Making the campus tour more than just another visit.

We hear it all the time: “Once we get them on campus, we’ve got them hooked.” How could you not? A great tour. A good meal in the best dining hall (with soft-serve ice cream). A glimpse into a residence hall and a lecture hall. Interaction with real students.

They’re totally hooked, right?

Wrong. For starters, it’s statistically impossible. If every student applicant enrolled where they went on a tour, then every school would have a 100 percent tour conversion rate. Yet today’s students apply to an average of 15 schools, and they visit close to eight. And in the end, each chooses only one place to attend. So, no, you don’t automatically close the deal with a campus visit.

How can you step up your tour game? Here are five ideas:

  1. Introduce the average students, not just the stand-outs. We get it: you want to show off the students who have done cancer research, founded a social rights coalition, and broken the shotput record. Sure, those people are incredible, and their stories should be shared. But so should the stories of students who aren’t at the top of the class and who don’t have an encyclopedic CV. Expose your visitors to people that they’ll be able to relate to on a personal level, not just as ambitious role models.
  2. Give them what they can’t get online. These people are busy. They’re involved and goal-oriented — and they probably have two other tours lined up right after they leave your campus. What’s the point of taking time out of the day to spend a few hours at your school if they could have scrolled through the same information online? Use their physical presence as an advantage and make sure their time on campus really makes an impact.
  3. Start the visit before they hit your zip code. And keep it going once they drive away. Consider creating a quick digital quiz that students take ahead of their visit to pinpoint their areas of interest. Then share the results with their tour guide, who can call out relevant facts and locations throughout the tour. Or send customizable options in advance of the visit, to ensure a tailored experience. Or get feedback right at the end of the tour and follow up with communications that highlight the people, places, and things they loved on their visit.
  4. Show what the future can hold. Help them understand how choosing your particular institution will play a role in defining the rest of their lives by sharing real, future-focused outcome stories. This is a great opportunity to involve current students: make sure that they have a voice and that it’s loud. Your prospects will appreciate the transparency, and they’ll be excited to contribute their own voice if they become a student, too.
  5. Set the stage. Literally. A beautifully patterned, vintage rug. Stately furniture and window treatments. A rack of brochures. A bowl of mints and free mediocre coffee. All in a grand old building that oozes history. Yes, you’ve created a stunning visitor center, but know this: it looks like every others that students encounter during their search. Instead, use your brand to make it stand out: try bold wall graphics, interesting messaging, a fresh approach to brochure-ware. And a smart, interactive, digital experience will make their wait time truly memorable.

Remember, prospective students are expecting a true, inside peek at your college experience. The more you can make the campus visit meaningful and unique, the better chance you have at standing out against the other seven on their list.