UMass is the flagship campus for the public college system of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In a recent ranking, the University tied for 76th best National University by U.S. News & World Report, but why is the UMass brand not synonymous with being the best university in the country? The school is in a transition period of branding themselves as the premier public university in the northeast (Sorry UConn), but what factors go into being premier in the eyes of students? Is it the quality of the education? The return on investment for students? The improvement of facilities on campus? In my opinion, no other school does it as well as we do here in Amherst. We have world-class facilities, a phenomenal network, and we recruit the best faculty from around the country. However, with all that in mind, UMass does not attract the top prospective students around the country.
For the purpose of comparison, lets use the University of Virginia as a benchmark of where UMass could be branded among public colleges. UVA is tied for 23rd best National University, receives 31,000 applications a year, accepts 9,000 applicants, and has a 40% yield of those accepted. In comparison, UMass receives 36,000 applications a year, accepts 22,000 applicants, and has a 21% yield of those accepted. Why does UMass have to accept more students than a school UVA? Without even listing the SAT figures, I can guarante the class of 2018 is much brighter than that of UMass. There is a disparity between the student’s UMass attracts and the students that Virginia attracts.Virginia and Massachusetts offer comparable scholastic experiences, but the general consumer-brand connection is that UVA is by the better school, and therefore attracts the most prestigious, prospective students.
In my honest opinion, UMass fails to attract the top prospects because of its reputation, or lack there of, as a party school. As a student, and as a consumer, you are entitled to the best experience you can possibly get from the school you choose to go to. Part of the college experience is the social scene. Lets face it, UMass is no longer “ZooMass!” The university should not condone inebriated behavior, but it shouldn’t condemn it. Every Saturday, America turns their eyes to ESPN to see students at schools like Miami, Penn State, Stanford, acting a ruckus in pride of their institution. The reputation of being a party school is not as bad as the reputation of being a school that denounces partying in the eyes of the consumer.
Collegiate experiences are the absolute decisive factors that separates the best universities. The administration here needs to brand itself with Blarney Blowout, with Hobart Hoedown, with Greek Life as university that cares about student affairs. UMass cannot raise their standards for acceptance without first improving acceptance yield, and to do that they must let the consumers know UMass knows how to have fun.