Colleges sell. How good are they at it? Well, Forbes calculated the exact student population and cost of America’s top 100 colleges. Since they spell out exactly how much the colleges cost and what their student population was as of July 2013, from here we can calculate how much money each college receives.
Stanford University has a total student population of 19,945 and tops the Forbes list of top colleges. The cost for each student amounts to $58,846. So times 19,945 student by $58,846 and you get $1,173,683,470. The amount Stanford might receive each year from tuition comes to almost $1.2 Billion (They do provide aid which reduces this amount). If you take a look over Stanford’s financial reports you will see assets and liabilities that amount to billions. College sells and is serious business.
Why am I telling you this? Because colleges sell aggressively, and employers do not. And because in order to make the right decision for you when you leave high school, it is a good idea to know how expertly one of your options is at pitching the dream to you. The fact remains that very few companies will reach out to high school leavers in the same way that colleges do. This may be something that changes but ultimately you have to have a drive and ambition about you if you wish to obtain a high paid salary and an influential job through experience in the ‘real world’. I do not use that term to be detrimental to academics, I merely use it to distinguish between the two choices. One is geared at supporting students onto a certain focused path and the other is far more variable and truly down to what you make of it.
So, the biggest business out there right now are colleges. And colleges sell. They have developed an excellent recruitment strategy which according to Forbes (August 2013) has 10 crucial steps to it:
- They feed you because you are more likely to listen and be open to what they are saying if you are full and content and frequently offered tea/coffee.
- They get current students to demonstrate what they have learned on the course and tell you how much they love it. They showcase their ‘satisfied customers’ and some of their best work.
- They quote famous alumni members – individuals that graduated from their college and have gone on to immense success.
- They tell a very textured story about what you can expect to experience when attending the college.
- They push their greatest assets, dropping them in to presentations wherever they can. It might be sports facilities, a newly constructed/stocked library, modern accommodation, meal plans to promote savings or the critical acclaim of the course.
- They will always acknowledge the escalating tuition fees and tell you what they are fighting hard to provide. This could be financial aid packages or multiple loan options that you can pay off over time while you are working in a high paid job! They never avoid the issue because addressing ‘the elephant in the room’ is a winning strategy.
- They carefully control guided tours, picking out the best bits of the campus and showing you demonstration dorms, empty classrooms and eating areas that are not heavily populated because it isn’t lunch time. They show everything in its best possible light using their brightest students to present it all.
- Since the moment you enter the campus you are being led, shown, guided and prompted by a carefully planned schedule. Everything you experience has been planned carefully.
- The small details are done expertly, right down to the student reps walking backwards so you always have their attention if you want it. They continuously engage with the group as you walk to the next venue so you have less time to murmur thoughts and more time to ask questions.
- They have iPhone apps so you can access them as you leave and while you talk through what you have experienced you can pull up pictures and information on tap. Even the car ride home is being influenced by the college because they are up on modern technology.
It is no surprise that after you visit a college, you leave those open days more often than not with a really good feeling about the college. Just take a moment to question what you have seen and felt. How much of it was real and as a student how much of it would be expect to translate into your life there. Just apply these techniques to the option of entering full time employment. You could afford a gym membership, access to online resources, a smartphone and any night time or distance courses you wanted to supplement your work with. You would be more mobile with wheels, able to travel the length and breadth of the country when taking holidays and you can still socialise in the same places as students do because city campuses share their night time venues with the public.
It is a thought and you will not get the same pitch as the finely honed one colleges have perfected but it is tempting all the same. Do not let a very clever, very shrewd business model hide the reality of your choices from you. Having everything in one place comes with a heavy price tag – so shop around!
Forbes (2013). America’s Top Colleges. Special Taper Report for Income Investors. Available from: http://www.forbes.com/top-colleges/list/ Accessed 5/12/13.
Forbes (2013). What Small Business Can Learn From the Big Business of College: Available from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/aileron/2013/08/28/what-small-business-can-learn-from-the-big-business-of-college/ Accessed 5/12/13