The campus visit is a top resource for prospective students making their college choice, EAB research demonstrates. In fact, EAB’s Enrollment Services surveyed over 200,000 students in 2017 and found that the campus environment is the number one reason students chose to enroll at a different institution.
“More so than academic reputation (12.9%) and cost (11.5%), it’s the campus environment (13.6%) that drives students away—or draws them in,” writes Associate Director for EAB Research Lisa Berglund.
But the advice students receive from experts about campus visits may undermine their value, argues education columnist Jay Mathews. That’s because experts take college visits too seriously, writes Mathews for The Seattle Times. While some firms encourage students to take copious notes, others recommend that students document every aspect of their experience and track down any campus flaws.
These recommendations send a clear message: college visits are a boring, but necessary, part of the application process, he argues.
But this guidance gets one thing wrong about prospective students: they don’t visit campuses to check off boxes on a list—they visit to explore and have fun. Many students even visit colleges while they’re on a family vacation.
How to improve the campus visit experience
Colleges and universities can make the campus visit more fun and engaging by showing off the campus like a theme park, suggests Mathews. Show prospective students the “lovely vistas, amusing monuments, and restaurants that cater to youthful tastes,” he recommends.
And make sure the information you present to prospective students doesn’t sound too scripted. “Remember that teens often enjoy sharing with friends the dumbest things they heard from tour guides,” warns Mathews.
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Instead, encourage your campus ambassadors and staff to have some fun and be authentic when they show prospective students around, recommend EAB enrollment experts. After all, market research suggests that consumers—such as your prospective students—crave personal, authentic messaging.
For instance, allow student ambassadors to talk from an outline rather than a script, so they can speak relatively freely about their experiences in a way that sounds genuine.
EAB research also recommends creating opportunities for campus leaders to speak passionately and honestly with prospective students and families about the institution’s mission and what brings them to work every day.