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How Advertising Affects Student's Choice Of University

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Can you remember the first time you received mail as a prospective student from a college? Starting your freshman year, you probably started noticing all of the different types of advertisements from universities around the nation. These could have been schools that you reached out to for more information, ones had never heard of, or maybe the school that you are attending now. How did these advertisements impact the way you perceived the school? The overall message communicated by advertising varies by university due to different marketing techniques and overall values of schools. There is a lot that goes into choosing your future school and the marketing departments of universities consider this greatly when determining the messages that they want to send to prospective students about the type of university they are. After visiting bsu.edu, one of the most common pages accessed by both current and future prospective students, it became clear that Ball State University represents themselves as a more recreational based type of university by the type of advertisements that they use to convince their prospective students. By recreational, I mean an all-inclusive university, where they are targeting a large range of students with a variety of different backgrounds and interests, it is not meant to be looked at for solely academics.

“Education Redefined”, the unforgettable slogan of Ball State University is used by the marketing department on nearly everything. It’s important to look in-depth at this because these two words are so prominent in the advertising, so what exactly does the university want the students to think about it? After I spoke with current Ball State students about what “Education Redefined” means to them, I was not surprised to find out that the answers were all very different. For example, Courtney Blunk, a current freshman here, said that she thinks it is the universities way of setting them apart from different schools and that she immediately thinks of a lot of opportunities Ball State would provide, such as intramurals and clubs. On the other hand, Jillian Phelps, who is also a freshman here, said that she sees it as a way for the university to tell students that they can go about getting their education in a way that is suitable for them, she said that she thinks it makes the university sound more fun. The points made by both of these current students are valid and demonstrate that Ball State’s advertising wants to make it seem like the place to go for all students.

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On bsu.edu, your attention will immediately be drawn to the pictures posted and the slide show playing. The slide show changes frequently but chances are that you’ll find pictures of recent events that have taken place at the school, whether that be a speaker, a basketball game, or an organized fundraiser like dance marathon. Although this is just a small part of the advertising that Ball State has, I find it really important especially with the new and increasing use of technology that we look at the website to analyze the advertising more in depth. Is it a good or bad thing to be looked at as more of a recreational type of school? What does the advertising at Ball State say about the overall education here?

How does the new technology being used impact students education? Ball State advertises the use of technology in their mission statement. With emerging technology, information is more readily available for access. With this, there have been studies down to show that our attention spans have decreased. This can impact our ability to study because our attention is focused elsewhere and is not all there. Because of this, there may be a perceived “need” for neuro-enhancing drugs. Talbott says, “And they have a synergistic relationship with our multiplying digital technologies: the more gadgets we own, the more distracted that we become, and the more we need help in order to focus.” As mentioned above, Ball State advertises the new technology that students are able to use, which goes hand in hand with her statement about distraction. By recognizing that Ball State puts an emphasis on the use of technology, it’s important to know that this may increase the use of enhancements to strengthen academic performance. There’s so much being presented to students that it’s hard to focus and that may be a main cause for the abuse of these drugs. Chances are that you want to have a good time in college so you’re going to procrastinate in order to be able to do the things that you want to which may cause you to make unhealthy choices. Advertising that communicates the wrong message may take part blame for the stress which leads to these choices.

According to Ball State’s website, the mission of the university is to “fundamentally change their students, researchers, and external partners.” As part of the universities mission, they discuss the different programs of study they offer and how they rank nationally. Ball State believes that immersion and exploration is a vital component of student’s education, as well as impact and engagement. Ball State also is incorporating new technology into their education programs. By looking at some of the main points of Ball State’s education, we can get a better idea of what they are trying to communicate via their advertising to prospective students. Ball State seems to be targeting student’s that view education in different ways, for example, one student may want to focus entirely on school and the education aspect of education while another student may want to pursue a different route like music or recreational activities during college along with academics. By advertising their mission boldly on the website, Ball State encourages students with all different interests to consider the university as an opportunity to complete their education in a way that will satisfy their personal interests.

Ball State tries to “sell the university” to their prospective students in many different ways, whether it be pamphlets, online advertisements, student’s high school admissions, or through traditional mail. As mentioned earlier, in order to narrow down the analysis of Ball State’s advertising, we will look at Ball State’s home page of their website. In an article Buying and Selling Higher Education, McDonough says, “Applicants apply and enroll in college at the encouragement of family, friends, teachers, counselors, advertising materials, and other sources.” (McDonough 427). As an incoming freshman student here at Ball State University, Ariana Liebert, said that the first time she looked on Ball State’s website, she found it easy to use with a lot of information. She said that she remembers seeing something about the recreation center offering Zumba classes and fit passes. As an athlete, she said that this highly appealed to her interests. Edmundson says in his article, On The Uses of a Liberal Education, page 328,

“The freshman-to-be sees photos of well-appointed dorms; of elaborate phys-ed facilities; of fine dining rooms; of expertly kept sports fields; of orchestras and drama troupes; of students working alone (no overbearing grown-ups in range), peering with high seriousness into computers and microscopes; or of students arrayed outdoors in attractive conversational garlands.”

Think back to when you were receiving the mail from colleges, how accurate was Edmundson’s statement? I challenge you to take a look at Ball State’s homepage, you will find an example of all of the claims he makes. It’s important to recognize that by incorporating different themes into the main page, it can appeal to a greater population of students. Students may have greater interests in sports than academics and see benefits from the university. On the other hand, students may find more pleasure in participating in activities such as clubs and entertainment which is also conveniently located on the homepage of the Ball State website.

Colleges pay a lot of money to have nice recreation centers to appeal to their consumers (the students). They aren’t going to include pictures of the stressed and overworked students when trying to convince students to come to Ball State because that’s not a feeling that we want to have, especially as a student. College should not be a stressful time but it is a time that we begin to expand our minds. We are in college to ultimately obtain a degree which will lead us to our future job. The journey to get there is difficult but you learn how everything works in college. However, it becomes less about actually learning and more about the tests and pleasing the teachers. So, how does our advertising impact the view of students education?

The advertising at this university is a cycle. We begin as the consumers, the colleges advertise and set up their website in a way that will draw in the type of students they want to attend their university. After making the decision to attend Ball State University and you begin your classes, your role changes. In an article called Marketing Higher Education: Benefits and Risks for the American Academic System, it is stated that “Quality marketing in higher education keeps educational considerations well in focus, while also giving due attention the characteristics, attitudes, and behavior of the intended clients for these educational servies.”(Litten 43). Positive marketing can certainly make a lasting difference, but when it is turned into a consumer relationship, it may be turned into a negative situation. You are no longer the consumer but now, you are the marketer. You must convince your teacher why you deserve a passing grade in their class by the work and effort put into it. Not only do you convince them to give you a passing grade, but you also are demonstrating what type of student you are and why they should give in. The teachers play the role of both a consumer and marketer.

The advertising by Ball State University, must also be enough to convince a prospective teacher to want to come and teach the students here. Once they decide they want to work for the university, their students are going to be trying to achieve a good grade in their class by “advertising” their work. The teacher becomes the marketer when they are teaching lessons to prepare students to do well in their classes and set them up to be successful and when it comes time for end of the year reviews, the teachers have to convince their students that they are worthy of a good review throughout the year. Edward R. Weidlein says, in his What’s Wrong With College Admissions?, that, “The fact of the matter is that college admissions procedures serve the institutions, and not the student as the consumer.”(Weidlein 9). Therefore, the overall message is that universities have possibly unknowingly created a consumer/marketer relationship among students and teachers due to the messages initially received from the advertising.

An interesting thing to look at on our homepage are the tabs located across the top of the page for easy access on all the “main categories” of interest a prospective student of Ball State may have. The tabs included on Ball State’s homepage are: About, Admissions, Academics, Campus Life, Athletics, News, Calendar, and Giving. There are a lot of options to choose from which will appeal to a variety of student’s interests. While academics is an area of focus on the main page, there is also an emphasis on the campus life and athletics. You may find it interesting to look at other universities websites to get a different perspective on their recruiting of their prospective students. I believe that by comparing our website with other schools website you’re able to get a better idea of what each website says about the current education. On Harvard’s Website, the tabs included are: About Harvard, Admissions & Aid, Schools, and Resources & Offices. These tabs are aimed strictly at Academics. The overall message that this communicates to future students is that it’s more about academics and less about recreation. Harvard has a very prestigious reputation and their website reflects upon this.

Obviously, marketing is a critical aspect for every school and business. Universities must advertise in order to let students know about their school. However, when schools take advertising methods to far it can lead to negative impacts on our current education. For example, currently our education is set up in such a way that it seems that is hardly about learning and more about earning the grade. Schools advertising subtly demonstrates this issue. Universities and colleges are primarily for education and when schools, like Ball State, use other aspects such as recreation, shows, etc. to convince students that it’s less about education and more about play, it makes it hard for the institution to really emphasize the importance of learning material rather than just getting the grade.

How does this advertising impact both prospective and current students? Advertising may lead students to a false impression about the university. Students seeing the advertising about all the fun that they will be having while in school may be misleading. There have been some studies done that show how advertising negatively impacts students. Students are ultimately basing their decisions off of first impressions and that can be through advertisements or visits. With the tendency for the college to boast about all of the positives and avoid the negatives, students will also expect to see that when they get to the campus. While Ball State offers these fun recreational activities, these require you to make time after your academic schedule. The academic schedules are actually rather standard here, all students have set core requirements they have to meet for the school. Why would Ball State represent themselves with the slogan “Education redefined.” if they are really quite the same as other schools. Barry O’Connell says that, “Schools propose that each student generalize his or her education by taking courses in Western and non-Western civilizations, social and political analysis, science and mathematics, and in the humanities and arts.” (O’Connell 35). In this case, when you think about the way our school wants students to perceive them, it can be conflicting because while they’re promoting with advertisement that they are a fun and different university, they really are just your standard university.

It can be concluded that Ball State’s advertising demonstrates that while the school values academics, there are a lot of opportunities for everyone. The website is easy to analyze because it is easy access and a go to for those interested in the university, however I would recommend looking back at the type of advertising you encountered in your pre-college years. Think critically about how they impacted your decision and what message the communicated to you about the pleasures and rigors of the education at Ball State. Looking at it from the consumer side, Ball State wanted you to know that you could meet all of your desires both academically and recreationally by attending this university. Ball State’s education is less serious when you look at it against Harvard, where education seems to be their only priority. I’ll leave you with a quote from Edmundson’s article to think about, “Colleges don’t have admissions offices anymore, they have marketing departments.”

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