Admissions officials consider joint travel to attract more students

When GW admissions representatives hit the road next year, they hope to travel with other colleges for the first time to bring their pitch to more students.

Admissions officials hope the group travel programs can bring in a larger and more diverse applicant pool without increasing recruitment costs – a top goal for the University after several years of lackluster application growth.

“It’s an opportunity for us to further expand our pipeline,” Karen Felton, the undergraduate admissions director, said. “Some student who comes to the program to hear about X, Y, Z institution then also hears about GW and thinks, ‘You know what, that’s a really great place. I need to investigate more.’”

Now, the University sends recruiters to about 40 states each year, but the largest blocks of GW undergraduates hail from northeastern states like New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, as well as California.

But traveling with other institutions would help her office “cast a very, very wide net,” she said, while cutting the initial costs and legwork of reaching out to new schools and regions and reducing travel expenses.

Felton experienced the travel partnerships when she worked in Georgetown University’s admissions office, which partners with universities like Duke, Harvard and Stanford and University of Pennsylvania.

Unlike traditional visits to high schools, Felton said group travel programs often take place during a weekend or in the evening to include parents as well as students.

GW is in talks with potential partner colleges, but Felton declined to say which ones. She also said it was too early to say what specific regions and demographics GW would target through this initiative.

While many Ivy League universities already follow the trend of joint travel, some schools GW considers its peers – like New York University, Northwestern University, and Tufts University – also participate in group travel programs.

Vanderbilt University, for example, partners with 10 schools, including Princeton University, Dartmouth College and Vassar College for domestic and international recruitment.

“It is nice for a prospective family to be able to learn about more than one great university in a single setting,” said John Gaines, director of undergraduate admissions at Vanderbilt University.

He added that universities often search for common characteristics such as selectivity, size, type, and athletic conference. “But we have seen success when schools of radically different size and location travel together as well,” Gaines said.

Lisa Lapin, Stanford University’s associate vice president of communications, said the school’s admissions representatives partner with recruiters from the University of Pennsylvania as well as Harvard, Duke and Georgetown universities because of similar requirements for those “selective private institutions.”

“While it can be difficult to measure direct impacts on the number, quality and diversity of applicants,” Gaines said, “It is clear that we are reaching a broader audience via joint travel than any single one of us could travelling alone.”

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