College of Wooster


Wooster, OH

Client Challenge

For over 50 years, the College of Wooster built its academic reputation on Independent Study (referred to as I.S.), the capstone of what is arguably among the most distinctive approaches to undergraduate education offered by any college or university in America. Yet, the College had not fully reaped the benefits of elevated national stature and top-of-mind awareness among prospective students and other important audiences that this exemplary approach to education would seem to merit. The College sought our firm’s expertise to understand if a brand built around I.S. could truly be distinctive in the higher education marketplace. Our charge was to develop a branding strategy and integrated marketing plan.


Our Approach

Working closely with the College community, together we crafted three positioning/branding concepts that gave expression to the various strengths and facets of I.S. and agreed on other academic and recruitment-related initiatives to test in the research. We then tested these branding concepts and other possible associations with independent study with prospective students. The research provided compelling evidence that students most strongly associated independent study with working alone or without faculty supervision – qualities that did not characterize the I.S. experience at the College of Wooster. 


The Results

Working with the College’s senior staff, trustees and faculty, we concluded that the College’s brand should be developed around the concept of I.S. as an honors-like experience and that the College strengthen the way it communicates about the courses, experiences and other initiatives at the College that take place over four years and prepare students for their I.S. experience in the senior year. The College developed new student recruitment materials and marketing initiatives to communicate the new brand and its supporting themes and messages.

“The Art & Science Group helped us answer a critically important strategic question, not with anecdotes and focus groups, but with rock-solid quantitative research. They brought clarity to an area where ambiguity had hamstrung our branding and marketing efforts for years.”
- John Hopkins, Associate Vice President for College Relations & Marketing