The campus visit is an essential part of your enrollment management efforts. It drives college choice and helps students to eliminate schools that aren't a good fit. Yet for many schools, the campus visit is treated as an afterthought instead of the first impression it is.
This is a framework for creating an effective campus visit program. It’s short for a reason – it’s just a starting point. This set of fundamentals helps you measure the creativity and effectiveness of the campus visit process. Start here and build. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression!
Be an enthusiast
People are watching. Whoever you are, you are the face of campus visits. It’s everyone’s job to recruit students, but if you manage the visit process, they are going to look to you to see how much you care. Care a lot. Be visible, be present and build relationships. Smile and make eye contact – you model the behavior you want others to copy.
Dress well – Because it still matters.
Be present – Get in front of as many different audiences as you can. Speak to at least one campus group a month about campus visits.
Educate – Train, refine and make it your own – set a goal to educate a certain number of campus groups and stick to it.
Be creative – Don't be afraid to try new ideas that make people go "wow!"
Recruit well and set expectations
Being a tour leader isn’t just another job – it is an honor. Make it a point to hire great students and communicate to them that the job is very important on campus. Have regular training sessions and include them in the process. Set clear expectations for the job and don’t compromise on them:
Tour guides must wear the approved dress code – from shirt to pants to shoes
Tour guides must arrive early and must not miss tours
Tour guides must receive regular training and should train new recruits
Check up on these expectations. Once you set them, monitor them. Make sure you are paying attention. Give feedback. Find coaching opportunities. If the campus visit is a play and the guides are the cast, you are the director. Direct them. Be positive. Create teams for your guides and encourage them to hold each other accountable.
Make it feel like an honor. Find ways to elevate them across campus. For it to be an honor, others have to perceive it as an honor.
Engage with campus
It’s everybody’s job to recruit students, so create a regular advisory board that meets regularly (at least once a semester, possibly more) and gets key updates on the campus visit process. Share information. Ask them to engage and create feedback opportunities. This group should include:
Key faculty from each school (work with each dean to identify a campus visit faculty member who can serve on this committee and will help with campus visits)
Facilities – key leaders are important, but don’t be afraid to create opportunities to train other team members, too
Housing staff – This is also a training opportunity
Dining leadership and key staffers
Have a metrics dashboard – share it
A dashboard is an important way to quickly measure the health of our tour program. By looking at some key stats, you should be able to tell what’s working and what’s not working (as can the entire team). A dashboard should include:
Visit show rate
Campus Visit conversion rate (=signups/show rate x 100)
Customer service dashboard – the four core metrics
Qualitative "moments" that make visitors go "wow!"
Other important measurables
Length of tour (should be consistent)
Length of wait time (should be consistent and quick)
Send a monthly campus visit report to stakeholders – not just admissions, but marketing, faculty, facilities, housing and student life. Solicit feedback on the report to make it more useful.
Walk the tour
Don’t be uninformed. Make a regular tour walk part of your routine. Always walk the tour route before a visit event (even if it means showing up a little early). Walk the tour route periodically on off times. Remember, people use all five senses to form their impressions. Here are some things to look for:
Landscaping – is it clean, living and beautiful? Is grass cut?
Lighting – are all lightbulbs working or do some need to be replaced?
How does it smell?
Is signage clear, clean and prominent?
Are floors clean?
Is trash picked up?
How is the noise level and is there music playing? Should there be?
How does the food taste?
Luckily, you’ve already spent time being a relationship builder on campus. Now’s the time to leverage those relationships. Don’t take "no" for an answer – let’s get the problems fixed we can’t handle ourselves and fix the ones we can!
Recognize excellence, manage mediocrity
A team needs to feel like a team. This is probably the most important job. Create rewards and awards for your tour guides on a job well done. Ask potential winners what would be valuable to them and make it that thing. Two ways to accomplish this:
Above-and-Beyond Awards – Given monthly to the tour guide who receives the best comments. This should be consistently incentivized with a university-branded gift or something of real value to the guide (other than money).
The Recruiter Award – Given once a term to the campus partner who goes above and beyond his or her duties to help recruit students. Once again, this should be of real value to the receiver.
If you are having issues with your team, redirect them, train them, and, if that doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to fire them. Remember, being a tour guide is an honor. If you’re having trouble with campus partners, meet with them and help them to see why the tour is so important. If you’re still having trouble, escalate the problem. The campus visit is a priority and will be treated as such.
Metrics are important, but they only tell part of the story. Create an environment where you regularly ask questions and get feedback from attendees, students and tour guides. Here are some key ways to do that:
Create a regular tour guide meeting (monthly) that provides key updates for team members and allows them to give feedback. Ask consistent questions about what’s working, what’s not working and what things we could make great.
Create focus group opportunities once a term to speak with students about their experience. Reach out to matriculated students, non-matriculated students or even parents. Ask questions about the experience and how to make it better.
D. White & Company helps institutions build strategically-aligned campus visit programs that drive enrollment results. Want to schedule a training a training session or an audit? Connect with them today.