It’s hard to imagine Colorado College as a tough sell.
However, according to Roberto Garcia, the director of Admission at CC, marketing and branding play an important rule in recruiting a diverse group of students.
“We do it systematically, thoughtfully, and with effectiveness,” Garcia said.
The efforts of admissions reps are reflected in the numbers: students from 29 states and 50 foreign countries have flocked to CC to take advantage of a liberal arts education in what many refer to as the greatest place on earth.
So what is the “CC brand”?
“It’s a small, intimate community,” Garcia said. “You’re not just a number.” Like other top-tier national liberal arts colleges, CC is residential and fosters a supporting group of people. Students have the opportunity to know professors by their first names, and professors care about the students’ personal and intellectual development.
There are few other schools that can boast that kind of intimate intellectual adventure. “The differentiation comes from the marketing piece,” Garcia said.
The “marketing piece” is the Block Plan—the defining feature of the school as well as the toughest sell.
As Garcia points out, “When it comes to marketing, it’s a blessing and a curse. You have to drink the Kool-Aid in a sense. You have to believe in the Block Plan.”
And sometimes, belief isn’t enough. “If there’s not an alignment between a person and this kind of community, we have a very tough sell,” Garcia said.
“The students that discover us…they’ve decided that juggling four or five classes is something they’ve been doing for some time but they don’t find it as effective. They see the Block Plan as a solution,” Garcia said.
The CC graduate, as Garcia said, has “been in class[es] that are inter-acting, interchanging ideas.”
So when it comes to reaching students from a variety of demographics, the admissions office has the task of “looking in [the] rearview mirror,” said Garcia, inquiring about who’s here today and where they came from.
It’s a three-pronged strategy—CC’s admissions office classifies familiar and unfamiliar high schools as a feeder school, an emerging school, or a community-based organization.
The admissions office has compiled over 30 years of data using this method, and each year, they open the vault, examining “what’s happened in terms of representation, applications, admitted students, and enrolling students,” Garcia said.
In the quest to increase demographic diversity, Garcia and his colleagues have worked to build alliances with community-based organizations. He cited The Denver Scholarship Foundation as an example, saying that such foundations help the admissions office reach students who wouldn’t normally be on the mailing list, as well as students that come from schools that aren’t on the current CC radar.
Recruiting comes into play when the admissions office opens communications with the athletic department, the math department, and the dance department—all facets of the school that are looking for applicants who will contribute to the range of talents across the school.
“We have a very strong partnership with the athletic department,” Garcia said. The admissions director explains that they generally inform the department where they’re traveling so the athletic department can contact prospective athletes.
Diversity of talents isn’t the only category the admissions office targets. When it comes down to it, “children don’t pick their parents,” Garcia said. The admissions committee wants to give the opportunity of a CC education to everyone, no matter what circumstances they’re born into.
“Because we have this process where we can talk about nuances and gradations, it allows us to get beyond happenstance,” Garcia said.
Location, rather than ethnicity, plays an important role in the admission committee’s vision of the future. Garcia says he likes to imagine the dinner conversation between a student from say, the Midwest, and a student from East Asia.
“It’s important not to leave any voices out,” Garcia said—provided these voices are profound, powerful expressions of opinion.
Whomever the admissions office attracts in the upcoming years, they’re sure to enrich the lives of all 2000-plus students who are already here.