When Applying to College, Branding Is Key

Five tips to transition from 'student' to 'brand'

brand-storyOprah Winfrey and Coca-Cola are probably two of the most recognizable brands in the world. Now, it’s time for students to take note since it may be the difference between getting into your top choice school or settling for the Plan B, says Raymond Riddick, diversity relationship manager at Prudential Insurance Co.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher for students to get into colleges and universities,” Riddick says. “It’s more competitive,” as an increased number of students vie for a limited number of slots, he adds.

For high schoolers preparing to apply for college, becoming a brand, or displaying key traits that set you apart from other students, may be just as important as stellar SAT scores and graduating with honors.

Riddick and Saara Marte, also a diversity relationship manager at Prudential, held a panel for students looking to enter college at the 100 Black Men of America’s 23rd Annual Conference at the New York Hilton.

Check out these tips on how to go from student to brand.

Differentiate yourself: Product differentiation is what sets apart your favorite retailer from the million others, and it’s what will set you apart from the plethora of other students applying to your top choice school. “Figure out what you’re good at. What makes you different?” Riddick says. Highlight talents, interests and unique experiences that helped to shape you, and give admissions counselors a glimpse of your personality.

Develop your 30-second-pitch: For entrepreneurs, a 30-second pitch (or elevator pitch) can secure that long sought after meeting. For students, it can secure a highly prized interview with an admissions counselor or college administration, becoming your ticket to acceptance. “Your pitch should sum up who you are, why you’re a fit for the school and how you can bring value to the school,” Riddick says.

Network: Developing a stable of mentors and associates is no longer reserved for professionals or recent graduates. High school students should start building their network early, Riddick says. “Network with teachers, ministers and people in the community,” he adds. Simply sending an email, card or take time for a quick visit is a great way to build relationships and strengthen your network. As Rev. Run says on his popular show, Run’s House, “your network is your net worth.”

Develop a narrow and deep strategy: Students are often encouraged to boost the number of extracurricular activities to make themselves more attractive to prospective colleges. Marte cautions against this, instead suggesting to concentrate efforts in one or two organizations where you can make an impact. “Go for leadership positions that will allow you to network with people and learn your strengths and weakness,” she advises.

Be consistent: Consumers trust or even distrust brands because they know what to expect, the results are consistent. When branding yourself, this consistency is key. How you dress, act, and speak all lend contribute to how you are perceived by others. Therefore, be sure to maintain a level or professionalism while on the phone, in person, via e-mails and even on social networking sites.

“If you say you’re a purveyor of prudence but you’re doing something wild on Facebook or Twitter, a college recruiter can look at that,” Marte says, which can negatively affect your chances of getting into the university. She suggests using privacy settings for these sites.

That’s all for now. I’m heading back to the conference; I’ll keep you posted on other tips and information I find.

Renita Burns is an editorial assistant at BlackEnterprise.com

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