Make It Rain: How I Get Free College SWAG Each YearPennants, view books, shirts, pens (lots of pens!), and more.
If you aren’t getting college SWAG to support your school counseling program – you’re missing out!
I don’t know many people that hate getting mail. I think I order things on Amazon just because I like getting packages…I could drive down the street to pick up a slightly more expensive, exact same item. Getting mail is even BETTER when it contains a bunch of free stuff for you and your students! There is a simple (and even simpler) way to request updated info (and SWAG) each fall. I will show you my approach and you can see if that works well for you.
((A few side notes in support of our college admissions colleagues. There is some push back regarding the amount of requests they receive. Please be cognizant and respectful of your requests. I am hoping that those reaching out based on this post do so in order to create access, awareness and opportunity for their students. While I have zero problems asking for information and free resources to support my school counseling program and my students – just know that some are not as open to the idea. Just be aware and look for opportunities to return the favor. To my admissions colleagues – we are offering great access and resouces which you spend cold hard cash in having your reps come visit our schools each fall and by sending things you already have printed that we can utilize in our work to promote post-secondary options – we are helping each other.))
Preparing your outreach tool
Getting info in the hands of busy college admissions or outreach personnel is not simple. My approach starts with a simple form letter. I drafted it in my first year working at my school and, apart from making a few updates, send it out each year to schools. Each year – without fail – I get awesome info and materials to promote their school and a college going culture on campus.
Pennants, pens/pencils (teachers LOVE these), cups, sunglasses!, posters, shirts, view books, flash drives, headphone splitters, lanyards, ponchos, and more are all examples of things I get each year from schools. You can too! I am currently working on stocking up on pennants to line an area of our senior hallway. I already have them lining the top of my walls in my office and the college/career area of the main office. The template for the letter is available on my Teachers Pay Teachers site (don’t worry – it is cheap and supports SC|CS). Keep reading and there is a bundle also available that includes 24 contact lists ready for mail merged labels. It is formatted to fit onto our school letterhead and I include a business card and copy of our school profile when I send them out (more on this later).
Not only is having admissions AND outreach office contacts handy throughout the year for high school counselors, it makes this process easier each year. Some of you may have it even easier if you have a tool like Naviance. With Naviance, I simply have it prepare and print labels for any school that a student applied to in the last 10 years. It spits out just under 200 different schools from down the road to France and lets me put them on mailing labels really easily.
Now if you don’t have Naviance, like I didn’t the first year I did this, I actually sent out the letter via email. I scoured websites and created lists of admissions and outreach contacts at popular schools around CA and the country (I don’t think I have the list any longer or I would share). The same thing could be done with a mail merge from excel if you found mailing addresses for these offices.
I do have to say that my success rate at cool stuff increased when I started physically mailing things. I think, just like colleges do to us, we are more likely to open an envelope than an email that is from someone we don’t regularly correspond with. I still got things via my email outreach, just not as much.
A little elbow grease required (for someone)
The next part is a little more work intensive, but if you do it right – it may be work intensive for someone else. After labels have been printed, all this info must be stuffed and stuck into and onto envelopes to get mailed out. While I am sure that at least one person out there likes the taste of the envelope glue and menial tasks, that is not for me.
Many offices get indentured servants (aka Office Aides) for the year and this is a wonderful task for these lovely individuals. They make quick-ish work of stuffing these envelopes and applying the address labels. I do include a copy of our school profile and business card to encourage contact, visits and to be visible to college reps. Once stuffed – it’s time to mail and wait. I find that it typically takes about a month (but I just last week…in May…got an email from an outreach person who just found my letter and asked if I still wanted stuff…uhh yea!) and you will get boxes full of things. I, literally, get USPS mail totes full of stuff 2x-3x per week through December.
Share the love
Hopefully this idea helps you get some info and SWAG to improve your college going culture. I know of elementary through high school counselors who use this. It is never too early to introduce the idea of college! If you enjoyed this post or thing SWAG you get in the mail next year – please share this post with a friend.
We also raise funds each year to provide scholarships to attend ASCA each summer. All of my content is free and I plan to keep it that way, but if you find useful content – consider donating the cost of a small coffee (and forego the calories) to the School Counselor Community Scholarship. It has helped 18 school counselors attend ASCA as of the 2016 Conference! Thanks for reading!!