Temple University | Philadelphia, PA
Temple University, Philadelphia’s access-to-all career accelerator, had undergone significant growth and change over the past decade. In addition to its legacy of providing opportunities to first-generation college students and working adults, the university was also making inroads with high-achieving suburban and exurban students.
Yet with exciting growth came other inevitable realities. Temple’s emerging brand-name status resulted in applicants who knew little to nothing about who this longstanding university served best—and what type of student continued to leverage Temple into a life-changing opportunity.
William Black, former Vice President for Enrollment Management
Temple’s prospect pool overflowed with applicants. Unfortunately, Temple’s prospect pool also overflowed with under-informed applicants. With the proliferation of the common app, many of them knew little about the university beyond its urban location and its affordability compared with its numerous, heavyweight, name-brand competitors. To meet the university’s goals of streamlining the admissions funnel and operating more efficiently, these lukewarm prospects needed to be either strengthened into serious applicants or counseled out altogether. But first, Temple needed to pinpoint the type of students it really served best.
And while Temple knew what kind of students it had historically attracted—gritty, hard-working urban strivers carving out opportunity-filled lives—new strategic planning, academic initiatives, retention and graduation-rate benchmarks, and favorable press had ushered in a new era for this North Broad Street fixture. Or had it?
Talking with Temple students from all majors and walks of life helped us identify a host of shared traits that transcended students’ varied backgrounds: direct, no-nonsense, focused, goal-oriented, respectful, and pragmatic, these were men and women who devoted themselves to making the most of their years at Temple. From honors students looking to study abroad at Temple’s Rome campus to those balancing full-time work with full course loads, the best-fit Temple student viewed college as a proving ground, not simply a next step. We quickly learned that Temple students don’t react; they act.
The university needed to translate this reality into a message that could speak with equal relevance to metro Philadelphia residents looking to get ahead and to high-achieving suburban and exurban students who might otherwise head to Penn State, Pittsburgh, or even elite private institutions. We coined the term the Temple Constant: It’s a reciprocal relationship. No matter your background or level of academic sophistication, Temple meets you where you are, opening doors, giving access, and supporting your hard work and action.
How can Temple better frame its relationship with its full range of students across myriad colleges, departments, and tracks? The Temple Constant unequivocally laid out the terms: “It’s a partnership. Between access and action. Between you and Temple.” This access-action concept introduced prospects to the reciprocal relationship—and real results—they could expect at Temple. It became the organizing principle for every recruitment message.
The program included a series of very direct “Temple is…” ads for bus shelters, subways, and other urban environments, relying on city-life metaphors to get across the access-action relationship. We extended the message to a much-needed financial planner that used the access-action partnership to speak frankly about making a wise college investment. At every point of contact, the access-action concept further aligned and strengthened the idea of Temple as a partner for motivated students.
As intended, the program immediately improved yield with action-oriented applicants, eventually producing 7% fewer “soft,” reactive applicants. And still, Temple enrolled the largest freshman class to date and more transfer students than ever before while also reducing spending on financial aid.
Temple’s incoming class average SAT scores and grade point averages continue to rise incrementally—representing the balanced outcome the university sought to achieve. Again in the second year of the program, Temple enrolled a record-breaking freshman class—10% larger than the baseline year. The next admission cycle showed another 14% surge in applications and double-digit improvements in student scores.
The university’s new messaging stayed true to Temple’s long-held mission, responded to emerging recruitment and academic initiatives, and aligned this large, at times sprawling, enterprise under a simple, direct, and audience-centric message.