From admissions forums and Reddit posts to university websites and information packets, there is an overwhelming amount of content for applicants and their families to consume throughout the admissions process.
This fall, Bentley University embarked on a quest to get into the untapped earbuds of parents, guidance counsellors, and audiophilic college applicants through a new podcast.
Admissions 101 launched in October and presents a new medium for the university to engage and educate prospective students and their families.
To talk about the new show, Suzanne Cuccurullo, Dean of Undergraduate Admission and one of the two co-hosts, joined me on the phone from Johannesburg, South Africa while on a recruiting trip.
The podcast had only been out for two weeks and while she was there, four guidance counsellors she’d spoken with had said they were already listening to the podcast and passing it on to their students as a resource.
Although the podcast leverages knowledge and real-life examples from Bentley, Admissions 101 is designed to be a resource for students applying to any U.S. college.
“We wanted to make sure no matter where you are going you would have insight into what admissions officers are looking for and what it’s like to go through this process,” said Cuccurullo.
The show tackles frequently asked questions and grey areas in the admissions process like how to tackle application essays and admissions interviews or how to make the most out of campus visits or college fairs.
“Whatever the topic, we discuss real practical tips,” she added.
Her and her co-host Mario Silva-Rosa, Director of Undergraduate Admission, plan their episodes based on a combination of a) which questions are most common among applicants and b) where students are in the application cycle.
Between the two of them, they have decades of experience and have had tens of thousands of conversations with applicants, so the challenge isn’t coming up with what to talk about; instead, it’s deciding how to narrow the list down.
When Cuccurullo and I spoke in October, undergraduate applicants around the U.S. were deciding whether or not to apply to early decision, so that was the topic of the week.
Each episode highlights some ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s, as well as a student segment where a student who recently went through the admissions process shares their perspective and first-hand experience.
For students looking for extra help applying to college, there’s a growing market of paid admissions consultants. These services can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands in exchange for illustrious promises that they will get you into your dream school.
Cuccurullo hopes that Bentley’s podcast will be able to serve students more broadly as a free resource that anyone can access.
The two co-hosts provide authentic stories and genuinely helpful tips in each episode that previously may have only been known by students with extra help from parents or consultants. For example, in the episode about admissions interviews they recommend that applicants put their mobile phone on silent during the interview and follow-up with a ‘thank you’ note.
So far, Bentley has had positive feedback on their first few episodes.
While listener data will provide quantitative metrics on the podcast’s performance, there aren’t many benchmarks to compare their efforts against. The admissions team is especially interested in hearing the word-of-mouth feedback on how counsellors, parents, and prospective students are using and sharing the content.
Admissions 101 is a new ‘experiment’ for the university and it’s also a fun new project for Cuccurullo, who has worked in Bentley’s admissions office for nearly ten years. You can hear the passion she and Silva-Rosa share for their work in each episode.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking at first, but I’m really enjoying it,” said Cuccurullo.
Want to check out Admissions 101? You can listen right here!
Considering starting an admissions podcast?
Podcasting has become extremely accessible. The actual production of the content will likely be easier than getting your marketing or communications department to approve it!
Without much more than an external microphone and some easy-to-use audio-editing software, you can record your own podcast. Our friends over at Shopify have created an amazing how-to guide to starting a podcast with limited resources or budget.