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Monday, March 1, 2010

March Madness

It is officially March 1st, which may not mean much to most of the world’s population, other than the select few individuals who are convinced that March 1st is the first day of spring, simply because their first grade calendar was covered in grass, flowers, and rainbows. But those who are employees at colleges and universities across the nation know that once March approaches, the fun begins.

Nationwide, several college application deadlines begin in March and go through May. So for the next three months high school seniors will be pouring themselves into the Web-o-sphere, searching through a multitude of collegiate Web sites to find a school that just might be the perfect fit. Some students have one school in mind and one school alone. An individual that is a fifth generation Jayhawk and grew up watching Kansas basketball before they were even old enough to know what basketball was, probably won’t have to do much searching. But a student living in the Midwest that can’t wait to get away from the drastic seasonal changes, the flat terrain, and above all, her parents, may just type in “Colleges in California” and pick one purely based on the Web site, without having any previous knowledge of the institution.

Imagine you are this student. Someone that doesn’t know your debate team won the national tournament last year, or has no idea that your school’s biology research program is the best in the country; just an everyday, average, American teenager looking for a new place to call home for the next four years. Would your Web site appeal to this person? Would someone with no prior knowledge of what your institution has to offer, be intrigued enough to sift through the countless number of pages and resources? If at this point you are shaking your head and biting your fingernails, that probably isn’t a good sign.

The good news is, if your application rates significantly decrease, you know why, and it isn’t a hard problem to fix. Even doing something as small as looking into a new content management system can help turn things around, and if it’s the right CMS, the process should be not only painless, but fun. If your site is one of those that doesn’t even take up the full screen, but sits partially in the middle with a sea of blank color surrounding it, it’s probably time to start the redesign process. If your site is one that is overloaded with bland content and a few pointless pictures, then it is DEFINITELY time to start the redesign process. Why? Because other schools out there have caught on to this trend. Students have begun choosing schools whose Web sites are loaded with gadgets and revolutionary technology.

Biola University in La Miranda, California did not miss a beat when it came to Web site innovation. Their site is packed with virtual tours, blogs, videos, social networking, and even video chat with admissions counselors via AIM or Skype. At first glance, this appears to be a trendy, hip, educational facility that anyone in their right mind would be interested in attending.

But if all else is fails, and redesigning the Web site or implementing a top notch CMS is entirely out of the question, you could always try to make the Sweet 16 in this year’s NCAA tournament. According to Jaren Pope, a professor at Virginia Tech University, making the Sweet 16 cut can increase the number of students who apply by 3 percent, and winning the tournament can generate a 7 to 8 percent increase in applications. So with that being said, let the madness of March begin.

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3/11/10, 11:26 AM  

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