New admissions materials aim to distinguish Mac from the crowd

By Kristin Riegel

High school juniors and seniors sorting through hundreds of college admissions publications will soon be looking at a new image of Macalester.
The Admissions Office, working with an outside communications consultant, is in the process of redesigning the viewbook, web site, and other admissions materials in an attempt to distinguish Macalester from its competitors. Macalester’s current publications have not been updated in 15 years.

The new campaign will tout Macalester as an institution that provides a global education, said Assistant Dean of Admissions Nancy Mackenzie.

The project, due to be completed in late February, is a multifaceted approach which includes revamping Macalester’s mailings, brochures, and part of the admissions web site. The admissions office declined to make the new materials available to The Mac Weekly, as they are not in their final form.

Mackenzie said that the new publicity plan is not tied to specific recruitment goals. College officials have said, however, that the school is seeking to attract more male applicants. The college received applications from 1,941 males last year, compared to 2,885 female applicants.

Over the past year, Boston-area consultant Mark Edwards has surveyed high school students and conducted focus groups to measure reaction to three possible admissions campaigns.
Overall, the high school students surveyed agreed that a campaign with strong visuals, supporting facts and limited text left the most positive impression. According to the study by Admissions, students hailed one design that posed the question, “Are you a global participant or a passerby?” as “interesting,” “different,” and “complex.”

Mackenzie said that print materials and mailings will seek to “emotionally” appeal to prospective students, while the admissions web site will serve as “the primary information hub.”

The viewbook, which will be the centerpiece of the print campaign, will contain five primary themes: Intellectual Engagement, Multiple Perspectives, Civic Engagement and Leadership, A Local and Global Community, and Transformation.

One of the biggest obstacles for Macalester in recruiting applicants is overcoming the college’s lack of name recognition, Mackenzie said. Macalester’s anonymity among the vast array of liberal arts colleges frightens many potential students, many of whom are looking for a name that will impress friends and family.

On one Facebook group’s board, first-year students discussed Macalester’s strong reviews in U.S. News & World Report, stating that many had encountered situations of having to explain to family members and friends both what and where Macalester was.

“I’m a bit sick of going through the ‘It’s a really good school, really, it is’ speech,” Jamie Moore ’10 wrote on the discussion board, called “Mac is a New Ivy!”

One freshman agreed. “Macalester’s lack of name recognition was a drawback in applying,” he said.