The Case for Humility in Higher Education
In a previous life, I was a college admissions officer.
I conducted approximately 350 interviews each year with prospective students and their families. During those interviews, I encouraged prospective students to be honest—and humble—about who they were. Because I knew what they sometimes didn’t: that applying for college isn’t about pushing to get accepted into the most exclusive school. It’s about finding a school that’s the right fit for each individual student.
Many years later, I find myself still offering the same advice: be true to yourself.
But this time, the tables are turned. In my role at MindMax, providing strategic marketing and enrollment services to colleges and universities, I actively encourage schools to seek out students who are the right fit for their individual programs.
The Importance of Mission-Aligned Marketing
At MindMax, one of our core values is to be mission-aligned. We calibrate our marketing efforts and work styles to align with the important missions of the schools we serve. We know that colleges are most successful at meeting their enrollment goals when they have the humility to know who they are and which types of prospective students they attract.
It’s tempting for schools to emulate elite Ivy League universities in their marketing efforts. In many ways, marketing is about presenting an organization in the best possible light, which involves highlighting strengths and playing down weaknesses. But if that light attracts the wrong potential students, neither party will get the outcome they’re looking for.
To maximize enrollment, I suggest taking time to answer these key questions to ensure that marketing efforts are mission-aligned:
- What is your school’s mission?
- How can you represent that mission accurately to prospective students?
- What students are the right fit for your school or programs?
- How can your school reach those “right fit” prospective students?
MindMax uses the answers to these questions to drive the marketing and enrollment strategies we build for our clients. Our goal is to help colleges and universities better represent themselves in online spaces where the right prospective students can access their information.
For example, the adult learners that many of our clients target for their programs differ from the standard 18-year-old on-campus freshman. Adult learners tend to have much more clarity about who they are and what they’re looking for. They want to find a school that’s the right fit for them—and that requires transparency on both sides of the table.
What’s the cost of not being true to yourself?
It shows up as an erosion of credibility and lack of trust, which occurs when the image you project doesn’t align with reality.
It shows up in your marketing efforts, when your ads target the wrong audience or don’t speak to the people who are a perfect fit for your programs.
And it shows up in the bottom line, when enrollments are lower than expected and you’re not seeing significant ROI.
It takes real humility to be clear and honest about who you are. But why try to be anything else?
If you’d like support building a marketing and enrollment strategy that engages the right prospective students, let’s connect.