The “Sixth Sense” Makes Campus Visits Successful

October 7th, 2009 by Mark Thompson Leave a reply »

iStock_000007901834XSmallOctober, also known as ” The Official Month for Campus Visits,”  is upon us.  If you are in the admissions biz you watch the Weather Channel 24/7 and pray that no rain, snow, sleet or other weather anomaly will dampen the academic, athletic and social activities you have worked so hard to prepare.

Over the past 23 years, Longmire and Company has surveyed and studied hundreds of thousands of prospective college students and one prevailing theme shines though — when it is decision time a student almost always selects the college that “feels right.”

As a past Dean of Admission,  I created a visit day agenda that would capture the five senses.  “You are here today to see, smell, taste, hear and touch this campus,” I would say in my welcoming remarks to the visiting students and their families.  ” Using these five senses will give you a ‘Sixth Sense’ about this being the right campus for you.”

Encourage the students to tour the dorms, maybe even notice the recycle bins on each floor and picture their own posters on the walls of the rooms.  But, also remind them to visualize their graduation day – the student in cap and gown, surrounded by people he doesn’t know yet but will soon be his best friends for life – with his family proudly watching as he receives his hard earned diploma.

You might ask if they followed their nose to the homemade cinnamon rolls they just ate for breakfast.  Are you also tantalizing them with the sweet smell of success by having representatives  from the alumni board (both young grads and older alumni) available for family interaction?

As the sidewalks get crowded, is warm apple cider being sipped or soft drinks being served?  Are your student tour guides whetting the appetites of the group with their own personal insights to campus activities?

Is the decibel level of  the cheerleaders practicing loud enough?  Are your faculty members exciting their charges with  intriguing anecdotes about former students who are now professional success stories?

Are these prospective students being included in the magic that is YOUR college?  Perhaps they are getting high fives from the team captains after the big victory, or a personal welcome and hand shake from the college president.  Are you making them part of YOUR team?

As the family drives away and the mental summary of the visit occurs, is that sixth sense of fit and comfort been reached?

Perhaps the most important questions you can ask yourself are:

  • Is your campus visit program resulting in greater yields?
  • How well do you use this golden opportunity to cement the emotional commitments of prospective students and their parents?
  • Do you accurately measure the results of these visits and the impact on enrollment?
  • Is every campus representative well-trained in their role?

We have found that the most successful colleges are constantly evaluating their campus visit programs and are implementing extensive training programs that include every student touch-point. If you don’t already have a comprehensive evaluation of your program that includes input from prospective students and their parents you may be missing the mark.  And, if your student ambassadors, financial aid team and faculty representatives haven’t been specifically trained in how to make their prospect contacts a winning one, they probably aren’t.  This training and evaluation doesn’t have to be costly but it needs to be relevant, interactive and consistent.

Here’s hoping November, “The Official Month for Applying to College,” will be a very busy one for you.

Mark Thompson is an Enrollment Strategist with Longmire and Company.  Mark brings his clients the benefit of over 20 years of “in-the-trenches” experience in enrollment with public, private and proprietary colleges and universities.

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