There is a war raging in admissions offices throughout the nation to attract the attention of prospective students. To gain a tactical advantage, the College of William and Mary is unleashing a new weapon: The Ampersandbox.
“We knew we wanted to make it something special,” Associate Director of Creative Services Cindy Baker said.
In enticing prospective students, traditional viewbooks have begun to lose their preeminent status among admissions materials. Although they give a compact summary of a school, they tend to blend together rather than make a college or university stand out.
“[The College of] William and Mary had the same viewbook for a decade,” Senior Assistant Dean of Admission Wendy Livingston said. “It was very traditional, dated — not different at all.”
Now, thousands of high school students searching for the perfect college will receive a special surprise in the mail. The College’s quirky new Ampersandbox is a simple box, almost the size of a small envelope, containing a stack of 15 note cards, each featuring a colorful image and a catchy colloquialism that highlights many distinctive strengths of the College.
“We’re just really excited about it,” Livingston said. “It is extremely unique and very clever. We can easily update and change it — Ampersandbox gives us the flexibility to do more”.
Creating The Ampersandbox was no easy feat.
“It’s challenging to design that which is reminiscent of something childish, but also elegant like the school,” Acting Associate Director of Creative Services Justin Schoonmaker said. “We like that it is kind of ambiguous. It could be Amper-sandbox, or Ampersand-box.”
On the back of each card is an expansion on the phrase, and a URL to direct prospectives online.
“The cards and the website go hand-in-hand,” Schoonmaker said. “The intent is to only tell prospectives so much, so that they will go to the website and learn more.”
The Ampersandbox is already receiving national media attention. Recently, The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Washington Post published articles on how American universities are rethinking the usual methods of attracting attention.
“A lot of thought goes into recruiting students,” Baker said. “There is a fine line between cheesy and impressive, in the attempt to blend with multimedia and still have the tactile aspect.”
It would take a lot for admissions directors to completely give up on the viewbook, as they depend on it to assemble a prospective class. But the College has taken the initiative to revolutionize its methods, along with other schools like Loyola University Chicago and Arizona State University, both of which no longer use the viewbook at all. Such schools are ushering in what could be a new era in higher education recruitment.
Some feel that the message viewbooks send is, “Aren’t we important?” Meanwhile, newer admissions materials, like the multimedia Ampersandbox, seek to say, “Aren’t we unique?” by giving a better feel for the personality of the college.
“This was such a tremendous collaboration between the three parties [Undergraduate Admissions, Creative Services, and MStoner],” Dean of Admissions Henry Broaddus said. “Each brought a kind of expertise to the project, all resulting in a great triumph. It is easy to like, both in form and style of delivery. And it truly is content driven, with powerful stories and compelling information.”