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PR and College Admissions: It Takes a Village
Today’s Monday Maine Maven is Associate Director of the University of Maine Farmington (UMF) Office of Admission Lisa Ellrich.
In her role as associate director, Lisa oversees all on- campus events such as Open Houses, Accepted Student Days, and daily tours as well as off-campus events such as guidance information breakfasts/lunches, accepted student receptions and other recruitment activities. In addition, Lisa supervises and trains the student tour guides and student interns.
Lisa Ellrich discovered her love for college admissions as a student intern at the University of Maine Orono campus her senior year in college. Lisa was sparked by the ability to share her experience at UMaine with prospective students and their families and really feel like she was helping them in what can seem like a very daunting task/experience. After graduation, Lisa took a position as an admission counselor and later assistant director of admission at Westbrook College (now part of the University of New England) in Portland, Maine.
After a brief time away from admissions to start a family, Lisa missed admission work and was fortunate enough to take a position at UMF. As a native of Farmington, it was a great opportunity for Lisa to work in college admission in her home town. Lisa has been at UMF for over sixteen years.
Helping students and their families with the college search is a wonderful feeling. I love sharing UMF with them, but even more importantly, I love sharing the idea of college with them and helping them realize all the amazing opportunities that lie ahead.
Lisa is involved with numerous organizations. She is a chairperson of the New England Association of College Admission Counseling‘s Public Relations Committee and a member of the Professional Development Committee. Lisa is a member of the National Association of College Admission Counseling, the New England Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers, National Association for Student Affairs Administrators, New England Transfer Association, and the Maine Counseling Association. She is also on the board of directors for the Farmington Ski Club as their secretary and is a member of St. Joseph’s Parish.
1.) Lisa, in your position in the admissions department at UMF, how do you use social media to attract and communicate with students?
Currently we use a combination of social media to reach out to prospective students. We have a Facebook page as well as an active Twitter account that we used to get various messages out to our markets about interesting events taking place here at Farmington. The school as a YouTube channel, as well.
Our Facebook pages are also linked to those of the public relations department, athletics and alumni/development. It is always important to keep in mind the variety of audiences that we reach.
While in admission our primary market is prospective students to share with them information about our school as well as the application process and upcoming events, it is also important to connect with other offices/departments on campus so the prospective students can learn that we are truly a community and that means academics, athletics, student life, alumni events, etc.
While we are always aware of our target market (prospective students), that group includes their family and the guidance community as well.
2.) What have you found to be the most effective tool to communicate with prospective students?
I would have to say that while all of our communication tools are effective, as you would imagine, different students and their families are receptive to different types of communication, making it very hard to judge. While some use email and the Web extensively, there are times when a student is receiving so many emails from colleges and universities that they just tune them out.
And, the issue with electronic communication to students only – when we do not have a parent or family email – is that it many times eliminates the parent(s) from being part of that process. Parents/families are still the number one influence in a student’s college search and college selection process.
Our communication stream, we have found, is most effective when we utilize a variety of methods. Post cards for instance are great because nothing needs to be opened; parents aren’t violating trust issues by opening the mail addressed to their son or daughter; and everyone is informed with a quick update or notification.
We have also found that with our population, in many cases, it is best to utilize more frequent directed pieces of information than relying on one larger mailing or wordy email. Feeding the students and their families bits of information as they are ready for it not only keeps us in the forefront of their minds but also shares with them more pointed pieces of information that they can really spend time with and digest in smaller amounts.
For instance, we have a five piece mailing stream that begins with a general piece and is then followed by pieces specifically about academics, student life/residence life, sports and recreation and arts /culture as well as a “life after Farmington” outcomes piece.
These are all connected to various emails as well as Facebook postings throughout the cycle.
3.) What is the most effective way for UMF to get the word out to its current and prospective students about events, news and other information?
As it is with almost any type of marketing, I believe no matter what we put together for a formal plan – be it print, electronic, and/or social media – nothing tells the UMF story like happy students and happy families.
Testimonials, outcomes, positive interactions, and both seeing and hearing proof that UMF is a great place – no matter what your intended field of study – is our best way to get the word out about who we are.
Getting students and families to visit campus is a top priority. Having them feel and experience the campus, student body and faculty is critical. Having them see themselves here is really the best way to help students really learn what UMF is about.
Attracting students here for specific events or a regular campus visit takes a mix of types of outreach. Social media certainly is playing a huge role in all of these areas and, I anticipate, will continue to be even more important over the next couple of years. Utilizing social media and YouTube as well as other forms of electronic communication are going to become increasing important in reaching the population that is from a distance away and/or just cannot get to campus. Creating online events that truly represent the feeling of UMF are becoming increasingly valuable.
Social media, print media and our own communications plan are all needed and important to make it happen…it truly does take a village.