The "Business" of College Admissions

I recently attended a presentation on the changes in the college admission landscape over the last 50 years.  As you can imagine, much has changed from the 1970’s to 2017 but what really stood out for me is how college has truly become more like a "business". 

I have to admit, when I started as an educational consultant four years ago, I thought that it was my corporate cynicism that noticed many of the same yield management and data driven tactics we used in my former career being implemented by colleges but in fact, that is exactly what has happened.  Within the last few years, the “business of college” has grown to include the development of a variety of new companies all geared at helping colleges to figure out the best way to market to potential students in a more targeted, personal and engaging way.  Policy decisions are data and digital driven and provide information on everything from which application to use to how to maximize their yield management and revenue goals while providing an opportunity to admit a wide range of students that represent a diverse population.   


So what can we do about it?  Frankly, a LOT!  And colleges want to help you!! 

They want to remind you that if colleges are businesses then you are the potential customers, which means YOU have the advantage.  You don’t have to fall prey to the marketing myths that “if it's hard to get in, it must be good” or “if I don’t get in to ‘X’ college my life is over”.  They want to remind you that they know and have seen time and time again that what students get out of an education is based on their creating and taking advantage of all opportunities and that happens at colleges that aren’t on the Top 20 list of U.S. News and World Report.  They want you to visit or meet with a local representative so they can tell you what distinguishes them above and beyond being near the beach or having good food.  They encourage you to inquire about internships that work toward helping your child choose a career focus and providing more experiential learning opportunities.  

And most of all, they want you to know that they "get it".  They know that tuition has increased 139% in 30 years while family incomes only rose 16% during that same period and they know you’re looking at them like a business as well. That's why they are continuing to research and implement policy and programs that help them deliver a high impact student experience that justifies the ROI.  And, that’s why they want you to also know that while much has changed, there are many aspects of college that continue to remain the same:

  • That college provides the opportunity to interact with people from different backgrounds, customs and ideologies
  • That college teaches skills that are critical to our success in work and in life like critical thinking, creative problem solving and adaptability
  • That college provides us with experiences, friendships and connections that are lifelong

And, to remember that we have the freedom to choose where we go and the path we choose to get there.