6 Tips for College Admissions Direct Mail

It’s been a while since I looked at college mail as a student, but I guess some things never change. Here’s a look at engaging college direct mail.

It’s been a while since I looked at college mail as a student, but I guess some things never change.

A few of my relatives and friends’ kids are considering the next steps in their educations. And, as it often happens, I’ve offered my advice based on the mail they’ve been getting.

Some of it is disappointing.

There are some schools that use basic direct mail to push prospective students to their websites as soon as possible. I’m talking about a 1-page letter, a quick call-to-action, and that’s it … no pictures, no graphics, no inspiring copy. Only a logo on the envelope.

Not very welcoming, is it? And pretty much what most colleges were mailing in 1984.

But there are some colleges that use the possibilities presented by printed direct mail to reach out to high schoolers in engaging ways. Here are a few I found in the files of Who’s Mailing What!

1. Be Inspiring
Bryn Mawr College mailed a 6”x11” postcard showing four young women passing through an arch on campus. After boasting about some of the careers achieved by its graduates, it asks: “Who will you become?” The opposite side talks about how the student will be part of a “thoughtful and challenging community of peers.” Both sides use a PURL call to action.

2. Show Your Data
neumont_01Here’s a great example from Neumont University, which has mailed this infographic in a #10 outer for over three years. It’s maybe the best I’ve ever seen in a direct mail package. It has word clouds, graphs, logos, and all of the important stats on how well the college prepares students for exciting tech careers. The entire package is about displaying the benefits.

3. Offer An Incentive
collegeubfree_01A lot of college students change direction, or otherwise face challenges that cause them to miss graduating in four years. The University of Baltimore dangles a carrot to students to finish on time: their last semester is free. It’s a simple postcard that doesn’t require any fancy graphics to make its point.

4. Use An involvement Device
collegekendallflash_01Early childhood education is an important program at Chicago’s Kendall College. So it mailed a small set of flashcards, the very tools a teacher would use, to spark some thought about how studying there helps a student advance their career in different ways.

5. Leverage Your Alumni
collegealbrightcool_01Colleges and universities may want to showcase their famous graduates, like athletes or entertainers, as a way to attract prospects. But another good option is showing how its alumni can wind up in other interesting places. Here, an Albright College graduate was chosen to meet with President Obama to talk about education policy. “You’re prepared for anything,” the postcard says.

6. Try Long Copy
collegerowanguide_01Rowan University mailed a “Guide for Parents & Families” that foregoes charts and hype. Instead, over 8 pages with long paragraphs, it gets the parent to “focus on the long term” in helping the student make a choice. It also lays out the exact costs for attending, as well as typical financial aid packages offered.

Here’s a final thought: I’ve always liked mail that includes pictures of students instead of buildings. Students enjoying the college experience …talking and learning in classrooms … playing sports … dancing … walking with friends. Anything that reminds students and parents that college is about more than the destination. College is about a journey of self-discovery. And, it’s one that’s also shared with others on journeys of their own.

Marketers, these are just a few of the tactics that can engage students and parents. What college mail do you like, or dislike? Please share in the comments below.