What Colleges and Universities Can Learn from the Subscription Model

What Colleges and Universities Can Learn from the Subscription Model

It’s no secret that the fashion industry reigns supreme when it comes to digital innovation and the customer service experience. From the beautiful simplicity of online shopping to the extensive multi-sensory retail experience curated by some of the biggest brands in the industry, the impact of technology on retail is truly amazing. The evolving digital landscape has morphed the traditional shopping experience into something personal, flexible and on-demand to meet the needs of modern users.

One of the most recent (and successful) retail trends is the subscription box. I recently became a StitchFix subscriber, and the process was really easy. You fill out basic information about age, size and your profession, and StitchFix curates a monthly wardrobe tailored to you. You follow simple steps in the form of a quiz that gets to know your preferences like:

  • “Comfortable”, “professional” or “night out” clothes.
  • Types of outfits and pieces like jeans, dresses and skirts.
  • Must-have’s, never’s and maybe’s.
  • How often you’d like to receive new items.

What does this have to do with Higher Ed?

Getting StitchFix in the mail feels like Christmas morning. Five pieces tailored to your personal style picked by a stylist who took the time to look through your Pinterest and Instagram to find you the exact pair of jeans you never even knew you wanted. I’ve experienced the delight of the StitchFix customer experience first-hand. I’ve also been a prospective student and this got me wondering–why didn’t my education experience feel more like this?

When I think back on my enrollment experience, I remember spending a lot of time searching online and sifting through mail sent to my parents’ house. Besides the excitement of receiving mail, the whole process felt relatively one-sided. I researched schools with specialties in the major I wanted and the area I wanted to live, I reported my grades, courses, class rankings and test scores. About a week later I received an acceptance packet in the mail as well as a congratulatory email. My inquiry and application were followed up with more information about the school without any other questions for me. Why don’t colleges and universities ask more about student preferences, goals and personality?

The Future of Higher Education Consumption

Modern learners are used to a world like StitchFix where everything is personalized. Take Columbia College Chicago Online, for instance. They’ve created a new digital campus experience where the creators and doers of the world can gain professional guidance and experience while still following their passions. In his book “The End of Average,” Todd Rose, the director of the Mind, Brain and Education program at Harvard University speaks of curriculum that is “based on everyone and relevant to no one.”

What if educators, education marketers and everyone involved in the student experience began asking more student-centric questions? Imagine if your inquiry or application was followed by a quiz or online survey that asked questions like:

“Do you prefer working hands-on with a professor or having a more independent study experience?”

“Would you find your time more enjoyable in a traditional college-town setting or do you want to be able to explore a big city while getting your education?”

Simple questions like this could help prospective students determine which school and program are perfect for them. On the flip side, colleges and universities would be able to find right-fit students who want to grow in a setting that’s tailored to them.

What conversations are happening on your campus to personalize the student experience? Tweet us @convergeorg. We would love to hear your ideas and continue the conversation.


Morgan Noonan
Morgan Noonan
January 24, 2018