If that looks like a pretty small group of people to you, you are correct. Here we are missing only one member of our CCI cohort, making just six of us during my semester abroad.
When I applied to study abroad, I was so nervous that I wouldn’t get accepted. I was worried there would be too many applicants and that some students wouldn’t be able to go. I asked the woman who ran the program how many students usually went per semester from the College of Communication and Information (that’s my college!). She told me maximum was around 18 students. I expressed to her my fear of not being able to go, and she confidently assured me not to worry.
But I did. I worried for about two months until I finally received the email confirmation that I was definitely accepted into the program. I was elated! I was so happy that I had made the cut! Well, I was feeling pretty until the first CCI small group meeting came around. It was a meeting so that the students could meet one another as well as the CCI coordinator. It was also a the first of multiple brief informational sessions. I arrived and wondered where everyone was but… that was it. There were six of us total. In fact, at the first meeting one girl didn’t even show, so originally there were five of us, and the sixth came later.
I quickly felt much less special about being chosen, seeing as next-to-no-one even applied! When the coordinator had told me not to worry, she had really meant it. Apparently, over the last few years applications for study abroad in CCI during the fall semester had declined critically. We were 1/3 the size of a normal group. This was even more surprising because the university had seen this decline, and had tried to implement a plan to raise the number of students going. Unfortunately, it did not seem to work. This is my perspective of a possible public relations plan they had implemented to raise student registration for study abroad, and how it could have worked better.
In a nutshell, this is again my own perception of what happened last spring when recruiting for CCI study abroad began.
1. CCI Identified a problem: The number of students registering to study abroad in the fall were quickly decreasing within their college.
2. They created some sort of goal that they would like to see higher numbers of CCI students register for the fall 2013 trip to Italy. They most likely were shooting for somewhere closer to their maximum allowance of 18 students per trip.
3. They came up with a strategy to make the trip more affordable, and therefor more attainable and desirable.
4 . They used a tactic of offering a $2,000 scholarship to anyone who would go on the trip through CCI, and advertised it through their website, social media pages (see below), and throughout the school with flyers. The student had to maintain a certain (lower-end) GPA to qualify, and that was it. Typically CCI offers $1,000 to each student, so the value of the scholarship was doubled for the fall semester only. On my trip, everyone received this scholarship.
While this sounds like a fantastic plan for gathering more recruits, it didn’t pan out as well as you would think. The main problem with this incentive was that it was too late. By the time I had turned in my application, this news had not been released. I believe the original application due date was April 1st. This news was published after the original deadline (to my knowledge, and I was really watching for news!), and the application deadline was extended into May.
While this was great news for me and the others who had already signed up, it was too late for a student who hadn’t planned on suddenly studying abroad the next semester. By April in spring, students have already registered for there fall classes, or signed an apartment lease, or agreed to take over a friend’s lease, etc. By that time in the year, plans were already made for students in the fall.
I believe more students would have taken advantage of that incredible opportunity had they had more advance notice about it. I was asking friends if they’d sign up after the scholarship was doubled, and just too many of them had already planned their fall schedules. Students who wanted to go abroad were set on going during the spring as they had been planning. So the notice just should’ve been released earlier.
However, the six of us who went benefitted and it was a nice helping-hand from Kent State University. It made the school look good because they were doing good. Unfortunately, it seems that the numbers fell short of what CCI had hoped for. During the measurement phase of their PR plan, we were still just a fraction of what it should have been. I’m not sure if it is due to these results, but the doubled scholarship does not appear to be being offered for next fall – then again, they could just be waiting to spill the beans!
What do you think CCI could have done differently? Do you think another approach could have increased the number of students who went?