children.

How do we help them see the “big picture” benefit of higher education?

We have to make the argument every day one-on-one. On the macro-level, of course [in marketing], we have to do that and get the messaging out. But the critical piece from my perspective [is that] this is a people-to-people business. People select institutions because of the persons with whom they’re interacting. 

The challenge is even greater now because of the pandemic. Our challenge is that the business model can’t be sustained. If we just look at it through an online or Zoom delivery, we can’t compete with public schools [or] with the two-year schools – and we can’t compete with them on price alone. 

So what we have to do is make the argument that this is more than a commodity. There’s so much more to this experience. When you choose a college or university, you are literally choosing a universe that you’re going to insert yourself into and immerse yourself. 

So what kind of person do you want to be whenever you come out of that school four years later? So it matters what kind of faculty stands in front of you, or even Zooms with you? What kind of person are they and what kind of values do they have? How do they align with the values that we have as a family? Is it worth the sacrifice? We think it is. Is it worth a little bit of student loan indebtedness? We think it is.

This is coming from the perspective of an admissions professional, but I believe it’s important for higher education marketers to be able to articulate this large-scale benefit as well.

Source: naccap.org

How can you as an education marketer, along with your peers in admissions, demonstrate the value in becoming a part of “the universe” of your college or university?

Being able to convey this important lifetime benefit of a liberal arts education can make the difference between a successful enrollment program or a school in slow decline.

Discover more when you listen to the podcast!

Like all of our blog post reviews of The Higher Ed Marketer podcasts, there’s so much more to learn in the podcasts themselves.

In this conversation specifically, Phil goes into practical ways you can use storytelling and other methods to better show students why your education experience can transform their lives.

Listen to our interview with Phil Cook to get even more insights into:

  • Higher Ed’s Benefits & the Debate of Online Schooling
  • The Loyalty to a Student’s Alma Mater
  • Investing in Critical Thinkers Over Higher Pay
  • Helping Students See Themselves in Higher Ed Through Storytelling
  • Bringing Energy & Enthusiasm to Campuses
  • Advice for Listeners

Looking for Enrollment Marketing Content that Works?

You’re in luck! We’ve curated 25 awesome ideas inspired by top higher ed institutions across the country and put them in one handy guide: 25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content.

25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content In this popular resource from Caylor Solutions, you’ll get…

    • 25 enrollment marketing content ideas you might never have considered before
    • Guidance on how to use each one for best results
    • Brief discussion on why they work to help you sell these ideas to your team

Get inspired.
Get enrollment results.
Get 25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content.
Download your copy today!

Featured image via leeuniversity.edu

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