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Influencers in College Recruitment: My Personal Story

Collegiate recruitment is a challenging endeavor. Colleges have traditionally relied on influencers such as high school counselors to help attract prospective students. However, in a landscape where many institutions use this same pathway, standing out and making a lasting impression can be difficult.

When collaborating with our clients, one approach that hasn’t received as much attention in reaching influencers at high schools is strategically connecting with individuals who engage with students in their fields of interest. While high school curricula may not offer the same diversity as colleges, students often have the chance to select classes aligned with their passions. These influencers (usually high school department heads), although less conventional than counselors, often have more frequent interactions with students and likely garner greater trust. Additionally, they can offer recommendations for schools that may not have been on the radar of the student or their family.

I have a surprising personal anecdote that illustrates the power of this approach. With my company’s expertise in higher education, I have a wealth of knowledge about colleges across the United States.

high school influencers in college recruitmentWhen my son, a junior at Pius XI in Milwaukee, expressed interest in visiting fashion design colleges in New York City, he mentioned a few institutions that I was familiar with through my work. One of these colleges is a current client, while the other I had encountered at a national conference. I reached out to the department head at Pius to inquire about our potential visits, and she suggested that we also include FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in our itinerary to ensure a well-rounded experience. Surprisingly, I was not familiar with FIT at the time. She explained that FIT, a public college within the SUNY system, specializes in arts education and is situated in the heart of New York City’s garment district. This recommendation really helped shape our college trip. 

I discovered that the admissions team at FIT, knowing Pius XI has a strong fashion program, made sure that the department head at the school was well aware of what they had to offer. And this department head’s recommendation to us was very helpful on my son’s college journey.   

If I, someone with way more information about colleges than the average person, did not know about a great-fit college like FIT, the chances are that most high school students and their families can use guidance from high school department heads across lots of college majors. The families may know about the most popular or recognizable college offerings, but there are gems out there that may not be as well known. 

Thus, implementing targeted strategies, of course including branded merch, to create awareness and stay top of mind with all types of influencers in high schools, is a sound strategy that I’ve seen work first hand!

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