11 tips for creating a memorable campus tour

A quick resource guide for making a lasting impression during a prospective student’s initial visit to campus

In an era when prospective students and their parents can learn about nearly any college from the comfort of home, the in-person campus tour offers an excellent opportunity to influence enrollment decisions.

But too often, these tours follow the same staid formulas, potentially blending together in the minds of families who may visit more than a dozen schools during their searches. Creating a memorable tour can maximize visitors’ time spent on your campus and finalize their commitment.

Here are 11 suggestions for increasing the effectiveness of a campus tour.

1. Sweep them off their feet

As campuses grow, many institutions find creative ways to help visitors see all the best features, no matter the distance. Golf carts, vans and Segways have become common additions to the traditional walk. Some schools even offer trips by boat and bicycle.

2. Set up selfie opportunities

Pointing out popular spots on campus for selfies can generate a social media experience that also showcases the institution’s best assets.

3. Create unique events

By going beyond a traditional campus walk-through, institutions can make a big impact and an instant connection. Personalized parking signs for prospective visiting students, a campus scavenger hunt, or inclusion in an institution’s notable tradition can generate extra enthusiasm and interest.

5. Offer customizable schedules—and language choices

Being able to organize their own tours allows students to focus on relevant areas. For example, a future commuter student may skip a dorm tour to meet with a financial aid counselor. Colleges looking to attract multicultural populations must provide tours in multiple languages.

6. Go for intimacy

Many smaller institutions already offer individual tours for prospective students, so larger ones should try to keep tours at or below the student-teacher ratio. In-person meetings with faculty have also become more common, as it allows for direct connections and immediate feedback.

7. Meet visitors’ basic needs

It’s important to remember visitors’ immediate needs, as walking them around campus without a break or a beverage can send a bad message. A lunch can also make a strong impact: A student host, faculty member or coach can have lunch with visitors and steer the conversation toward why the school is a great fit.

8. Veer off the script

Admissions offices should encourage student guides to go beyond the standard tour script and share their own personal experiences and reasons why they chose the institution, which may resonate better. Grouping together two or three guides on each tour can offer a variety of experiences.

9. Don’t avoid the safety discussion

Going off script doesn’t mean avoiding more serious topics, which means preparing tour guides to answer questions regarding safety. Highlight efforts such as hurricane preparedness, campus security and emergency response.

10. Elicit real feedback

Customized visitor surveys can provide admissions departments with feedback on anything from a tour route to a guide stumbling over a tough question. Learning what works—and often more important, what doesn’t—helps optimize tours.

11. Campus tour needs to be authentic

Tours need to present an authentic view of the campus experiences. Don’t just showcase the shiniest, newest facilities, especially if prospective students will not have access to those facilities until later in their academic careers. Being honest with students can help shape expectations and lead to future student success.

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