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Showcasing Authentic Student Voices Through Video

Lauren Cunningham |Jul 20, 2021

What is so special about your school? About your campus? What immediately comes to mind. For most colleges, there is a special something. That feeling brings emotion to the space. Whatever the source of each institution’s collegiate magic, we know it when we see it.The question is how to showcase the uniqueness of your school for an entirely new audience who may never have set foot on your campus?

Visiting multiple campuses can be travel-heavy, expensive, and time-consuming. Many students will not have physically toured the school that they elect to attend. This is the modern reality. However, most schools continue to rely on in-person campus tours to showcase what is special about their institution. Meanwhile, student recruitment is more competitive than ever before. Graduate program marketing and student recruiting needs to bring the spirit and feel of your campus directly to the student viewing your remote tour.

Fortunately, your campus already has exactly what it needs to give the most authentic impression of your college to prospective students—your current students. Your students know what the coolest spots on campus are, and how to naturally convey the feel of these spaces to your potential students.

The modern high school senior and college freshman lives on their phone. Kids aged 13-17 spend an average of over 7 hours per day on their phones. The last two years of lockdowns and remote school work have exacerbated this trend. Students are also submitting more applications to a higher number of schools, but physically touring and visiting fewer campuses. They are, however, visiting these schools virtually. This presents a unique challenge to recruiters. Prospective students want to be able to see themselves on your campus, doing exactly what your current students are doing. Accomplishing this takes more than offering the traditional college tour on film. By creating engaging video content, students can get a better sense of their "fit and feel" with a school, which will help differentiate the school from the competition. Plus, if prospective students can see they’re a good fit for a particular university, they’re more likely to complete the enrollment process and succeed at that school.

But how should you film your tour?

Use Authentic Video Styles

The best way to attract all types of students through your video is to share authentic and unscripted stories. Prospective students can get a good idea of what their time on campus would look like when they hear stories from people like them. Four types of video convey authenticity best:

Day in the Life Videos

Having different students walk through their typical day on campus shows prospective students how they might fit into your community. It gives an inside glance into student life from many different perspectives. This style is the number one thing prospective students want to see on your social media.

Student Takeovers

Allow current students to take over your social media, especially Instagram stories, for a few hours for an unmoderated, live Q&A session. Prospective students can get get answers from people who have experienced exactly what they are asking about.

Favorite Places on Campus

Tools like My Five Faves can help your admissions office highlight diverse voices by having students show off their top five favorite spaces on campus.

Student-Shot Footage

Nothing gives a more authentic perspective to potential students than footage taken directly by your current students.

What should you showcase for your potential students?

Viewbook is an online video brochure that shows all the different aspects of campus — the cafeteria, sporting events, and professors. It’s an overview of the college and campus life. What does an average day look like for students on your campus? Traditionally, students would be shown a walking overview of the campus itself. But active students interact with the space differently than what a basic tour shows. Get your virtual tour off of the beaten path, and show future students how they can interact with your campus. Here are a few places to start:

Student Resources

Connect potential students to student resources. Highlight the services they may need, and address their concerns about moving onto campus and into life on their own. Many students will have been working with counselors at home. Show them the resources on your campus that make this transition as smooth as possible, and that there is a safety net in place for them on your campus. Where do your students chill after a day of class? How do they relax? Your student recruitment viewbook should include these spaces. Smiling and laughing faces are important to making future students feel at ease.

Academic Classroom

Have current students walk your potential students through what life is like in the college classroom. It probably looks different than the classroom spaces where they have spent the last four years, especially if they’ve spent the last two yeare online. What can students expect? What does an actual learning environment look like on your campus? How do professors and students interact? How many students are in the classes? What kind of teaching style are the professors employing? Let prospective students see what your current students wear to class. This is a window into the level of comfort your students feel on campus. Include actual class time. Would you feel comfortable in that learning environment?

Meet the Students

Which students should you choose to represent your school? There are so many different types of students from all walks of life. Include a cross-section of your student body that allows prospective students to see themselves as part of vibrant campus life. These are their future peers, and potentially their friends. Showcase the diversity of your campus. Make sure to include:

Conversation in a college classroom is only as strong as the diverse viewpoints it encompasses. Representation of myriad ethnic populations is essential to shaping your student diversity and your college campus.

First-generation college students make up a significant portion of the modern college campus. While the numbers of these students are large, they often need additional support as they navigate the traditional college experience. Help them identify with the first-generation student experience on your campus.

These students will probably physically visit campus before the semester begins, but make sure to show them the areas of campus where they will spend so much of their time. Show them where workouts are held, as well as life outside of their sport such as dining, socializing, and studying.

High-achieving students want to know that their college experience will bring a welcome academic challenge. Let your current students speak to these challenges.

Much of the college experience is learning to embrace independence and becoming a citizen of the world. Showcase not only the diversity of your region but also the diversity of the international student community on your campus. Show students from outside of the area that your campus has already been found by others from beyond your region.

Many modern students find that they need one or two more years close to home to save for their investment in college. Show prospective students that the days of “missing out” on the freshman experience are over.

With many college juniors and seniors having spent their last year or two of high school completely online, entry into a “normal” freshman class has, in many cases, been delayed. Some students have spent years living a host of diverse experiences—a few years spent working, raising a family, or having a previous military career. Others delay their college education by attending trade school first. Give prospective students a view of the non-traditional learning experience. Let your current non-traditional students share a slice of their experience in both everyday life and academic life.

Check out Campus

What could be more important than seeing the campus itself? Which parts of campus should you show? Campus takes on a very different look during the school year when classes are in session vs. during the summer or winter break. Allow the realistic nature of the bustle to be shown, just as the prospective student would see it if they sat on a bench between classes. Where are meals served? Are there multiple options for places to eat? Show them all. This is where students will spend their next four years—show them what they have to look forward to.

All of these individual elements should add up to give your prospective students an impression of your campus that will stay with them and encourage them to not only finish the application process, but commit to attending your institution. Students who visit one of StudentBridge’s Viewbook virtual college tours are 10 times more likely to apply to the college. Students can see themselves on the campus, interacting with the space in a natural way. Your virtual tours should be a positive deciding factor in prospective students’ college application journey. StudentBridge’s Viewbook can be that factor.

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