As a former university president, ex-lawmaker, and college instructor, I see a lot to worry about in higher education: diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs being dismantled, college rankings falling apart, and student debt piling up.
But I’m still hopeful about our universities. That’s because I’ve taken on a new role that has
given me a fresh perspective: College Dad.
Nicolas spent this past year exploring and applying to many schools before deciding to become a Longhorn and attend UT Austin this fall. We were with him every step of the way. And the process made me remember some “back to basic” lessons for universities to embrace as they try to reach students.
I recently explored them in a column for Inside Higher Ed.
First impressions matter. In a sea of marketing brochures, and social media posts, colleges
have to quickly show why they are a good fit. They need to get past clever catchphrases, and “Frisbee on the quad” shots showed they care about things that matter to prospective
students. For Nicolas, that meant exploring a path to med school.
Different shoes can fit the same foot. Many students say they are looking for that one “dream school.” But students are complex, adaptable, and can thrive in different places. Universities should help them see beyond shorthand, cliché descriptions — pre professional, commuter, Greek-heavy — to understand specific offerings, opportunities, and programs that define college life.
Make it personal. Many universities have entire offices that crunch numbers about themselves. But those data points don’t matter as much as making current students, advisers, and professors available for honest conversations with prospective students approaching the hardest transition of their lives.
Yielding results. By heeding these lessons, universities can drive success in one statistic that
truly matters: their yield rate. That’s the percentage of students accepted who actually enroll. When students have a good first impression, recognize the different fits, and make personal connections, they will apply to the schools where they really want to be—and then go there.
Take that as advice from a UT dad🤘🏼