How can you make your admissions tours informative, engaging, and exceptional? Barry Lenson from Today’s Campus asked Sarah Coen, Vice-President, Consulting Services, at Noel-Levitz Higher Education Consultants.
Today’s Campus: Of all the elements that are part of a tour, what is the most important?
Sarah Coen: An excellent tour guide is the key. Sounds simple, but campuses need to hire and train a set of student ambassadors or tour guides. Tours that are given by students are much more authentic and meaningful to prospective students and their parents.
TC: What else can colleges do to boost overall tour quality?
SC: Campuses where leadership does the “money walk” are also more successful than others. The money walk is where the president and cabinet members take the same tour that prospective students take. They need to see where the campus might need some attention (landscaping, trash removal, light bulbs, paint, etc.). As students, and, more importantly, parents tour campus, they are asking themselves “is this where I want my son or daughter to live?”; “does the leadership care about the campus?”; and, “is this worth my investment of money?”
TC: Do you have any advice on good ways to incorporate technology into tours?
SC: Not really. In fact, I think the tour is about 1) showing off the campus, and; 2) showing off the current students, which is why students should ALWAYS give the tours. As far as technology, I would show the lab space and make sure that residence halls and other living/learning spaces are tech-savvy. Make sure the tour guide is NOT looking at his or her phone during the tour!
TC: You’ve already stressed the importance of training tour guides. Do you have any advice on how to do that best?
SC: It is always a great idea to have a walking tour guide written out. This allows tour guides to study it before they actually give a tour. The guide should include the important stops on the tour as well as what to say at each stop. I think it’s best to try to tell stories, rather than just give a bunch of facts about a building. (That’s boring!) Recruiting students is about building relationships and the best way to do that is through stories of current students, successful alums, prominent faculty, cool history of the campus, etc.
Tour guides should always have to give a practice tour to a staff member in the admission office. Don’t let them just “wing it” - they need to be prepared!
Barry Lenson, who writes on college marketing for Today’s Campus, also writes the blog at StraighterLine.com and contributes daily marketing tips to StepByStepMarketing.com. Barry has previously held positions at the National Institute of Business Management (Senior Editor), The Trump Organization (Executive Editor of The Donald Trump blog), and at Bottom Line/Personal (Senior Staff Editor). He has written and co-authored more than 10 books, including two on marketing. Barry earned degrees at McGill and Yale and is currently enrolled in the UCLA Extension Division’s certification program in college counseling.