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INNOVATORS 2005: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Innovation: High Personal Touch with Recruitment and Admissions Technologies

Innovators: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (CA) supports a campus-wide, student-centered approach to the recruitment and admissions endeavor. Assistant VP for Admissions, Recruitment, and Financial Aid James Maraviglia’s leadership is behind the vision and development of various admissions and recruitment technologies at the campus. The institution has built performance management strategies based on sound business rules that allow them to serve more than 90 percent of their constituency electronically as they utilize process innovation technologies to evaluate their efforts.
Technology Choice/Project Design
E-mail and the Web is the medium most students prefer for communicating with Cal Poly SLO. The institution made a calculated and well thought-out decision to enhance recruitment efforts by adopting this premise.
Key Players
The primary objective is simple: Provide the capability for all campus departments such as the president, provost, college deans, department chairs, Student Affairs directors, student clubs, and the Admissions, Recruitment, and Financial Aid Office to communicate directly with prospective students and applicants in a highly personalized fashion.

The institution has gained considerably on their competition by identifying prospective students and then communicating with them through various e-mail strategies. They import all prospective student names from all prospecting sources and automatically create a dynamic VIP Web page for each individual prospect based on individual attributes, which can then be updated on demand. Prospective students are sent an e-mail that includes their user name and password with which they can sign on to see their own dynamic information 24 hours a day; seven days a week.

At any point time in the recruitment cycle, prospective students can be sent various e-mail communications from the campus community promoting the university and increasing the institution’s visibility. This allows Cal Poly SLO to expand their pool of qualified prospects. As a result, e-mail messages are sent through a prescribed flow of communication to potential, prospective, and accepted students and their parents from faculty along with other messages important to the university at each phase of the recruitment cycle.

The institution has access to data that can be used to make a definite distinction between truly interested prospects and those prospects still sitting on the fence, thus reducing costs and saving staff time and energy. This begins long before a student actually starts the college application process. Because this interactive communication plan continues throughout the recruitment cycle, newly admitted students are more likely, when making a final decision, to pick a school that has shown interest in helping them to personally achieve their goals.

Last year alone, the Admissions, Recruitment, and Financial Aid Office had direct contact with more than 100,000 prospective students before any of those prospects ever filed an application, through more than 300 individual touch-points of contact. In fact, since 1994, this unit has had direct contact with more than one million prospective students through tracked recruitment actions. (Greater than 95 percent of new students had prior contact with the campus before filing an application.) And since 1993, Cal Poly SLO has seen a 130 percent increase in new undergraduate applicants with steady increases in the overall quality, ethnicity, and geographic diversity of the applicant pool.


The school has been able to free up staff to support and expand efforts with volunteers and also better collaborate with many groups across campus, including the academic colleges, student clubs, University Advancement, and the Alumni Relations Office to support the recruitment endeavor.

Reflecting success, the campus has hosted more than fifty universities who were interested in adopting similar approaches for their recruitment and admission initiatives.

Next Steps
Cal Poly SLO is continuing to develop various technologies (having released a Digital Viewbook) and will continue to look at how new technologies can further link the campus to its constituencies.
“It very important to continue to understand the needs of your different audiences,” says James Maraviglia. “This is one reason why we strongly recommend using focus groups of prospective students, parents, and counselors to help you refine your efforts.” Cal Poly SLO has built a survey tool set into their solution and will continue to use survey results to drive future enhancements.
Related Links and References
Below are links to a case study featuring Cal Poly SLO’s initiative along with several upcoming conferences that will highlight the project. Increasing Enrollment and Retention via Technology conference Increasing Enrollment and Retention via Technology conference