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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, and despite the uniqueness of each prospect, 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  your campus?

  1. Invest in your tour guides: Train them well. Like it or not, the campus visit experience will be shaped by the student tour guide. Yes, they love their school and, yes, they want to share that love, but that doesn’t mean they know how to tell a story, or how to engage families, or how to create memories. Help them get better at telling stories, asking good questions, and speaking confidently in public by investing in their professional development.
  2. Encourage connections by matching tour guides to students by major, activities, interests, backgrounds (first gen?), home towns or even high schools.  This will take some effort to coordinate. But the results will be worth it. Help your tour guides better engage prospects by moving away from the script to more organic conversations.
  3. Customize tours when possible. Reconsider tours that always go the same route for everyone. Do your homework and try to tailor the experience and route. Think about academic programs and extracurricular interests to help students visualize themselves in those spaces. Imagine how they will feel when their interests are prioritized on your campus.
  4. Make time for experiences. College choice is about “fit” and “feel,” prioritize ways to make that happen. Sit in a classroom and talk about the learning environment they can expect, what courses everyone will take and why, and how students are supported. Grab a drink at the dining hall, enjoy a game in the gym or on the lawn, and give opportunities for them to win something fun to take home.
  5. Encourage your faculty to say hello.  Belonging begins with being seen. Not being stared at like a zoo animal. Encourage faculty, staff and students to engage genuinely with the tour. It’s as simple as saying hi, introducing themselves, and having a quick conversation with willing participants. Your marketing shaped their decision to visit, but the tour is where reality sets in – welcoming or not.
  6. Meet prospective students where they are. Use mobile technology before, during, and after your tour. Think mobile apps, photos, texting, emails and even gamification contests. Your prospects are always connected, so let them engage with your tour, your campus and your representatives how they’re most comfortable.
  7. Be sure to engage parents. Parents play a big role in the student’s college decision. Tell your stories in a way that helps parents see their students achieving a successful outcome. Also make sure parents, and students too, know you are always available to answer any questions, since both groups may have questions they’d rather ask privately.

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 Paskill consultant would be happy to assist in tour guide training or a campus tour assessment. Regardless, your tour guides and campus tours are a critical part of your recruiting program and deserve your best thinking.

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