College Applications as a Marketing Campaign

This Way to University

What do marketing campaigns and college applications have in common? Both require a process to frame a story and create a memorable impression. Developing a marketing campaign is not done overnight. It includes pre-production planning, production filming, and post-production editing.  The most time is spent in pre-production to assemble all the pieces of the puzzle. Similarly, the longer the runway to plan for the college road ahead, the greater the chance a student will find their interests and create a memorable application.

Balance Science with Art

The college application is a two part strategy of science and creativity.  First, science represents a process achieved over time to expose a student to a range of academic interests and community interactions. In marketing, this is called developing brand truths. The social connection has typically been fostered throughout a student’s life with athletics, volunteerism, the arts, and clubs. Remember, colleges are building campus communities that look for applicants who show social engagement and academic fit.

The second aspect is how creativity differentiates an application. Think of an application as a cupcake: the frosting is the creativity that drives a memorable impression, but the cake batter is the scientific foundation that builds credibility. In creating both marketing campaigns and college applications, people remember more how you make them feel than what is said.  Thus, writing a structured story within word count must highlight personality and character traits that bring the typical admissions criteria to life. The essays paint a story as to how a student perseveres, what has challenged them, and why they show empathy. Since colleges are building diverse communities with a range of student backgrounds, it is essential that applicants highlight how humanity has shaped them and how they have influenced others.

Make Academics Multi-Dimensional

One big missing piece is how the academics can be a social component. Why only take AP courses and participate in high school competitions when a student can expand that knowledge with college coursework and professional exposures? The little steps taken over time can push a student out of their comfort zone to build more than just the typical checklist of activities, academics, and interests. A range of deep-dive experiences can become a catalyst to the college essays: What is your intended major? How have your activities shaped you? What have you been surprised to discover? Why does curiosity count?

The college application process involves a one-two punch of science and art; however, distinctive applications are not achieved overnight. Compelling essays trace a student’s interests and achievements throughout time. Throughout the college journey there are honest discoveries revealing how their past will influence their future.

Plan a Long Runway

Beginning the college application process at the start of high school allows the student and parents to discuss ideas and uncover treasures. Sometimes road blocks are hit and interests fall flat, but in the process, the student learns and grows toward finding their true passions and forming a personal network. The essays are the final piece of the application puzzle that becomes part of a time capsule. The longer the runway to plan will help the student’s applications stick out from the crowd.

Margo Bartsch is the founder of College Essay Coach, a Vermont local business.  Since 2004, she provides one-on-one instruction to plan for college, write college application essays, prepare for the SAT and ACT Writing sections, and provide tutoring for standardized testing. She has been an adjunct professor in business at Champlain College and Middlebury College. Margo held high-level marketing positions at AT&T, MCI, Prodigy Internet, and Iris Wireless. Margo is a graduate of Northwestern University with a B.A. in Economics and a M.S.J. from the Medill School of Journalism in Advertising. Contact her at 802-985-3770 or at [email protected].  Margo Bartsch is not affiliated with CWM, LLC, and opinions expressed may not be representative of CWM, LLC.

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