Dartmouth markets itself to prospective students in various ways

by Katie Rafter | 2/5/15 10:07pm

In order to market itself to prospective students each year and keep application and enrollment numbers high, the College has to appeal to and attract prospective students from around the world.

Dean of admissions and financial aid Maria Laskaris said that admissions officers are aware that students looking at Dartmouth are also looking at its peer institutions, and it is important to highlight the features most unique to the College.

Laskaris said that they aim to convey the difference between the undergraduate experience at Dartmouth and that of its peers.

“First and foremost is the extra quality of the undergraduate experience here,” she said.

Admissions director Paul Sunde said that the College offers the resources and intellectual capital of a major research university combined with the intimacy and connection with faculty that one gets from a leading liberal arts college, and this combination provides the underlying foundation for the way he and his colleagues market the College.

The admissions department has been working recently to highlight the faculty, as officers believe that the quality and access to professors are important factors in a prospective students’ decisions, Laskaris said.

Last summer, the admissions department launched “Faculty Fridays” as a way to facilitate contact between the faculty, prospective students and their families. The initiative introduces students to professors as well as emphasizes undergraduate research opportunities with faculty.

Isabelle Kane ’18 said that she was attracted to Dartmouth because of the focus on undergraduate education and opportunities for student-faculty interaction.

“I chose Dartmouth because of its reputation of having wonderful professors that take a sincere interest in their undergraduate students,” Kane said.

Virginia Ogden ‘18 said she chose Dartmouth for similar reasons.

“The fact that we have professors, who are currently making headway in their fields, teaching us as freshman is something that you can’t find anywhere else,” Ogden said.

Laskaris also highlighted the D-plan as a unique asset, particularly the flexibility that the quarter system provides. The admissions office seeks to advertise how this flexibility enables students to create academic experiences for themselves that reflect their personal interests, through foreign study programs, research or other opportunities.

The admissions office also aims to address the cost of Dartmouth, which Laskaris said is often a key concern of prospective students. She added that the College’s commitment to meeting 100 percent of a student’s financial needs is also important and emphasized to prospective students.

“We do all that we can to make Dartmouth affordable and accessible to students regardless of their financial background,” Laskaris said.

Laskaris said that they do not have a continuous, uniform marketing campaign, as it is a cyclical year-round process. Students are targeted depending on where they are in their college search process, Laskaris said.

The admissions office sends a monthly email- — called a “Dmail” — to prospective students who sign up for their mailing list. The email compiles articles from a variety of campus publications on topics admission officers believe would be of interest to prospective students and represent different aspects of the College, Laskaris said.

While the admissions office aims to persuade students to visit campus, representatives also visit locations around the country to speak with prospective students.

According to their website, the admissions office currently employs 14 officers, each responsible for certain parts of the world. While each U.S. state is specifically assigned to an admissions officer, other countries and continents are grouped together under one officer.

After prospective students participate in College events, they take surveys, which is used to adjust the programs in the future, Laskaris said.

Recent survey data indicated that prospective students are interested in seeing residence halls, so the College implemented specialized tours this fall to include residential tours. Survey data also suggested that prospective students value the opportunity to speak with current Dartmouth students, Laskaris said.

Sunde said that the admissions office’s marketing strategy changes constantly, not only as Dartmouth evolves, but also as new technology develops and the interests of prospective students and their families change.

He cited the office’s new communications and social media position as an example of their increased social media presence. The admissions office also manages a blog and Facebook group for accepted students, as well as having developed an Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, Flickr and Youtube.

Alumni often play a role in reaching out to prospective students . They both interview and host receptions for prospective students in their areas, district enrollment director Howard Morse ’81 said.

Though there is no common message that alumni are told to project during interviews, they often emphasize the College’s focus on undergraduate education, Morse added.

The admissions office also aims to convince accepted students to commit to Dartmouth by hosting the Dimensions program,weekends in the spring when admitted students come to campus to meet current students and learn about the College.

During the main Dimensions weekend, a group of freshmen and sophomore students put on a show for the prospective students. The Dimensions show aims to showcase certain aspects of student life, such as the social scene at Dartmouth and the ways in which it differs from its depiction in the media, said Rosie Mahoney ’17, co-leader of this year’s Dimensions crew.

“The main thing we focus on is why we chose Dartmouth,” Sam Glick ’17, the other trips co-leader, said.

The Dimensions program also provides prospective students the chance to meet each other in an informal space, Mahoney said.

While they are not told how to market the College by the admissions office, Mahoney said that administrators do provide advice on how to handle questions about certain topics, such as sexual assault and the “Freedom Budget” — a student-authored list of demands aiming to prompt administrative action that was emailed out to campus last winter.

Last spring, the Dimensions program changed to offer three dates for prospective students to visit campus instead of one and ended the tradition of enrolled students posing as prospective students. This latter change was implemented to curb unauthentic interactions between prospective students and current students, Laskaris said.

Outside of Dimensions, the College devotes significant resources to recruit potential athletes.

The College markets itself to prospective athletes by emphasizing the focus on undergraduate education, the competitive Division I athletic program, the D-Plan, the alumni network and the Dartmouth Peak Performance initiative — a program aimed at helping athletes excel on the field as well as academically and personally — to prospective athletes, deputy athletics director Robert Ceplikas wrote in an email.

Virtual tours, the magazine “Peak” and direct communication between coaches and athletes are various ways in which Dartmouth’s athletic program is marketed, Ceplikas wrote. He added, however, that current student-athletes are the most effective salespeople when they host athletic prospects on their campus visits.

Faizan Kanji ’15, this year’s International Student Mentor program coordinator, said that he believes that Dartmouth’s small community and need-blind admissions for international students are two important factors that prospective students from other countries should consider. There are only five other U.S. higher learning institutions that are need blind for international students: Amherst College, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University and Yale University.

Kanji, who is originally from Pakistan but spent his last two years of high school in the United Kingdom, said he decided to apply to Dartmouth after meeting an admissions representative who visited his high school.

“The person who came was very friendly and spoke individually to everyone who was interested,” Kanji said. “I think that was really helpful.”

Kanji added that the College can improve its recruiting for international students by increasing its worldwide presence.

“Because Dartmouth is a smaller school many people haven’t heard about it and so they don’t apply,” Kanji said.

In all aspects of the admissions marketing process, communication between prospective students, current students, alumni and faculty is seen to be of extreme importance.

“I think any time that we are connecting prospective students with Dartmouth students we are succeeding,” Sunde said.