The campus tour is one of the most important contacts a prospective student and family will have with your college or university. With so much at stake, why are so many campus tours the same? And quite honestly, not very memorable.
The standard campus tour includes:
- an information session with a PowerPoint (if you’re lucky) promoting info families can get online, and
- tour guides eager to share the name of every building on campus, the date it was built, and the name of every office in every building, but not as eager to engage in real conversations.
Students and families visit your campus to get an authentic “vibe” and “feel” of campus. They want experiences that reveal actual student life in and out of the classroom.
So how do you ensure they are getting the right experience when they tour campus?
- Invest in your tour guides. Like it or not, the campus visit experience will be shaped by the student tour guide. Don’t leave it to chance that they are telling meaningful stories and sharing experiences. Far too often we see tour guides rely on the “script” the admissions office provided. Train them and provide them with professional development. Skills like storytelling, asking engaging questions, and improv or public speaking techniques are worthwhile investments.
- Match prospective students and tour guides by major, activities, and interests. Students are not randomly selecting to visit your college, so don’t randomly select a tour guide for them. Yes, this will take some effort to schedule. But the results will be worth it. With common interests to share, tour guides will move away from the script to more organic conversations. Prospective students will also become more engaged throughout the tour.
- Tour guides should pick a few spots to stop. Remember that tours are a way for students and parents to experience life on your campus. Current students do not walk around and look at buildings and peek in classrooms and labs. Your campus tour should not either. Go in a classroom and sit down, get a cup of coffee or bottle of water in the dining hall or snack bar, or shoot hoops in the gym (anyone making a shot from the free throw line gets a t-shirt), throw a Frisbee or toss a bag in the corn hole game on the lawn. You get the idea. Point is, students will engage with you and your school more authentically if they experience something and not just look at something.
- Create a culture where tours are part of the fabric of your institution. That means genuine interaction between the tour, tour guide, and current students and faculty. Most folks on campus can spot an admissions tour. Instead of treating the prospective students like zoo animals and staring at them, encourage the campus community to speak, introduce themselves, and have a conversation with the tour guide. My guess is your website, admissions counselors, and admissions literature all talk about how friendly your campus is – prove it!
- Meet prospective students where they are. Your target audience is Gen Z, a generation obsessed with all things mobile. Use mobile technology before, during, and after your tour. Think mobile apps, photos, texting, and even gamification contests. Gen Z is always connected; so let them engage with your tour and campus how they’re most comfortable.
To improve your campus tours, make them memorable, and experience-based. It’s not revolutionary thinking, but this kind of detailed approach requires intentional and thoughtful attention from your staff and tour guides to be effective.
Share these ideas with your tour guides! Or better yet a PS&L consultant would be happy to assist in tour guide training. Regardless, your tour guides and campus tours are a critical part of your recruiting program and deserve your best thinking.
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