Why digital campus tours are the future of recruitment
Digital campus tours offer an effective way to help with student and faculty recruitment--and they're becoming more common each day
Selecting a college or university is one of the most significant life decisions a young adult can make, and it’s a daunting one even under typical circumstances. But because our current circumstances are anything but typical, many institutions have turned to technology to bridge the gap in their marketing efforts: digital campus tours.
The process of pursuing higher education in 2021 looks quite different than it ever has before. Even as we begin to mitigate the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic, students and parents are often still reluctant to travel and schedule in-person engagements as part of their search.
Colleges and universities have responded by taking precautions and making safety accommodations. But after decades of approaching high school graduates with the same analog marketing strategies, many institutions are struggling to put together a modern pitch.
The most creative among them, however, have turned to digital solutions. Barring in-person tours, there’s no more powerful way to communicate a university’s value or the vibrancy of its campus life than through a digital environment.
Institutions such as the University of North Texas have leaned on technology to offer fully immersive, 360-degree-view digital campus tours to prospective students, faculty, and others. The University of Massachusetts Lowell hosts virtual welcome days for students to learn about their majors, internships, research opportunities and other interest-specific information. Many other schools are beginning to follow suit.
College sports fans familiar with the recruiting process can likely understand how a sharp digital campus tour–complete with in-the-round views of a game-day venue, state-of-the-art practice facilities, living accommodations and even personalized pitches from coaches–could win over an athlete. These digital tools can be adapted to fit most recruiting needs, attuned to virtually any prospect, from top engineering minds to leadership and top-tier professors.
Additionally, digital campus tours offer unmatched reach and control. Universities can now connect with the prospect 3,000 miles across the country as easily as the in-state candidate who lives a half-hour drive from campus. Digital pitches can be optimized to work as effectively on a smartphone or tablet as a computer–a far more dynamic, targeted, and affordable outreach method than any mailed-pamphlet campaign.
Digital campus tours also offer the desired consistency of messaging. The transparency of a video format tells students they’re receiving the same pitch as other prospects, ensuring a level playing field. And just think: a video shot on an autumn Saturday, with colorful leaves falling around lounging students on a sun-splashed quad, figures to drive more interest than an in-person visit in February when weather and outside factors can interfere with a top-quality campus experience.
To get started on a campaign that integrates digital campus tours, consider these best practices:
- Evaluate your budget and, if you haven’t already, establish a digital-first strategy. That may require consolidating budget from different departments and getting creative to ensure the proper tech investments are feasible.
- Research digital solutions that empower prospects to access virtual tours and university info at their leisure. Building in that flexibility, creating on-demand access, is a more desirable experience for prospects – more organic, less sales pitch.
- Dedicate internal champions to digital recruitment strategy to ensure technologies are implemented and used correctly on a department or university-wide level. Quality control is a must when implementing unfamiliar tech.
According to consulting firm Entangled Solutions, more than 200 schools have added senior executives whose titles include the words “digital’ or “innovation” – a signal that higher education’s digital revolution is already under way. The competition for the most creative and brilliant young minds among colleges and universities is fiercer than ever.
Digital campus touring technology certainly won’t be the only tool that institutions of higher education will need to leverage in the coming years, but it will be one that schools soon find they can’t do without.