Reach students in rural areas by leveraging local alumni

Case Study

Reach students in rural areas by leveraging local alumni

An organic conversation sparks a new rural outreach strategy at University of North Carolina at Charlotte

The UNCC Director of Admissions, Claire Kirby, was speaking with an engaged alum and board member when he remarked that there were not many students from his former high school at UNCC. As an active alum, he understood that rural high schools (like his) are often not able to connect their students with opportunities at an urban campus like UNCC. He also recognized that his former high school has a majority of students on free and reduced lunch, making their college search process even more challenging.

Claire highlighted that, in particular, getting students to visit campus was a major hurdle. The alum asked how they could make a campus visit for students from his former school a reality, and following their conversation that day, he worked with admissions to ensure a portion of his annual donation to UNCC was earmarked for a visit program for students at his former high school. This alum is a fairly high-profile individual in the city of Charlotte, so his commitment to the students and program is impactful, as were the substantial insights he had into the real experiences of rural students from his former high school.

Essential components for alumni-sponsored campus visit days

  1. Brief opening remarks from the sponsoring alumnus: He shares his story and shows commonalities between himself and the students from his former high school.

  2. Tailored info sessions for specific rural needs: UNCC carefully curates info sessions on student life, admissions, and financial topics, designed for the rural audience specifically.

  3. On-campus dining hall experience: Students visit the best hall on campus with a voucher to eat whatever they want. This is typically their favorite part of the day.

An early benefit of the campus visit program for students

Substantial benefits for both the institution and the students

UNCC has seen an increase in applications from the targeted high school. Furthermore, several of these students have been of high academic quality.

In year two, a student from this program was a Levine Scholar semifinalist, and in year three, another student from this program was selected as a Levine Scholar, the University’s highest merit-based academic award.

The Director of Admissions believes there is increased organic recruitment in the community that benefits from this visit program because of the positive experiences visitors are able to take back to the community.

Making it work on your campus

  1. Identify alumni from rural parts of the state who are already involved in the institution in some way (e.g., donors, alumni organizers, etc.).
  2. Estimate the total cost to bring in visitors from rural high schools—this cost will include transportation, food, and any other incidentals.
  3. Propose campus visit sponsorship opportunities to the alumni your team identified, being sure to offer them the chance to speak.
  4. Create a rural-focused program that addresses the unique needs and concerns of this group and their families.
  5. Communicate the impact on rural communities back to both the sponsor(s) and the communities students visit from.
  6. Iterate on the early visits by incorporating visitor and sponsor feedback. This allows you to improve experiences and outcomes.

The visit program is in its third year at UNCC, with yearly gains in efficacy

This low-cost program only requires buses and meals to be covered

Advancement partnership helped earmark funds for admissions