Let Your People Know—New Thinking on Higher Ed Acceptance Packages

In the world of college selection, there are several crucial moments that help build customer perception (and thus brand): the campus visit, the application process, the FAFSA process, the recruitment campaign, and the list goes on. But there’s one moment that makes a larger, longer lasting and more life-altering impression in the minds of students than the rest of these moments combined, and that is the moment when they find out they’ve been admitted into college.

How you let your students know they’re your students is a question of tremendous importance. We’ve written about the admission process before and have made our feelings about admission decisions pretty clear: they’re a singular opportunity for romance, celebration, reflection and commemoration. While we acknowledge the growing trend to “go big or go home” with admission announcements, we contend that, as admission into college is a monumental occasion, it still needs to be presented in a way that affords its recipient the space and gravitas needed to let the news truly soak in. Here, we’ll walk through some of the admission decisions we’ve been privileged to work on with our clients that represent a range of approaches.

The simplicity of being bold.

One of our more popular and time-tested admission decisions was developed for Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) in Philadelphia. The beauty of this admission announcement is that it’s bold and striking while still being quite simple in execution: it is delivered in a signature red envelope, setting it apart from the pack while harkening back to the University’s official colors. A robust social media campaign has grown organically to accompany the announcement, cultivated via Twitter and Instagram by the University and students to share SJU admission stories. Prospective students are told early on that “the red envelope always brings good news” so they know what to be on the lookout for come admission decision day, building suspense and intrigue around the decision itself. In some respects, it’s easier and more meaningful for students to anticipate a red envelope than an admission decision. Students don’t simply recall the day they got into SJU; they recall the day they got their red envelope.

Greater impact through subtlety.

For Agnes Scott College (ASC), we took a different approach. At a time when admission announcements seemed to be getting bigger and louder, this was a deliberate zag to something smaller and quieter. We created a charm inspired by the etchings that appear in the main library’s fireplace, which was given to admitted students as part of their admission decision. It was packaged in a delicate purple box and nestled behind an understated card, scented with the same fragrance that is diffused throughout the admissions office. This card stated, simply: “Congratulations. You have been admitted to Agnes Scott College. Welcome, Scottie.”

Being mindful of the moment.

While each of these admission decisions are different—as they should be, since they authentically reflect the very different institutions they represent—they do have a few things in common. Both offer the admitted student a well-deserved moment of celebration and commemoration, both provide an interaction that accurately presents the values of the institutional brand and both lend themselves easily to storytelling (which reinforces and extends those important moments of celebration and commemoration).

There’s one more key commonality. In both of these examples, the transactional elements of a traditional acceptance package were eschewed in favor of emphasizing the more exciting, more endearing and frankly more important component of the acceptance package: notification that the student has officially been accepted. After all, isn’t this what the student and their families have been working so hard for? Enrollment and Admissions are for all intents and purposes separate entities now, so no reason to stuff campus housing and meal plan forms in the “fat envelope” alongside a congratulatory letter. Besides, most of the administrative information and many of the forms can be found and filled out on your website. There’s no doubt that this aspect of formal acceptance is integral to the process and requires proper consideration and attention, but including needless paperwork with the acceptance package dulls the elation and thrill of the occasion for the sake of administrative efficiency.

When you are thinking about how to let your people know they’ve been admitted into your institution, these are qualities you might want to keep in mind. Above all else, don’t forget to let students and their families savor the moment.

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Caroline Diggins

Caroline is the Lead Writer at RHB.