Do Admissions Marketing Search Pieces Work?

Our mailbox overflowed for most of the last two years with college search material.  Naturally I was interested in how institutions used admissions marketing photography.  I’d give the brochure, card or book a once over and put that day’s pile of solicitations in a spot for my daughter to go over when she got home from school. 

I thought that this was a great chance to see how colleges and universities used photography.  A few of the pieces were from institutions I work with so it was great to see these pieces in the mail.  The real test came every afternoon when my daughter would look them over.  Out of the next room I’d hear, “Oh Dad, that’s so bogus” or “How cool”.  There seemed to be no in between.

Well, she’s chosen a great college.  It’s actually a university who I work with.  I would like to think my wonderful photography was what won her over, but it’s not.  In her case there are far too many other factors which came into play.  But her running commentaries on the incoming mail told me a lot.  Admittedly she has a bias in her judgement of admissions photography content,  but what made her take that longer look at a particular brochure?

It boiled down to two things: An engaging photograph of campus and a photograph which gave her the feeling that she could see herself there.  The first seemed to be the “hook”.  That got her to look inside.  Ultimately her pile of “keeper” college search pieces consistently had those two elements.  When the next piece arrived from her “keepers”, they were the first to be opened.  She “knew” the school by the time the second piece arrived and she wanted to learn more.

When I shoot on a campus now I am just a little more aware of those things my 18year-old noticed when she was opening up her mail.   I wish we could do it again next year.  I’m glad I paid attention.

Paul O’Mara


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