Did you know that Dr. Pepper was created in the 1880’s by Charles Alderton in Waco, Texas and to commemorate that fact, Baylor University has a long-standing tradition called "Dr. Pepper Hour" where each week, students, faculty and staff come together for a free Dr. Pepper float!!
I discovered this delightful tradition at a recent Regional Admissions Counselors Conference where fifty (50) colleges in attendance had the pressure-filled task of communicating in two minutes or less what made their university special and why students should consider them.
Besides being an extremely interesting and informative event, it was a fantastic reminder about how the pressure of getting into the “best college” and the angst around getting “accepted” has skewed the focus away from the concept that the student actually gets to choose. The brochures, the websites, the college fairs, the college tours are all designed with the purpose of communicating the college's unique “brand” so that the student is able to distinguish how well it matches up with the criteria that is important to them, and they can more easily imagine the type of experience they could create there.
In Jeffrey Seligo's recent article in the Washington Post, he reminds us that "there are thousands of colleges in the U.S., and the vast majority of them accept far more applicants than they reject." Not to mention, these are the colleges that generally are more generous with financial aid.
As I listened to Baylor’s presentation, I realized that THEY were the ones that felt the pressure of showcasing their personality and “brand” amongst the almost 200 colleges and universities in the state of Texas, many of them located in much bigger (and more desirable) cities than Waco.
So how do we continue to shift the focus and pressure OFF of the students and back ONTO the colleges?
Two of the best ways to minimize stress in any situation is to feel that we have more opportunities and more time. Whenever we feel that our options or our time is limited, it creates much more pressure. The more time we have and the earlier we start, the more options we can create, which leads to more choices, less pressure and ultimately less overwhelm and stress.
But how do we create more time? How early is "too early" to start. And doesn’t “college talk” in 8th grade create even MORE stress?
We create more time and less stress by starting early AND shifting the focus from the college to the student, by having them think about their personal brand – what makes them unique, why that is important to them and how they want to continue to develop that throughout high school.
By definition, personal branding is the ongoing process of establishing an image or impression in the minds of others, with the key word being ONGOING!
Starting to think about this in 8th grade versus 11th or 12th grade provides the time and the opportunity to lay the groundwork and make choices that will help them continue to build on that foundation.
Asking questions like:
1. What are five words you would use to describe yourself?
2. Why did you choose those words? What about them matters to you?
3. What are activities, friendships or classes that demonstrate that?
Helps your child to gain insight into their “brand” – their unique strengths and talents – and understand that they have the opportunity to choose how they want to change or enhance that through the choices they make in high school. Most important, it takes the pressure off of feeling like the college is choosing them; that it is they who have the opportunity to choose the college and the pathway to get there, that maximizes their unique “brand”.
In the words of Dr. Pepper: "Be You", continue to "build your brand" and you'll find there are many choices of colleges that provide a great fit!
Baylor probably knows that there are many people whose tastes don’t include Dr. Pepper, and that’s okay! Because they DO know that the ones that ARE thrilled by the free Dr. Pepper floats are going to be a great fit for their university – and vice-versa!!