The Best Campus Tours and Their Hallmarks

(Editor’s Note: We’ve created a free on-demand webinar with the University of Oregon about how your Admissions team can start using mobile tech effectively in your recruitment strategy. View it now!)

Campus tours come in all types, but all the best campus tours have these 3 things in common.

Research shows that campus tours carry the most weight when students are deciding where to attend college. It’s no wonder that institutions put a lot of focus and resources behind their campus visit programs. A campus tour can tell a prospective student a lot about a university’s “style,” but the best campus tours all have a few basics in common.

The best campus tours tell the student story

best-campus-tours-studentPerhaps the most important component of the best campus tours is the student ambassador who is leading the tour itself. That person is the lens through which visiting students will be experiencing your campus. The in-person tour guide has taken on even more importance in recent years considering our cultural shift in communication.

Allyson Trochez, Assistant Director for Visit Programs at University of Oregon, says, “In today’s age of information a lot of the basics about deadlines and scholarship requirements are on our website. What’s really important for them to hear on our tour is what it’s like to be a student at the University of Oregon.”

As digital communication becomes more efficient and ubiquitous, the personal connections that we are making with students while they are on our campus become more and more important as well. By coaching your tour guides to find a healthy balance of information and personal experience, you’ll help to nurture a deeper connection between the visiting student and your campus.

The best campus tours also give prospective students a chance to see inside principal campus buildings as a way to provide that firsthand window into student life. It’s important that students are able to make connections with the spaces in which they’ll be spending the most time – the library, the student union, the residence halls, and the health and wellness facilities.

“They want to be able to picture themselves here, so we do anything we can do to help with that.” -Allyson Trochez, Assistant Director for Visit Programs, University of Oregon

The best campus tours have informational integrity

best-campus-tours-informationIn addition to providing a picture of student life, the best campus tours also have a methodology for ensuring the quality of the information presented.

Take a yearly inventory of the content within your campus tour. Is it accurate? Does it still reflect the larger message espoused by the university? You might be surprised how far your narrative can stray during the year.

Campuses are living entities and they continuously change. The best campus tours reevaluate their routes each year to make sure that the students who are taking a tour not only see the best facilities along the way, but are also developing a clear picture of what it’s like to get around campus.

Considering your content year after year also means taking into consideration that not all of your touring students will be interested in the same things. Our modern digital communication patterns have also primed us to desire much more targeted information – and your prospective students will be looking for more curated experiences. Consider creating specialty tours centered around academic or non-academic interests (such as University of Oregon’s first-of-its-kind running tour).

The best campus tours integrate technology

best-campus-tours-technologyAs our audiences’ communication expectations continue to evolve and expand, it’s important that our strategies to meet those expectations evolve and expand as well. While an in-person tour is most likely going to continue to be the gold standard in recruitment tools, there are a variety of channels that can now support and deepen the message of our in-person tours.

If you’re looking to take a technological inventory of your current communication strategies, it would help to ask of your division, “How is our digital footprint currently supporting our tour?” The best campus tours encompass a cohesive narrative that is built through the website, social media channels, virtual campus tours, mobile campus tours, and the content of the tour itself. In this way, technology is actually extending the life of the tour to include messaging present before, during, and after the campus visit.

“How is our digital footprint currently supporting our tour?”

So while it’s unlikely that any technology will replace your in-person tour, the best campus tours are expanding their definitions and thinking outside the box when it comes to digital communication strategies. Envision the impact your tour can have on a student if the conversation remains open even after they leave your physical campus.

This also means taking students into consideration who may not be able to attend one of your student-led tours. Schools have often struggled with how to reach students who visit a campus outside of office hours, on holidays, or as a last-minute walkaround. The best they were able to do was offer a paper tour that presented a few details for several campus highlights. With mobile technology however, those students can still receive a self-guided mobile campus tour that includes the complete tour narrative without sacrificing content or quality.

Recently, the University of Oregon has included this mobile piece into their tour strategy. After feeling a need to evolve beyond their paper-based tour for students who weren’t able to schedule an ambassador-led tour, they found the solution they were looking for in a mobile app. Allyson says, “The mobile tour app will allow people who can’t come on a tour or can’t be here to still be able to picture themselves here.”

Making your tour program great

Having one of the best campus tours means considering your current program and making sure it truly resonates in the 3 basic areas. Tell the authentic student story, ensure the informational integrity of the content, and then take time to consider how technology can expand the reach and context of your message. What steps have you taken to give your campus tour maximum impact? Tell us in the comments below!

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