University launches interactive digital admissions viewbook

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    The university recently launched a recruitment brochure in a digitized online format for prospective students.

    In the past, the viewbook had been a printed brochure sent out to prospective students, said Tracy Syler-Jones, vice chancellor for marketing and communications. 

    The viewbook includes information about academics, athletics, student life, community, traditions and student organizations.

    The new version of the viewbook, which can be found at viewbook.tcu.edu, includes all of the same information but has been completely digitized and enhanced with embedded links and  social media elements.

    “I love the fact that students will find the content they’re seeking in one location,” Syler-Jones said.

    “The viewbook tends to be the biggest piece that gets mailed out," she said. "It has the most information. It helps students understand what they’ll experience as a student here at TCU."

    A prospective student can now flip through interactive digital pages that connect with multiple university webpage, Syler-Jones said. The viewbook can also be viewed on smart phones and tablets.

    The push to digitize the viewbook occurred for several reasons, Syler-Jones said.

    “We noticed from a budgetary perspective that it was getting more and more expensive to produce a viewbook,” Syler-Jones said.

    “The cost is skyrocketing to print all those brochures,” said Elizabeth Rainwater, director of admission communication and marketing. 

    Mailing and postage costs also added to the traditional viewbook’s budget.  Rainwater said the ability to update the digitized viewbook provided an advantage over a printed viewbook.

    The Horned Frogs’ move to the Big 12 Conference and the name change in 2008 of the then-AddRan College of Humanities and Social Sciences made thousands of already-printed booklets inaccurate, Rainwater said.

    “We will have a challenge to keep that new content vibrant, alive and changing,” Syler-Jones said. “But it’s absolutely fantastic that we’re not stuck with one piece that we printed and can’t make any changes.” 

    The digitization of the viewbook was also prompted by a desire to integrate social media into the viewbook to better connect with prospective students.

    The viewbook now incorporates content from Twitter, YouTube, and, most recently, Instagram, said Amy Peterson, the university's new media designer.

    Various official university tweets and YouTube videos are included in the viewbook, Peterson said.

    “It gives prospective students a slice of life right on campus, what people are excited about and talking about,” Rainwater said.

    Rainwater said she hopes it will reach “stealth applicants,” meaning those who avoid university mailing and contact lists. University admission offices do not know that these students are interested in their institution until they submit their application.

    Approximately thirty percent of the university’s 19,350 applicants last year were stealth applicants, Rainwater said. 

    Syler-Jones said that such students, and prospective students in general, increasingly get their college information online.

    “We found that 52 percent of our students that were admitted and enrolled said that a university’s Facebook page was either very influential or influential in their decision to apply,” Syler-Jones said, citing the Admitted Student Questionnaire administered by the College Board.

    The Office of Admission and the division of marketing and communication have been collaborating on the viewbook digitization process since early this year, Syler-Jones said.

    The two offices worked with the Lawlor Group to create the online viewbook. The Lawlor Group is a Minnesota-based higher education marketing firm, according to the group’s website.

    The funding for the digital viewbook was taken from the operating budget of the printed viewbook, Syler-Jones said.

    Postcards encouraging prospective students to look at the viewbook are still going to be sent out, she said.

    The viewbook is the only digitized brochure the university currently offers.  All other brochures remain in a traditional printed format.

    “Whether or not we move towards digitizing the other publications remains to be seen,” Syler-Jones said.