I went to Arkansas (Little Rock to be exact) this past Thursday to put on an event with one of our admissions counselors. I invited all our alumni in the area and the admissions counselor invited all of his prospective students. This event (which we've done several of in the past) is hosted at the home of former students and usually includes a lot of free snack foods, literature about the university, free school t-shirts, and the opportunity for prospective students and their parents to ask all kinds of questions about OC. The students who come get to find out about the university from people who used to be students there and the former students who come get to connect with each other and feel like they are making a positive impact on their alma mater by helping us recruit our next crop of students.
I've put on several of these events in the past two years and sometimes they are well attended and sometimes they are not, BUT they are always attended.
This one, however, was not attended by ANYONE. We drove five and half hours to a suburb of Little Rock to promote the school to alumni and prospective students and NO ONE CAME.
The only saving grace for me was that I got to spend almost two and half hours visiting with the alumni family that hosted the party as we all sat around their kitchen island on bar stools waiting for the first people to arrive. It was kind of a downer that no one showed up, but the people who were hosting the event were really gracious about it all and I now feel like have a good connection with two alumni in the Little Rock area in case we ever want to try anything like this again.
For the admissions counselor who went, his saving grace was going to be the next day when he did a school visit to meet some of his prospective students.
So the next day came and he got up, got ready, and headed over to the high school. After he had been there for about 15 minutes, the school secretary came in and informed that the decision had been made to cancel school and send the students home because it was sleeting outside and they were concerned about worsening road conditions. So he came back to the hotel, picked me up, and we started our five and a half hour drive back home.
To recap: we drove 11 hours, spent the school's money on a hotel room, gas, and our meals (not to mention our time) and we got to see two alumni and ZERO prospective students. Wait a minute... that's not entirely true. We did get to see one prospective student. The alumni who hosted the event did have a 12 year old daughter and she assured us that if she doesn't get into Harvard (which she probably will... she showed us her first place winning science fair project and it was pretty impressive) that she will most likely come to OC. In the admissions business, they call that "early contact" and apparently there's a lot of value to making contact like that with prospective students at such a young age. So at least the trip wasn't a complete bust from the admissions perspective.
And before you waste a comment to ask, the answer is no. We did not do anything differently while promoting this event. We sent the same post cards, the same emails, and made the same phone calls to the same number of people the same number of times as we always do when we have one of these events.