Yes! You Can Differentiate Your College Without a Big Investment in Time or Money

June 20th, 2017 by Rick Montgomery Leave a reply »

You have probably heard this question hundreds, maybe thousands, of times from prospective students or their parents: “Tell me about your school.If you’re like most in the world of in admissions, you’re going to start ticking through a list of the benefits that make your college special.

You might say, “We’re a small school and, because of that, we’re able to give you a high level of personal attention.


We’re a large school and, because of that, you’ll enjoy a diverse student population and a wide choice of academic programs.


You might talk about your highly respected faculty, or your winning sports teams, or outstanding student spirit, or your stellar internship opportunities, or a myriad of other fine attributes.

You could list many things. And they would all be perfectly good reasons for a student to enroll at your school.

But, here’s the problem:  The students and parents you’re talking to are hearing the exact same thing from every other college they are considering.

Ouch!  That hurts, doesn’t it?

The data is very clear on this issue, however. For example, in a recent co-sponsored national study 64% of college-bound students said that campus tours look and feel the same. That’s just one of the many times that college bound students and their parents have told us that it is becoming increasingly difficult  to differentiate one college from another because colleges aren’t demonstrating their unique qualities in a way that is meaningful to the students they are recruiting.

Often, when the topic of “college differentiation” is discussed it is in the context of a campus-wide image re-branding; generally a lengthy and expensive undertaking.  However, we believe you can take a simple step today and begin immediately differentiating your college in a highly-effective way.

Kick-start the  process that will make your college stand-out in the crowd.

Think about all of the things you say about your college and all of the reasons you know that a student might select your school. Write every one of them down. Now, consider each item on your list and ask the team: “Are our prospective students hearing the same thing from any other college?” Be brutally honest.

If you think other colleges are likely to be saying the same thing that you’re saying about yourself, cross it off your list. At the end of the exercise, count how many items you have left.

We frequently do this exercise in our Interactive Counselor Training Workshops at college campuses all over the country. And, I can tell you that, in most cases, the big list of “reasons why to attend” gets whittled down to nothing. Then, we challenge the counselors to identify those characteristics that are genuinely special about their school.

This exercise serves two purposes:

  • First, it forces you to realize the attributes that you profess are not really distinguishing you at all.
  • Secondly, it forces you to be introspective and discover what truly makes you exceptional among the many choices available to prospective students and parents.

I guarantee that in many ways your college is truly distinctive. You just have to recognize those attributes and effectively articulate them so that students and parents will see you as being unique and desirable.

I highly recommend watching Simon Sinek’s September 2009 TEDTalk. It’s become a classic because it forces leaders, organizations, and people within organizations to “start with why.” It’s based on Sinek’s belief that people don’t buy “what you do.” They buy “why you do it.” You can watch his TEDTalk by clicking HERE.

The answer to increasing enrollment in the face of the many challenges in higher education today lies in taking an entirely student-centric approach to recruiting where the admission office and counselors realize that “it’s not about the institution – it’s about the student.”  This is powerful when put into practice. Through our Interactive Counselor Training Workshops, we spend a great deal of time changing the focus of admission counselors. We see their transformation and improvements in productivity. Most importantly, we see changes in the recruiting process that exposes students to the information and experiences that truly interest and excite them.

Summer is the ideal time to train and motivate your staff. Email or call me if you are interested in how we can help you have a powerhouse admissions team. And, if you want to join a prestigious group of colleges and universities that are exploring how to best harness the emotional connection that drives students to enrollment, click here for information about of our new co-sponsored study, Emotional Motivators. This study is based on the adage: “Facts tell. Emotions sell.” Students want and need facts and information about the colleges they consider. But their college selection decision will hinge on how they FEEL about the school they’ll ultimately enroll in. This study will tell you how they feel about you relative to the other colleges they considered (or chose to attend).

Continue the conversation on Twitter @LongmireCo.  We hope you will subscribe to Versions of Conversion for regular tips and techniques. For more information about Longmire and Company’s Interactive Counselor Training Program, click here.

Rick Montgomery is as an Enrollment Strategist at Longmire and Company. With over 20 years in higher education marketing, he brings an innovative approach to helping colleges and universities meet their enrollment goals. Rick can be reached at 913/492.1265 x.708 or via email at

Copyright Longmire and Company, Inc.