College Admissions, Consultants Develop Oberlin Student Profiles


Abe Frato

Workshops were hosted for students April 10-11.

On April 10 and 11, the Oberlin College Admissions Office and representatives from marketing firm Carnegie Dartlet hosted three workshops with a total of 61 current Oberlin students to gather qualitative data on the values and motivations of Oberlin students.

The Admissions Office brought in Carnegie Dartlet as its new search partner in February. Assistant Vice President of Admissions Communications Ben Jones, OC ’96, explained that these workshops are intended to help admissions get an idea of what types of students they should recruit and what kinds of students are likely to choose and stay at Oberlin.

“We’re not looking to change anything about Oberlin students,” Jones said. “We just want more of them. If we can really understand why current students are here and what makes them motivated and happy and all those good things, we can project that forward in how we recruit the next generation.”

Instead of looking at conventional demographics like GPA, hometown, or major, the workshops were designed to explore Oberlin students’ values. Mandy Summers, senior marketing and enrollment strategist at Carnegie Dartlet, explained that qualitative data can help Oberlin understand the similarities and differences among its student body beyond demographics.

“There are so many different types of students, so we’re not going to generalize,” Summers said. “We’re really just gonna try to come up with their motivations, because we know people make decisions on emotion and not always on logic. Really understanding that emotion and where some of those values come from and motivations and what drives you is really what’s gonna help Oberlin understand its student body better.”

Different motivations are described through “personas,” which are represented by different colors. Students were asked to come up with three examples of types of students they see at Oberlin and then assign primary motivations to each type of student they created.

Heidi Fitzgerald, business operations specialist at Carnegie Dartlet, explained how a variety of motivations can result in the same decisions.

“We have this example — we have a green persona [or] personality attribute — that’s like the curious explorer,” Fitzgerald said. “Why might they pull an all-nighter the night before a test? Maybe it’s not because they care about a high grade; that’s more of a blue [persona] thing. Maybe they just got so into their project, so curious to find out more, that they lost track of time. … A maroon person might be interested in hard work and good ethics. Maybe a maroon person wouldn’t be pulling an all nighter because they planned better. So instead of saying surface level, ‘This is a person who pulls all-nighters, this is an academic person’ — those are three different personality drivers.”

After creating profiles of the different values and motivations present at Oberlin, Carnegie Dartlet plans to send a survey out to the general student population so that students can help confirm the results of the workshop.

Students will be asked to identify the profile they feel best describes them and provide more information on their preferences for communication.

“You’ll get a chance to say, do you like to be communicated with [via] email,” Summers said. “… It’s a larger survey to get more information about how to best communicate with you all.”

From the quantitative and qualitative results, Carnegie Dartlet will provide recommendations on how Oberlin can reach students during the “search” phase, when the College proactively advertises to potential students who might be interested in enrolling.

“Our role in that really is to then just say, ‘Okay, if you have this group of students that’s overly involved, what does that really mean?’” Summers said. “So for them, when we talk about communication, do they feel like they have enough information and they don’t really want to hear from you? And as Ben mentioned yesterday, it really is about the recruitment, too … They can definitely use the information to talk to current students, but when they’re talking to prospective students, it’s like, ‘Okay, the over-committed students, what do they really like about Oberlin?’ It’s really an idea of what messages can they push out to the over-committed student to make them understand that they’ll fit in here.”

Jones believes that each student’s individuality presents both a challenge and an opportunity for Oberlin during this process.

“One thing that’s a challenge for Oberlin — and it’s a very, very good challenge, the reason that I love Oberlin — is that we don’t fall neatly into a handful of profiles,” Jones said. “Oberlin is all about individuality. When I’m recruiting for Oberlin, one of the things that I tell prospective students is there are places where a thousand different people come in, and then when they leave, they’re kind of all the same. Whereas at Oberlin, a thousand people come in and they leave as a thousand individuals who are just empowered by Oberlin to be the best version of themselves.”