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Friday, December 08, 2006

Admission Bribes

I'm sure you're thinking this is going to be about people trying to bribe admission officers. It's not, though we get our share of chocolates, cookies, and fruit baskets. This is about bribes in the opposite direction.

It came to my attention today that two schools, Saint Joseph College in Connecticut and University of Alabama, are offering students free iTunes downloads in exchange for either adding their names to the school mailing list or applying for admission. UofA supposedly offered extra downloads to those willing to give their friends' email addresses as well. Alabama's law school is offering downloads to applicants, too.

In my Google searching about this, I came across more than one article from the business media praising this innovative marketing strategy. Now, I don't fault those groups, as they have a corporate mindset and probably don't understand our environment. But I can't understand how admission officers at those schools reconcile what they're doing.

Those of us in admission roll our eyes when we see the armed forces recruiters at college fairs giving out all sorts of gadgets and nick knacks. Giving out these sorts of things is expressly forbidden by our professional organization, NACAC. I usually console myself by thinking that the students gathered round the recruiter wouldn't have been interested in my school anyway. Of course, these iTunes downloads aren't being given out at college fairs, but they are being used for the same purpose.

It's amazing to me that some schools are resorting to a bribe, of sorts, in order to get students to sign up for a mailing list. The investment seems a bit foolish because (I imagine) students wouldn't really be impressed by the offer. If anything, it might devalue the schools reputation, as evidenced by this message board conversation about Alabama Law's offer.

According to an article in Bama's student newspaper, Mary Spiegel, the Director of Undergraduate Admission said this was an attempt to use methods that high school students "associate with". Associate with what? An instant win game in a candy wrapper? A prize code under the lid of a soft drink? The student paper also points out that the recruitment website
is written with young people in mind. After prospective students give their information, the site asks them to tell friends about the offer, "Because that playa, is just how you roll."

I love quirky marketing, but isn't the goal is to be humorous and clever?

The email from Alabama Law (sent last spring and again in November):
Admit it! You are an outstanding student. For a select number of students like you, The University of Alabama School of Law is still accepting applications.

Your special application deadline is April 15, 2006.

To encourage you to consider Alabama as your law school, we’re making two special offers:

1. We'll waive your application fee, and

2. We’ll present you with 5 free music downloads on iTunes® if you apply now!

To receive your iTunes codes, you must apply online at

No purchase is necessary. If you apply by April 15, your music downloads on iTunes will be available until March 17, 2007. (Info about the school follows)