”We wanted people to open the mailbox and say, ‘Viewbook... viewbook... viewbook... spaceship!’” said Dean of Admission Henry R. Broaddus.

(Photos by Jenna Johnson (The Washington Post))

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.

For more college admissions news and advice, you can follow me on Twitter and Facebook. And here are some other admissions-related blog posts that might interest you:

William & Mary students feel bond with alum Jon Stewart

What’s it like to be a Republican in Iowa? Ask a college-bound student

Take this ring... and my in-state tuition discount

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Vassar College accidentally accepts 76 students

Getting rejected from your dream school(s) isn’t a bad thing

Dad videotapes his son finding an acceptance letter in the mailbox

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Are rankings of gay-friendly colleges to be trusted?