Searching for the right college is both exciting and challenging. There’s lots of information available to help whittle down the choices. It can seem overwhelming to imagine that this process could very well affect the course of our lives. Every individual is tasked with finding the school that is not only academically suitable, but also meets their needs culturally and socially.
So how do you make sure your campus makes the right impression?
Personally, I have had experience from both sides of the equation, as a student and the parent of a student looking for the school with the right programs, but also the best overall “feel.” Campus culture can be just as important as curriculum and amenities, and as such the deciding factor often comes down to the campus visit.
So, what is your college tour like?
Obviously, the major draw for offering self-guided tours is the convenience for everyone involved. But how does this work and what are those conveniences, really? Here are five ways that make allowing your potential students and their families to investigate your campus with self guiding prompts is particularly beneficial.
I. Timing and Scheduling Considerations
Make sure you’re reaching all of your potential demographic by opening the campus to visitors who are on a strict schedule, traveling, or who want to follow up with additional visits.
You know the story. It’s all of us. We’re busy and laser focused. We need to look at the engineering department, the dorms, medical facilities. You get the idea. We don’t have time for 9am roll call and the historic tour. The flight schedule is iffy and we have four more schools to see before the end of the month. Furthermore, we want to revisit our top three picks before we finalize this decision, mostly because we really do want that historic tour.
Opening the campus up for a self guided tour is ideal for busy travelers and follow up intentions. There are many ways to accommodate visitors with wayfinding signs, apps and general instructions.
II. Administration Time Considerations
Free up staff on campus to attend to other necessities.
Meet and greet sessions are great. And, I love the idea of peer tour guides. But students, faculty and staff will need to be allocated to the tour schedule. Having the option available for self-guided tours will make this easier for everyone involved.
III. Visitors Take Part in an Authentically Organic Experience
Guided tours are great too, but what really makes an impression is an experience that isn’t orchestrated and narrated. Guests will have an opportunity to interact with students, faculty and staff in ways that can’t be anything less than authentic.
Imagine wandering into the student union building just to “people watch” while you eat lunch served as if it was any day, and you were any other student. That’s a real, authentic experience.
Imagine the real sense of campus life you would be privy to as you witness impromptu study sessions, curriculum-inspired discussions and people meeting up to enjoy their free time.
This is campus culture.
IV. Catering to the interests of the individual
A self guided tour means your visitors are free to explore what interests them the most and to spend as much time pursuing that endeavor as they wish. Whether it’s the engineering department, agriculture or just campus history and architecture, your future students will be most served with the campus presentation that most appeals to their particular interests, and can reinforce the attraction that brought them to your school in the first place.
Not every guided tour has time to explore every feature of every building and to discuss the rewards of every curriculum. What’s impressive to me is not impressive to you. My school had a performing arts building that I will never forget. I overheard someone mention that there were soundproof booths to practice an instrument. I had had no idea such a thing could exist. WWJD? I found them. It was a hallway lined with tiny rooms and low and behold, there was an empty one available. I’m not sure if I was supposed to register or not, but I took my chances, closed that door and sang my heart out for a full ten gloriously private minutes.
That is a unique experience that will NEVER be on a guided tour schedule.
V. First Impressions are everything
I can’t stress this enough. The campus tour is a first impression that will last, and is very likely going to be the wow moment that leads to enrollment. Self guided tours can be an option for many interested candidates and can increase enrollments as such.
Not everyone will want to sing in a sound booth, but everyone will be impressed by their experience in their own unique way.