Estrela Consulting Blog

Why Choosing a College Is Like Buying Girl Scout Cookies

Kristina Dooley January 24, 2018

girl-scout-cookies.jpgIt’s that time of year, folks. That’s right...Girl Scout Cookie season is here!

I had the pleasure a few months ago to attend a talk during the IECA Fall Conference given by Lidia Soto-Harmon, CEO of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital, the largest council in the United States. After listening to her inspiring talk about the effect Girl Scouts has had in creating young entrepreneurs with their cookie sales, it dawned on me: buying/selling Girl Scout cookies and choosing a college are like Siamese processes separated at birth. Twinsies. Samesies. You get the picture. The number of parallels between these two is uncanny. Here’s what I mean:

1. Their marketing approach has evolved and is now focused on finding the "right" consumers.

Like Girl Scout cookies sales, the way colleges get in front of their consumer has evolved significantly over the past decade. Mailings and phone calls, just like door to door cookie sales, have become less of the norm. The marketing approach has become more innovative and focused on the consumer. Instead of spending time and resources trying to garner interest from every subset of students, colleges now use data to find students who fit their profile. The Girl Scouts have this figured out, too. They’ve discovered that instead of blanketing neighborhoods and knocking on doors, they can set up shop outside the local grocery store and hit their target market: hungry people. Even more, you can actually punch in your zip code in the “Find Cookies” tool on their website to find the closest cookie booth to you. Amazing.

2. The best fit depends on individual interests & preferences.

My husband and I have an annual argument over which Girl Scout cookies are the best: Thin Mints or Samoas. While I’d like to say the answer is obvious (Samoas, duh) the truth is that, like colleges, there is no cookie that is right for everyone. So, while parents might love Tagalongs and teachers loves Trefoils, we need to remember that these cookies are for the student and it’s important that they like them.

3. Students need to take more responsibility and own the process.

How many times have you been approached at the office by a mother with “the sheet” to see if you’re interested in helping little Sally earn her cookie badge? While she rattles off all of the new cookie options that have come out this year you secretly think to yourself “So WHO is getting the badge?” I know, I know. If you’re a “cookie mom” reading this you’re ready to share all of the reasons why it doesn’t hurt to leverage your connections to make a sale. Here’s the thing: whether it’s selling cookies on behalf of your daughter, or calling an admission office to sing your child’s praises or dispute their admission decision, there’s a common theme: it teaches them that others will do the work for them. Now, if you bring your daughter to the office with her cookie sheet and have her do the asking, by all means get me down for 3 boxes of Samoas.

4. Costs have risen dramatically but demand remains stronger than ever.

Remember when Girl Scout cookies came wrapped in simple wax paper bags and cost just 25 cents/dozen? Ok, maybe you don’t, but it’s true! Just like colleges used to come without lazy rivers and rock walls, Girl Scout cookies used to come in less-than glamorous packaging. The reality is that “fancy” doesn't necessarily equate to “quality” in either of these examples. Also, just as cookie prices have risen since they were first sold in 1910, college tuition prices are much more than they were a century ago when Harvard charged just $150/year. But guess what? People are still buying cookies and Harvard isn’t struggling with enrollment.

5. Not all options are the same; finding personal best fit continues to be very important.

Now, when it comes to Girl Scout cookies, they’re really not all the same. Aside from the actual flavors being different, there is one big difference: the number of cookies in the box. That’s right...not every box has the same number of cookies. Does that mean the ones with more are better? No way. It’s all about preference. In fact, remember my favorites, the Samoas? They have just 14 cookies per box while there are 32 cookies in a box of Thin Mints. I know what you’re thinking: that’s a good reason not to buy Samoas! But, what if I really love them and their quality is on point? Same goes for colleges. Small schools or big schools, it’s all about what’s right for the student.

6. The small details actually do matter, so do your research before selecting the best option for you.

Also, believe it or not, not everyone likes their Thin Mints frozen like my husband. As with colleges, two students might both be interested in small schools but one might prefer they be in a warmer climate. While some schools (or cookies) might seem pretty similar on the surface, it’s those little details that make the big difference in finding the right one.

 

So, whether you’re getting ready to begin the college search process, or are gearing up to indulge in a box of delicious Do-si-dos, remember to focus on what’s important to you and pay attention to the details.

Oh, and if you’re a Girl Scout looking to make a sale, I’ll be passing by Costco around 6pm. Be ready with those Samoas.


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