The college search for rising juniors and seniors has looked quite different this year amidst a global pandemic with 86% of students, and their parents, unable to physically visit all schools of interest.
So, while the in-person visit remains the best way to gauge “fit” and “feel,” colleges and universities have turned to innovative technologies to connect prospective students to their potential futures through opportunities to explore academic and residential life virtually.
With decision-making being influenced digitally, StudentBridge decided to go straight to the source, surveying both students and parents alike, to understand what was working, and what could use some work, in the world of virtual campus visits.
A strong online presence positively contributed to enrollment strategy with the college website (95%), organic Google searches (84%) and emailed links (72%) appearing as the top three activities in the college search process.
However, surprisingly, less than 50% of survey participants ranked the college website as very or extremely helpful when creating their short-list of schools. Even more concerning, only 18% felt confident in the “fit” and “feel” they were able to gather from the website itself.
67% of student and parent respondents reported participating in an interactive virtual experience through the college website. Of these participants, the top five factors when deciding whether to apply ranked as follows:
1. Geographic Location
2. Enrollment / Size of School
3. Academic Rankings
4. Student Life (Organizations, Extracurriculars, Involvement)
5. Athletic Opportunities
What elements or information would you like to see in a virtual college tour or virtual campus experience to help you get a better understanding of the school?
Our participants responded in the following ways:
Academics: What majors/minors are offered and what is a sample course load? What is the expected job placement rate?
Day-to-day Life: What is the demographic of the student population? And, what type of social life can students expect?
Residential Life: What are the dorms and common areas like? What protocols are followed to ensure student safety on campus?
Extra-Curricular Activities: Does Greek life have a presence on campus? What athletic programs are offered? Do students participate in work/study programs?
Events: Students asked to see past athletic events and performances on-demand to get a feel for school spirit.
And perhaps most importantly and consistently reiterated, students and parents want:
If you designed a virtual college tour or virtual campus experience, what would you be sure to include?
We asked our participants to think about what they would do differently or improve upon in their experience with virtual visits.
So many of the virtual tours were just the website pictures - not terribly different from perusing the website itself... it'd be neat for a virtual tour to be in real time, if possible, or a pre-recorded actual student led tour that really involved walking around campus and into buildings, not just photos.
Several students also highlighted the need for a human element:
I would be sure to include the human factor of having someone taking you around campus. I would also add a way to interact and ask questions throughout the tour.
Today, most college websites likely include a virtual visit element, but as we are finding, many are proving tone deaf to the wants and needs of their prospective class.
Students are getting their first impressions of colleges through virtual visits and will be making decisions based on their online experiences.
Does your .EDU site highlight content students want to see?
→ A live look into a class in session?
→ Day in the Life stories?
→ A peek into residence and campus life?
→ Student guided tours?
With our creative solutions, StudentBridge can work with you to develop your storyboards and create a strategy for filming or leveraging content that you may already have.
Our experienced team of digital storytellers have developed a wide range of filming options to capture the essence of your campus and students.
1. Zeng, Julian. Infographic. Higher Education Marketing Statistics Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. 3 June 2020. https://www.ama.org/marketing-news/higher-education-marketing-statistics-before-and-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/