The vast majority of college students undergo some kind of recruitment process when selecting a college or university. Additionally, there appears to be a great degree of variance in the process and is often based on unique college or university approaches. Yet regardless of the approach, a student’s first contact with the school often begins active socialization into that academic and social community. This study examines the interactional experience of college recruitment and their recruitment offices to see, if any, this pre-entry communication may have on a student’s membership and commitment to that school. By utilizing a multi-method approach, this study discovered that while recruitment efforts are important and may have an impact on the duration of a student’s collegiate career, it is not necessarily the causation of high commitment or identity rates.
College is often referred to as “the best four years of one’s life.” Regardless of the trials and tribulations, collegiate graduates often reflect fondly of their time spent in the historic buildings, the grassy lawns, the stadiums and arenas and the social interactions of their alma mater. Over time, students often develop a strong and enduring sense of community and commitment to their school that keeps them connected to their university for the remainder of their lives. However, the experiences that occur prior to their collegiate membership are often overlooked in reflection. Yet, it may be these very experiences that provide a useful foundation for the potentially positive outcomes of the college experience.
Even a cursory glance at today’s university life would reveal that university of today is much different than it was yesterday. Yet, one thing remains the same—starting at a new school is often a stressful experience. University newcomers find themselves in an unfamiliar environment with uncertainties about success, in addition to the fact they are often surrounded by people they do not know. In order to be successful, new members must establish relationships, learn new behaviors, gather organizational facts and procedures, adapt to new expectations and acquire a particular set of organizational expectation. For individuals entering a new place, the period prior to entry is critical. In some cases, anticipating entry into an organization can improve performance after entering the organization. In fact, there is some evidence that students who anticipate correctly the values, norms, and behaviors they will encounter in the social and academic environment of graduate school will be more successful (Merton, 1957, p. 265; Merton and Lazarsfeld, 1972).
Prospective college students are university member newcomers and are in many ways at the tipping point of an exciting time in their lives. Selecting and attending the right school is of the utmost importance, but often prospective students—especially high school seniors—may not attend much to the recruitment process nor understand the potential impact that can have on them. However, college recruiters do understand the impact and realize the importance of this pre-entry process. As such, universities devote research, time and money to improving this process. Dr. Emily Lehning, an Assistant Dean of Student Life and Coordinator of New Student Services at Kansas State University, says, “Marketing is essential for colleges and universities.” She also suggests that individuals who are looking to begin or finish their study at an institution of higher learning have a lot of choices especially as the options increase with distance education or online programs becoming more prevalent and credible. Competition is fiercer because of changes in the economic climate and demographic shifts. Colleges and universities must position themselves to be considered by students and ultimately selected as the institution of choice. (Lehning, 2008).
Universities devote a large number of resources on recruitment efforts, ranging from postcards to travel expenses for admissions representatives. For example, Kansas State University spent over $16,000 in a recent marketing campaign focusing on high school seniors reaching over 60,000 students (Lehning, 2008). Clearly then, student recruitment is an important business. In addition to acquiring the student, keeping the student, or student retention, is another important concern for university officials.
The decision to remain at an organization—or at a university—can be linked to important organizational outcomes directly associated with the organizational socialization process. Previous research has found successful organizational socialization to be linked to important organizational outcomes such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, turnover intentions, and organizational identification (e.g., Ashford & Saks, 1996; Allen & Meyer, 1990; Feldman, 1981; Jablin, 1987, 2001). Effective socialization is important because it is viewed as a site of negotiation between the newcomer and the organization (Bullis, 1993), one forged by effective communication practices. During this time of pre-entry, newcomers not only gather information, but form impressions and expectations as well as begin to make decisions regarding their job (Jablin, 2001)—or in this case, the university.
For many students the recruitment experience is the first interaction with (a potential) future institution and certainly the first stage in the process of assimilating into their new university community. Not unlike the membership process into a work or social organization, organizational assimilation applies very similarly to a university. As assimilation begins, communication during the pre-entry phase begins attitude formation and eventually the attainment of important organizational outcomes of identification and commitment—which for the university ensures retention and eventually graduation. To that end, the pre-entry phase of becoming a member of a university is extremely critical.
The purpose of this study is to understand the impact of organizational communication tactics associated with the pre-entry phase of university membership. In general, it seeks to explore: How are students impacted by the pre-entry communication of college recruitment efforts? More specifically, it examines the short term and long term perceptions about the communication experience during recruitment and determines what, if any, organizational outcomes are related to this communication experience. Continue reading ‘“Once I Visited, I was Sold!” Collegiate Recruitment Tactics and their Effects on College Students- Taylor Symons’ »