It's a heady feeling, to be 16 years old and have college admissions offices falling all over themselves to get your attention.
For the Admissions professional recruiting high school students, it's a high wire act--you're spending a fortune to find and engage these kids and their parents, yet you have to manage the expectation that no matter how heavily a prospect is courted, an acceptance is never a sure thing. You've got to deal with parents who go back to their colleges for summertime Admissions workshops where they get a taste of the dark arts of the selection process. And finally you've got to get the attention of the counselors, who spend their lives inundated with reps wanting a visit and never-ending changes in admissions policy.
The good news is that really, it's never been easier to reach your prospective students. And the changing environment in college applications gives you relevant information to share with everyone involved in the process.
This generation of high school students have a level of sophistication unheard of in previous years. They're no strangers to content marketing; it's all about them and they know it. They know more about social media and technology than you, but they are starved for real information on the college admissions process. When you harness the information you have to the technology they crave, you'll get the attention of the students, their parents, as well as the school counselors and administration.
Since you're the professional, you know the myths surrounding college admissions and can debunk those tales and offer prospects the reality of admissions at your school. Take advantage of your position as the authority on the subject by addressing these topics--separately or in the aggregate, they can cause familial insomnia in the most rational of families.
Every college and university has a policy regarding testing and scoring. Make yours easily accessible to prospective students. If you don't require SAT, please explain that decision and whether you will consider SAT scores--same for ACT. If you've instituted a policy of super scoring the ACT, don't keep it to yourself; let prospects know that you'll create a composite score for that as well as the SAT. Along those same lines, be explicit about how you look at class selection and grades as well as rank. If your school is a large research institution you'll have a different approach to high school rank than a small liberal arts college--iterate your policies and explain your requirements.
AP classes have gotten the reputation lately of being a glorified credit farm, and as many of the more selective schools are looking at other alternative curricula or not accepting AP scores for credit you need to be up front and transparent about your AP requirements. If class rank and a weighted GPA are important for your admissions, then say so. If you're a smaller school and have the luxury of digging deeper into the individual, a short video on the topic will get a prospect's attention.
For years, students felt like they needed to be on the short list for a Nobel to apply to even a marginally selective school--instead of listing "Activities and Awards" they needed a resume, preferably one that ran several pages. That's a trend that is fortunately on the wane, so advising prospects to find what they love to do and dig deep will endear your school to parents, advisors, and students. Let kids know that doing one or two things really well shows commitment and real interest rather than box-checking. There is nothing sadder than seeing a math whiz despairing of getting into their college of choice because she didn't play an instrument or a sport.
The best way to get a prospect's attention is to offer useful information; with the right content marketing you'll reach the prospects you want and make them want you back.