April Tales from the Trail: Students Love Paper Materials – Even in the Digital Era

There’s nothing easier for a college admissions representative than grabbing a USB memory stick, handing it to a prospective student, and sending them home with all of the information they could possibly need…

But are students leaving with digital materials that they can’t even use?

In our travels, we’ve been noticing that quite a few schools have jumped at the chance to modernize their materials and have started to hand out digital catalogs, either on CDs/DVDs or USB memory sticks. As part of a collection of materials, our field agents have liked the memory sticks as a backup for the information if they lost the information sheets they received. However, most of the evaluators reported that CDs and DVDs were essentially unusable to them – most laptops no longer have disc drives, so they’re little more than shiny donut-shaped coasters.

Recently, two evaluators reported that when they asked representatives about key topics, they were directed to the school catalog. They were discouraged when they found out that they couldn’t access the information that they needed, mirroring many students who may not have the resources they would need to be able to access digital files:

Brian told me that I would not have to worry about their accreditation status and that I could read all about it in the school catalog. He did not show me the catalog during his presentation, but he assured me that it was already packed in my materials folder. I also asked about tuition and he just smiled and pointed to the folder and stated, “It’s all in here.” When I opened the folder after the interview, I saw only one program course list and a CD that was labeled “Catalog” with a Sharpie. I tried to access the info, but I didn’t have a CD drive.

Jim gave me a USB memory stick to take home with me. He said it would have the information I asked him for regarding jobs. However, I couldn’t access the information since I only have a tablet. I had to find a library that would let me use their computer and that allowed USB sticks to be used on their computers.

Our evaluators develop a keen eye for collateral, which includes how representatives use the materials to provide info, answer questions, and showcase the school. It also includes looking at the resources they send home with prospective students.

Using a presentation or website to present info is a fantastic idea, but if the student can’t find it on a website later or doesn’t have a handout, even the fondest of interview memories can only last so long.

Kelly navigated to a page title ‘Consumer Disclosures’ on the school website by clicking on various links. She did not explain how to navigate to this page. She pointed out the total tuition cost, the retention and job placement rate, and a link to BLS on the disclosures. However, she did not provide any printed information, nor did she write down the link to this page. I was unable to find this page on my own.

Certain sets of materials can be especially beneficial. Like receiving printed documents to look over later with family/friends as they consider school options, and digital resources to use/send as well. For example, on one of our recent visits we left with one set of documents that included printed tuition information and financial aid estimates, with a sheet outlining all of the other pertinent data. This sheet not only outlined current information, it also provided permanent links to the information on the school website, where we could seek out updated information about the program if we decided to enroll in a future term. The representative also emailed a PDF of the sheet.

David told me that the sheet contained all of the links that I would need to learn everything about the school. He said that my questions were excellent, and I would not need to worry about remembering any of the information he had given me, since I could access all of it online. He said that he would email me a copy, just in case it ended up getting lost in my car. I was able to access all of the information later by using the email that he sent.

Another set of materials with which our evaluators were impressed was a single program information sheet, a financial aid guide customized to the school, and a catalog. No digital materials were provided, but students reported that all of the summarized information about the school and program on the information sheet was enough to make an enrollment decision.

I was able to relax during my interview, since Toby had a program information sheet that he used to present all of the information about the program and school that I needed. I did not have to ask him any questions because he then used a catalog to show me more detailed information, including a tuition breakdown. When I met with Financial Aid, they provided an estimate sheet for me to take home that outlined what I would have to pay, assuming that I reported my information correctly to them. The materials were more than enough to make a decision about enrolling since any questions I had could be answered by using the catalog (or the various website links printed in it).

Although it may seem like progress to stop providing printed documents to potential students, many students who are attracted to career training schools may not have the resources required to access key information.

Based on our evaluators’ experiences, we have seen that digital resources tend to be a backup means of looking up information about the school, and many of the digital materials provided can be useless unless they have the right tools to open the files. Most students rely heavily on phones or tablets to do things. With this in mind, maybe it’s too early completely write off printed materials…or at least too early to offer zero printed takeaway information.

Are you hoping to transition to 100% digital for your Admissions team? Do you think printed materials are still worth their weight in…paper? Share your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page!

If you’d like to see what our incredible covert assessment evaluator team will learn at your school, Vince at Vince@nortonnorris.com is ready to put together a customized program!

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