Web enticements aim to net students

In a crowded and competitive field, WSU is using online resources to attract the attention of high-ability high school seniors who have, at least initially, set their sights elsewhere.

In February, WSU marketing and communications sent out more than 100,000 e-mails to high-achieving high school students in the Pacific Northwest who had requested that their SAT scores be sent to a number of high-caliber universities, but not WSU.

“These are very cold prospects,” said Anna Sherwood, marketing director of recruitment strategies. “But if even a handful of them end up enrolling at WSU, the effort will be successful.”

The key feature of the e-mail is a Flash video of a WSU student talking about why he or she chose WSU. Seven different videos were created, focusing on particular areas of study, along with one general university video. That way,  Sherwood said,  recruiters can match a prospective student’s interest – whether that be biosciences, engineering, liberal arts or something else – to an e-mail with a video featuring a WSU student who is in that field. The video also includes a link for students to request more information.

Another new project targets students who have been admitted to WSU, but have not necessarily committed to coming here. According to Sherwood, when students receive an acceptance letter from WSU, they also receive an e-mail invitation to join an online community created just for admitted students.

Elayne Crain, a marketing manager who helped get the project up and running in about six weeks, said the initial response has been fantastic.

“We were so excited because as the invitation e-mails were going out, that weekend it was just very, very busy on that site,” she said. The site went online in early February and as of March 8 nearly 350 students had posted messages, most of them asking or answering questions about housing, things to do, clubs to join or majors.

If a prospective student goes to WSU’s public homepage for information, Crain said, the focus is primarily on academics and services offered through Student Affairs. But, she said, once a student has been admitted, the new niche website offers a place for a more informal discussion of things a new Coug might be interested in, including where to get a good cup of coffee.

In addition to the message board, the site has links for students to contact enrollment counselors, peruse Frequently Asked Questions, read the Evergreen or listen to a campus radio station.