Campus Takeovers give students a tour into ‘real’ college life

The newest initiative launched by the National Society of High School Scholars provides a different spin on the college virtual tour
By: | October 21, 2020
Lauren Marquez, University of California, Riverside doing a Campus Takeover spot for NSHSS. (Photo courtesy of NSHSS)

High school students who want to see colleges and universities up close must largely view them through a set of scripted virtual tours. But what if they could get a glimpse of campus from an insider, someone who could give them the straight dirt – key pieces of not-so-filtered information?

It’s happening, thanks to college-age students who are going live on Instagram (@NSHSS) and giving their take on the unique places and happenings that may not be seen on those university virtual tours. Called “Campus Takeovers”, It’s part of a new project launched by the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS).

Two spots have already been done by students –  Jay Farrel at the Florida Institute of Technology and Lauren Marquez of the University of California, Riverside. Next up are visits Thursday to Colorado State, Friday to Cornell, Monday to St. Michael’s College and next Friday to Florida Southern. The NSHSS plans to continue them as long as its student members are contributing.

“We thought we had a really unique opportunity to share the insight that our student members who are in college have with students who are trying to learn more about campuses, on universities around the country,” says Karen Kane, Director, Scholarships and Communications for the NSHSS, a member-driven organization that serves as an Honors Society for high-achieving students. “So, we’ve tapped into our college students, and invited them to do that insider view of campus life.”

These are not run-of-the-mill virtual tours or strict walkarounds of the exteriors of campus buildings. These are phone-driven Instagram takes, often with very different looks and commentary.

“It’s a little raw,” Kane says. “It’s a student or two walking around with their phone in their hand, visiting the points on their campus and talking about it. It’s a little bit more authentic than what you might find from a canned marketing video. I followed along with [Lauren Marquez] who was giving a tour of the University of California at Riverside yesterday. She talked about the stinky (Evergreen pear) trees, which are a big joke on campus.”

New ways to reach students and educators

The National Society of High School Scholars was founded in 2002 by its president James Lewis and Claes Nobel, the most senior member of the Nobel Prize family. Its purpose, Kane says, is “to honor and celebrate outstanding academic achievement and guide students on the path from high school to college to career.”

High-achieving students, often nominated by educators, are allowed to join the organization for a one-time fee. There are currently 1.7 million members in 170 countries, along with educators in 26,000 high schools who are part of the NSHSS community. They get treated to a wealth of free webinars, college and career fairs, internship opportunities and the chance to earn scholarships through the NSHSS Foundation.

More than that, the organization serves to connect students through their lifetimes. The latest initiative, borne largely out of the fallout from the pandemic, is bringing college and high school students together in a very modern, very beneficial way.

“In the last year, we’ve made a really concerted effort to do more and more member engagement,” Kane says. “So we have a leadership program, where we invite our high school-age students to apply to be ambassadors, and the high school ambassadors volunteer at our events. We have an Instagram takeover every single day, a day in the life of a student. They answer other prospective members questions about NSHSS, and why they got involved. We’re trying to really identify college-age leaders who can be resources to our high schools to grow that network.”

One of the ways they’re doing that is through the Instagram videos. The information college students are giving to the next generation isn’t just fluff. They paint a real picture of the institutions they attend.

“They’re not advertising for the school; they’re providing a genuine first-person, student vantage point,” says Kane. “They’re giving interesting tips on navigating their campus, special features or services that the campus has and identifying those hidden gems that they love or maybe don’t love about their school. Or they’ll talk about working on campus or internship opportunities and how their university is handling COVID.”

For educators, there are an abundance of opportunities available through the overarching membership program.

There are grants within NSHSS that offer professional development such as attending conferences and grants for furthering education. They also have an inherent connection to students, who nominate the best of the best to be Educators of Distinction for the impact they’ve made on their lives. Educators in turn are instrumental in bringing students on board, “including some who may not be the most popular kids in the school or the top athletes but in some way excel,” Kane says.

To learn more about NSHSS programs, including their new Shark Tank style competition with thousands in prizes for the most innovative entries, go to their website at nshss.org. Additional information can be found here:


Chris Burt is a reporter and editor for District Administration. He can be reached at cburt@lrp.com