Hanover Students Do Have Fun

On the back of t-shirts worn by Hanover’s student ambassadors are the words: “Ask me about: Our Academic Programs…Our Performing Arts…Our Capstone Speaker Series…Our Beautiful Campus…and So Much More!”  What’s missing?  Is this all Hanover has to offer?  Don’t we do stuff on the weekends?  What about…fun?

Hanover’s Admissions Department has asked itself the same question.  The Department is now emphasizing fun and social life as well as academic prestige—and this includes being upfront about alcohol use on campus.

“It’s more of a decision to include fun in the conversation,” said Dean of Admissions Jon Riester.  He explained that the focus in Admissions is still academics and the educational experience that Hanover offers.  “What we were finding, however, was that our marketing materials, the conversations we were having, excluded the social side.”  The Admissions Department realized that it was just as important to make sure that students felt comfortable about living on Hanover’s campus for four years.

With the rising cost of tuition in the last ten years, Hanover felt the need to emphasize academics in its marketing in order to reassure parents that the education was worth the money.  Recently the Admissions Department has found that they’ve gotten this point across very effectively, said Admissions Counselor Justin Marqueling.

“What we hadn’t communicated as effectively was that we’re not just about working hard and outstanding academics.  There’s also a lot of social life, a lot of tradition built into the student experience,” he said.  “It’s stuff that we all took for granted as students because it’s so much a part of our daily lives, but for a high school student who drives onto this campus it can look a little isolated.”

“When students are looking at colleges they certainly want an academic experience, but they’re also going someplace to live for four years, so the social aspects of campus are important to them,” added Riester.

This has resulted in a change of direction for Hanover’s marketing materials.  The newsletters and brochures sent to prospective students now feature more contemporary language, a lighter, less serious tone, and a focus on the social aspects of the Hanover experience.

“It talks about the gala, and Sue’s Halloween party.  It talks about wiffleball in the spring term, and a few other social activities like that,” said Riester.

“It’s just a little bit more fun, right?” said Marqueling.  “We don’t have to take ourselves as seriously anymore.”

The Admissions Department has also begun utilizing social media as a marketing tool.  Many of the student ambassadors use blogs and Twitter accounts.  The goal is to relate to prospective students on a more personal level, said Marqueling.

“Fun is part of it, but also approachability, and being personal with prospective students.  We don’t want to be an ivory tower.”

How does this new focus affect the school’s attitude toward alcohol use on campus?  After all, no one can deny that a major part of the “fun” that happens on Hanover’s campus is alcohol related and against school policies.  Does this mean the school has changed its presentation of alcohol use?

Dean of Admissions Jon Riester said nothing has changed.  “We’ve always encouraged them to relate their experiences honestly,” he said.  “There may be some student tour guides who feel like they can be a little more open about it than they may have previously been, but I think we’ve always encouraged them to speak openly and honestly about that.”

However, Senior Student Ambassador Abby Nash said she thinks the department’s attitude towards discussing alcohol with prospective students and parents has become more relaxed and straightforward.

“Before, I think admissions just kind of pushed it under the rug maybe a little bit more,” she said.  “I think over meetings and over time, they’ve all been like, okay, we need to actually talk about the more fun side of campus, but they always wanted us to be honest.”

“I don’t think the admissions department has ever been blind to the fact that there’s alcohol on campus,” she added.  “I would say the way they’ve changed is they’re actually saying it’s okay to talk about it now, versus where it’s like, try to redirect the conversation possibly to a different subject.”

Hanover is like any other college, she explained, and parents and prospectives seem to understand that.

“Typically my response, when they talk about alcohol, is, ‘You can find it if you want to, and if you don’t, it’s not like you’re going to be bombarded with everyone drinking alcohol everywhere,’” she said.

The Admissions Department trusts that the students they have chosen to represent the school will know how to handle speaking about alcohol during a tour, said Nash.

“I think that they trust all the ambassadors that they have to know what’s appropriate to tell the family and what’s not,” she said.

Parents often have a hard time trusting schools with dry campuses that tend to hide alcohol use, explained Marqueling, as opposed to schools that are honest about alcohol.

“I know from talking with other families that the schools that portray themselves as being dry campuses don’t necessarily have any less alcohol than we do,” he said, “but the administration’s refusal to acknowledge that can sometimes lead to a questionable situation.  So I think a lot of parents appreciate that we’re willing to discuss it and be very frank about it.”

“Overall, the Admissions Department wishes to emphasize that Hanover may be a small school, but there are just as many opportunities to have fun and be social as there are at a larger, more urban school,” said Marqueling.

“I think a lot of students who maybe thought that they needed to go to a big school for that experience have realized that you can have just as many friends, you can get involved in clubs, you can maybe even have more leadership opportunities at a place like Hanover than a big state school.”

Freshmen Carrie Gavit, Sam Kampert and Jon Mattos look over the edge of one of Hanover's waterfalls, Crowe Falls.