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Humor in College Admissions


Humor in college admissions can be effective.


In a recent post on Inside Higher Ed, editor reveals a new tool that some colleges and universities are using to attract applicants. That tool? Humor.

Jaschik’s article highlights Macalester College, which has for years now sent out a letter to prospective students touting features of the school including academic challenges, classmates from more than 90 countries, indoor plumbing, and 12 professors who walk their dogs through campus. The lighthearted letter reflects the school’s beliefs and makeup, and it can appeal to students who are looking for a campus with that kind of personality.

While humor in college admissions can make high school students crack a smile, prospective students really want to know more about the campus vibe. They want to know whether they will fit into a new community, and whether they will enjoy it. And yet it is very difficult to get a handle on the “personality” of a campus.

Even campus visits are not necessarily the best way to learn about the campus vibe. And everyone knows that the college’s website is not going to convey much personality. Most college websites have loads of attractive photos of attractive buildings with attractive young people gathered outside. Most prospective students know that admissions offices serve as the sales and marketing division of the campus.

So it’s no wonder that the vice presidents for enrollment are trying a little humor in college admission.

Beware the Funny Stuff

Don’t be totally drawn in by letters like this, though. While a letter expressing humor and a lighthearted attitude can make a school feel like a perfect fit, the letter alone shouldn’t make or break your decision to apply to any college or university. Careful research about the school in question—its location, size, extracurricular offerings, and, of course, academics—can help you make sure the school has everything that you’re looking for. It’s important to visits schools. Visits can help you decide whether or not it’s somewhere that you can see yourself spending four years, too.

But, of course, having a sense of humor about it won’t hurt!

And look for more humor in college admission in time. It works!


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