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May 7, 2016

What’s in an envelope? One school bets on your enrollment

Courtesy of Fahrzeug

It’s the spring of your senior year of high school, and you come home every day eagerly awaiting that coveted acceptance letter from your top choice school. You visualize the bold letterhead with your school’s logo on it, plan out in your head how you will tear open the manila and know your fate.

One college is seeking to exploit this paradigm to bolster enrollment, and it’s using a rather unique, innovative method to make prospective students feel like it values them. The University of Dayton, in Dayton, Ohio has begun sending accepted students’ admission letters using UPS and DHL express envelopes. The theory goes, according to a Sept. 10 article in the online college news magazine Inside Higher Ed, that students will feel valued by the school and therefore be more likely to enroll.

“We are saying you are not going to be junk mail to us,” said University of Dayton Vice President of Enrollment Management Sundar Kumarasay in the article, “We’re sending a message that you are important.”

The university does not pay for priority mailing, the letters are sent through the United States Postal Service, but the envelopes are made to look just like UPS and DHL envelopes, with help and contracts from the two companies.

The Roman Catholic Liberal Arts University accepted 300 more students than it expected for this year’s class, with 2,065 freshmen, and it has seen a rise in student visits and applications. Kumarasay gives the envelopes credit for enticing new students, but gives the university’s programs and education credit for enrolling them.

The added cost of licensing fees for using UPS and DHL are not much in end, because although tens of thousands of letters are still sent out, the envelopes have increased Internet usage by stirring interest, explained Kumarasay.

One recent Dayton enrollee was not sold, however.

“I think the whole thing’s a little cheesy,” said University of Dayton freshman Shannon Lees. “They seem full of themselves, [Dayton] isn’t Harvard.”

The international studies major and Chicago native said Dayton is a “family school,” with a lot of legacy students, and that she thinks “they would appreciate [the envelopes] more,” than her.

Lees received a certificate with her acceptance letter, something she could “hang on the mantle,” but she says she would rather just a plain letter, something classic and not a gimmick.

Patrick Callahan, a University of Massachusetts spokesman, said the flagship campus of the UMass system will not be looking to a Dayton-style model to attract students.

“We don’t do anything like what Dayton is doing,” said Callahan, “we don’t have any plans to do so in the future.”

Although UMass does not use or plan to use an envelope gimmick to increase campus interest, the school’s admissions officers are not complete strangers to plans such as Dayton’s.

In a Sept. 5 Boston Globe article, UMass Amherst Chancellor Robert Holub said that UMass sends out certificates for financial aid scholarships, calling the strategy a “marketing tool.”

“Instead of just saying, ‘You have a $6,000 scholarship as part of your financial aid package,’ we say ‘Congratulations! You’ve been awarded a Chancellor’s Scholarship for $6,000, and you get a certificate to hang on your wall,’” said Holub in the piece.

Sam Hayes can be reached at sdhayes@student.umass.edu. Sam Butterfield contributed to this article.

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