U of T has launched a new outreach initiative for prospective students in the 2009-2010 academic year.

There are two new viewbooks for international and domestic applicants, and revitalized admissions websites for each of the three campuses.

The Office of Strategic Communications conducted a survey amongst high-school students last year, asking them what—if anything—they knew about UofT, and what they would like to know. Based on the results, the Vice Provost’s office and Student Recruitment compiled the viewbooks and websites. The layout and design were done by Kaldor Brand Strategy, a Vancouver-based private marketing firm.

A common objection to all such advertising initiatives is, of course, that they rarely add anything new. All-too-often, the same things are rehashed under a veneer of self-promoting graphics and photo-ops. However, in this case there is a genuine, significant improvement in the nature and quality of information presented to applicants. Even a cursory glance through the either of the viewbooks shows how seamlessly and accessibly everything has been organized; this becomes even more pronounced when one compares it to previous years’ publications. In addition to the usual info on tuition fees and residence options, both viewbooks include things like faculty-profiles, details about surrounding neighbourhoods, campus activities, and even a section called “A Day in the Life of U of T”. The website has an extensive selection of videos about the university’s history and student life, as well as virtual tours of constituent colleges. The importance of such things to those who have no previous experience of Toronto is undeniable.

The initiative has only been put in place this year, so it is still too early to gauge its effectiveness. However, the website has seen steady traffic since being uploaded, and there was an encouraging response when viewbooks were handed out at the Ontario Universities’ Fair last month.

Janet Hurd, U of T’s Director of Student Recruitment, is confident that the revitalized look will bring positive results: “We have really attempted to engage prospective students in a personal way. The information that was available previously had been running in the same format for ten years. It had become a mere recitation of details. We felt that it was time to provide a more realistic, in-depth snapshot of the university.”

Hurd adds that the initiative should not be taken simply as an attempt to increase enrollment. “The number of applicants is as robust as ever,” she says. “We just want to do our best to ensure that the highest-calibre students have all the knowledge to figure out whether they belong here.”

The viewbooks are available at various locations around campus, like the Admissions and Awards Office or the Nona McDonald Visitors Centre. The links to the viewbooks as well as three new websites can be found at http://www.discover.students.utoronto.ca/.

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