”We wanted people to open the mailbox and say, ‘Viewbook... viewbook... viewbook... spaceship!’” said Dean of Admission Henry R. Broaddus.
As I talk with college admissions officials, I keep hearing about their attempts to move away from “three and tree” — brochures that prominently feature a photo of three diverse students studying under a tree on a gorgeous sunny day. The universal thinking seems to be that today’s college-bound teens want something that stands out in the mailbox, that speaks to them without using marketing-speak and that points them to an interactive online feature.
Many of the viewbooks that land in my mailbox look more like a coffee table book or magazine than a brochure. With their funky photos, edgy design, unusual color palates and one-word headlines, these viewbooks look like something you might find on a bookshelf at Urban Outfitters.
In William and Mary’s deck of cards, the language is casual, inside-ish and a little nerdy. For example, a card labeled “Home & Away” features a photo from move-in day and reads, in part: “At some point during your second week at William & Mary, you’re going to be at the IHOP with some hall-mates... and you’re going to say it. ‘Let’s go home.’ You won’t be referring to your parents’ split-level ranch in Bethesda. You’ll be talking about Barrett, where you and a stranger from Idaho (now your second-best friend) share 345 square feet of barely contained chaos.”
The most talked-about card in the pack (at least in our office) is labeled “Naked & Friendly” and features a photo of the school’s mascot, The Griffin, who appears to be giggling. The Griffin was once criticized by W&M alum Jon Stewart on the Daily Show for not wearing any pants. While some schools might be offended by such a slam, William and Mary promises students that at August move-in they will be “greeted by a pants-less Griffin.”
“Jon Stewart, being an alum. We can’t claim that often enough,” Broaddus said.