The Matthew Weinblatt Factor

Every day our postman brings CJ five or six pieces of college-related mail, most of which comes from Washington University in St. Louis. 

[As discusssed in a previous post, WashUStL felt compelled to add the "in St. Louis" to its name, so people wouldn't confuse the top-rated mid-sized private school with the University of Washington (in Seattle) or the George Washington Univeristy (in D.C.) or countless other universities that have "Washington" somewhere in their name.]

Why does a school as prestigious and selective as WashUStL feel the need to bombard prospective freshmen with an endless stream of viewbooks, catalogs, pre-apps and invitations to information sessions? 

Many people believe that if it had a less confusing name it would not have to spend huge amounts on marketing.  But, in fact, WashUStL's p.r. problems have nothing to do with its silly moniker - Instead they are the result of one disgruntled student, now a junior, named Matthew Weinblatt (okay, that isn't his real name, but read on, and you'll see why I have to protect his identity.)

Matthew is a young man from a large west coast metropolis.  His story dates back to almost four years ago when he applied to Penn and was waitlisted.  He was pleased to get into WashU, but when he arrived there, he still had not gotten over Penn, and he abruptly decided that all the other students had lousy taste in music.  He came home for his first Thanksgiving and definitively shared his observation with everyone: The academics at WashUStL were fine but the entire student body had terrible playlists in their I-Pods. 

Thanks to Facebook and other social networks, this news spread quickly.  Soon high school students all over the country – like my son – refused to even read the WashU catalogs, let alone apply there.  The school was forced to embark on an expensive ad campaign, but because none of their brochures mentioned I-Pod selections, it will take them years to get back on track.

So if your child needs to add a great school to his or her list, WashU is the one.  Matthew Weinblatt isn't even there this year (he's abroad in a country known for its cutting-edge music), but his legacy lives on.  According to a recent NPI study, seventy percent of students in blue states still acknowledge that the Matthew Weinblatt Factor will keep them from applying to WashU  because attendance there could endanger the quality of their I-Pod selections…Urge yours to apply now before Matthew Weinblatt returns and changes his mind.


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