Whiteboard HIgher Education
Olin College of Engineering

AUTHENTIC STORYTELLING

INCREASES QUALITY OF OLIN COLLEGE APPLICANTS

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olin at a glance

  • Founded in 1997
  • No academic departments or tenured faculty
  • New model for engineering education developed in partnership with The National Science Foundation and American Society of Engineering Education
  • Covers half annual tuition charges for each full-time student for up to eight semesters
  • Meets full demonstrated financial need for full-time students for up to eight semesters
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Campaign Highlights

  • 65% total Engagement Rate – nearly 2/3 of all students in the Whiteboard campaign engaged
  • 25% High Engagement – 1 in 4 students in the campaign demonstrated the highest level of interest
  • Throughout the funnel - 82% of all applicants were engaged, 88% of all admitted students were engaged, and 90% of all enrolling students engaged in the campaign
  • Olin achieved greater than 1,000% ROI on their senior search
Whiteboard delivered the exact campaign we wanted. It feels more like Olin than anything we’ve ever done.” 
Emily Roper-Doten, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid
THREADING THE NEEDLE
As an elite, specialized institution, Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts is dedicated to training engineers who want to change the world. Its groundbreaking curriculum integrates math and science concepts into engineering courses, with students completing upwards of 35 projects before graduation. The result? In-demand engineers who can deliver the products, services, and systems needed to solve the most complex global challenges. Its admission process is groundbreaking, too. Olin can’t over-enroll; the college’s capacity is acutely limited. The education they provide requires extreme amounts of personal attention and small courses. Like very few others, they have to hit the bull’s-eye. Marketing to prospective students becomes an exercise in accurate targeting and specific messaging with no room for misdirected efforts or inefficiencies.
WANTED: A COLLABORATIVE PARTNERSHIP
“Our previous enrollment services provider hit on Olin’s differentiators too late in the process,” explains Emily Roper-Doten, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid. As such, the applicant pool included students who sought a more traditional curriculum. And students who may have been a great fit learned about Olin’s unique offerings too late in the college search process.
“We wanted a campaign that would help us grow for the right reasons and build authentic applicant pools, not just be added to a list,” emphasizes Roper-Doten. “We wanted to be open and upfront about our academic model. And we wanted to deliver that message to students most receptive to, and interested in, attending.”
Olin College
The search solution: A comprehensive series of email messages sharing Olin’s unique approach, including their curriculum model, in-class projects, student success stories, and scholarships; customized landing pages for each student recipient for each individual message; and Whiteboard’s own Engagement Framework for monitoring activity, interpreting results, and enabling the most efficient and effective follow-up with interested prospective students and parents.
TELLING OLIN’S DISTINCTIVE STORY
The Whiteboard team and key Olin stakeholders in marketing, admission, and financial aid determined the most effective, comprehensive narrative series of key messages. “We talked about things we wanted to see that may have been different from the tried-and-true solutions that work for other institutions,” recalls Roper-Doten. “Whiteboard wasn’t just listening — they got us.”
NO REQUEST TOO BIG (OR SMALL)
The Whiteboard and Olin teams developed the campaign’s key themes, refined and iterated upon them, and crafted a vibrant communication flow that represented Olin’s voice. “We are really picky, but we felt heard,” says Roper-Doten. “We had little control or ability to push back with our previous provider. Whiteboard was open to all our opinions. That open relationship has allowed the uniqueness of Olin to shine throughout the campaign.” Language, photo choices, message sequencing, timing, tone, personality — all these were areas for fruitful collaboration and discussion. “The Whiteboard team did everything to make sure we were 100% happy with the end product.” Whiteboard’s Senior Vice President, Enrollment Strategies Jonathan Epstein reflects, “Olin is one of my favorite campaigns because it embodies who we want to be as a partner. We went through many iterations before we completed the final campaign. I kept telling them that we would do anything and everything to ensure that we don’t create a campaign that they ‘would sign off on’ but one that they all absolutely loved.”
Results by the Numbers
2/3 of all students engaged in the Olin/Whiteboard campaign
90% of all enrolling students engaged with the campaign
1000% return on investment (ROI) in Olin’s senior search
POISED FOR FUTURE SUCESS
By taking the time to tell Olin’s full story and share the atypical curriculum model, the campaign enabled potential applicants to make an educated choice. “Olin isn’t the right fit for everyone,” explains Roper-Doten. “As we had hoped, the campaign increased the quality of applicants. Students that applied understood Olin better and really wanted to enroll.” “The quality of the pool and the demographic mix looked great,” she added. Overall, Olin saw more than 1,000% ROI on their Whiteboard campaign and continued seeing outstanding engagement in their sophomore and junior search campaign. The deeper knowledge and interest of these prospects will undoubtedly carry forward to their senior searches, significantly enriching future application pools.
“We’re so pleased and proud of the campaign,” says Roper-Doten. “There’s a lot of excitement here on campus about this partnership and we’re in a great position to keep building on that first-year success.”

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