I’m sitting here in my office and am suddenly drawn to our office entryway that’s decked out with jolly snowmen and dancing snowflakes. Fitting in perfectly with other businesses in the park, it brings about warm and welcoming thoughts of the holidays, and I start forming a parallel between how companies package their products to optimize the sell and the growing need for colleges and universities to do the same.
It’s especially crucial for institutions to do so now after the publication of an article from Inside Higher Ed. “The High School Graduate Plateau” reveals a sobering trend in high school graduation levels that’s being called “the decade of stagnation” from 2013 to 2023, with the most substantial drop racing towards us in 2017. It’s projected that graduate numbers will decrease by 2.3%, or around 81,000 students.
How can I find anything favorable about this news? First, it points to an opportunity for colleges and universities to re-package their image in a different way to attract more students—from non-traditional backgrounds. Another favorite angle of mine? Despite the crummy stats, there is a growing population of minority students that are expected to graduate and attend college. It is imperative that colleges and universities optimize pathways for these students to attend and stay on campus.
As you think of your own institution’s “packaging” design, keep these thoughts in mind:
- How can my college or university stand out to students from all backgrounds?
- Does it communicate an image that fits my brand and the student demographic we need?
- How does it compare to other colleges and universities?
- How can I optimize my institution to make it the best it can be and change with the new student demographic?
Keep a checklist of other schools that stand out to you as you scurry around this holiday season. What is it about their presence in the industry that draws your attention? What kind of emotions do they stir? What kind of demographic are they gearing themselves towards and why does it work?
The ultimate goal is to help your institution grow despite this inevitable slump we’ll see in the New Year.