First impressions matter — especially to prospective students and parents who are choosing a school to enroll in for the next school year.
A well-planned campus tour is a golden opportunity to leave a lasting impression on your prospective student families. It’s your chance to tip the scales in your favor by flaunting your school’s strengths.
Seemingly small things like touring the schoolyard, exploring the facilities, and talking to teachers can help prospective students and their parents gauge if your school is the perfect fit. Whatever they experience during the tour will inevitably influence their final choice.
So, what exactly do they need to see?
The best school tours may seem spontaneous and effortless, but they usually aren’t.
It takes intentional planning to effectively nurture prospects into registering for the upcoming school year.
While it is important to keep things natural and authentic, you must also give campus tours a structure that will highlight what makes your school special.
In this article, I will give you some ideas on how to design a memorable campus tour.
Why give so much thought to the tour? Keep in mind that families may visit more than ten schools during their evaluation phase. You need to make sure they remember yours as the best.
Creating That Special Connection
Academic programs, community culture, modern facilities — these things are all important. But you know what matters more? Making prospective students feel like they belong.
Selecting a school is a highly emotional decision. Parents want to see a learning environment that brings out the best in their children. Prospective students need to see a place that is both fun and comfortable.
How will you give them that experience?
As soon as they’re on campus, make your prospects feel special. Don’t herd families around in large, impersonal group tours.
Imagine that your school is your home and your prospects are VIP guests. It all starts with being a gracious host.
Perhaps you can assign them personalized parking spaces. Greet them by their first names. Offer them coffee or juice before starting the tour. Small things can go a long way.
To connect with prospective students, you can ask your current students to share stories. Hearing about concrete experiences from real people is more convincing that watching a presentation or listening to a lecture. Casual conversations with students can give an authentic view of life on your campus.
Once you’ve made a special connection with your prospects, they will have a better appreciation of what your school can offer.
Showcasing Your Unique School Identity
Your school’s identity matters. Your prospects need to know who you are and how you help students thrive.
Let your visitors experience that warm community vibe – that feeling that causes older alumni to reminisce as they walk through the door As you walk around campus, showcase the things that make it a vibrant and friendly place.
What aspects of your school make you stand out? That would be something a current parent tells their friends when explaining their school choice.
Keep in mind that parents are not only looking for academic achievements. Don’t overwhelm them with test results or mind-numbing statistics.
Do you have a solid sports program? Make sure prospective student-athletes know about this. Have a video playing of the last game you won. Cheering spectators are great background music on a tour.
Is your school known to have a close community of parents? Highlight this to moms and dads who are hands-on with their children’s education. Have a parent ambassador drop in for coffee.
Do you have remarkable alumni who have achieved great things in society? Make sure to mention their names.
Paint a complete picture of your school’s vision. The combination of these details contribute to forming your school’s identity — they are the things that will make you truly stand out!
A Tour That Won’t Make People Yawn
Touring the campus is more than just mindless walking around corridors and classrooms. One way to make the tour more personalized is to showcase your school’s history as you explore the place.
Provide a glimpse into your school’s past. Make sure to mention people and events who helped shape your school’s history. It’s more than fine to spice this up with some gossip, a few anecdotes, jokes. Add some inspiring stories if you’ve got them.
Bring your visitors to landmarks around your campus, and make sure they understand what makes them special. Explain the story behind interesting places in the school. You can even set up several selfie spots, where prospective students can take their photos and upload them on social media.
Also, look into the history of people who helped build your institution. Who founded your school? Who helped form its vision? Where are your alumni now?
If you tell your story well, you might be able to convince your prospects to be a part of your story, too.
But before we finish, I have five more tips to make your next campus tour even better. Here they are:
- A good host is a game changer— Choose someone who can make students feel welcome. Find a guide who can drum up excitement for the tour group. They can be funny, full of wisdom, a good storyteller, or all of the above. Of course, your guide should be brimming with knowledge about your school.
- You need a parent ambassador program — What the parents of your current students say is very powerful in swaying the opinion of your prospects. Invite parent ambassadors to be a part of your school tours, and encourage them to share their stories!
- Give students an “experiential tour” — It’s hard to convince students to enroll in your school if you just give them long lectures. Consider adding selfie spots, planning a scavenger hunt or, for older kids, a social media game (eg. adding pictures to Instagram with your hashtag) that will help potential students enjoy your campus even more. Fun activities convince them that life in your school is colorful and exciting.
- Don’t forget safety and security — Putting up safety signs the night before will not cut it. You need to infuse precautionary measures deep into the school culture in order to win the hearts of your wary visitors.
- Go digital — I mentioned selfie spots and Instagram games already. There is more you can do to gain the mantle of a forward-thinking, tech-savvy school. You don’t need the latest smartboard if you can’t afford it. Print out QR codes with important information and spread them around campus, create a group chat for all visitors, or add them to a private Facebook group, helping you continue the conversation later on. Possibilities are endless.
Now It’s Your Turn
I’ve tried to show you how to go beyond the basics and supercharge your campus tour. You may notice that budget, time, or space are not real constraints to implement any of this.
But these ideas only scratch the surface of what you can achieve on a campus tour. What other ideas of your own can you add here? Get some of your faculty together and ask them to pitch in a few more. Then, bring the parents in. I’m sure they’re also willing to help with the brainstorming. Soon enough, you will have your own superstar campus tour!
Let us in on some of your ideas, would you?