The Ideal Campus Visit at Your School
Sometimes the little things make a big difference.
Most prospective parents looking at your school are also visiting a couple of other options in your community. While you certainly want to sell your total school experience, including the academic program, community environment, athletics and the arts, it might be the little things that stand out on a campus visit that makes the difference.
Does your campus visit stand apart from the other schools in your community?
Have you intentionally considered your campus visit strategy from the pre-visit contact, the visit, and post-visit follow-up?
While campus tours might happen naturally, it is important to develop an intentional strategy that will help your school stand out from the other schools.
Let me give you a vision for an ideal campus visit strategy.
The parent calls the admissions office to set up a campus visit. The admissions receptionist is friendly and very personable, and works to accommodate the parent’s schedule. After the visit has been scheduled, the admissions receptionist sends a reminder email to the parent with details about the visit, directions to the campus, information on parking and directions to the office.
On the day before the scheduled visit, the admissions receptionist sends a reminder email about the campus visit, including the same details sent in the previous message. This message is very friendly and conveys excitement about the visit. In addition, the email includes a video overview of the school to prepare the parent for the visit.
On the day of the scheduled visit, the parent drives to your campus and readily sees your school sign. This parent is immediately impressed that they have arrived at your school. Then, the parent pulls into the campus and sees banners with key messages hanging from the light posts and follows the driveway to the parking lot. The directional sign for the admissions office is clear and easy to follow and leads the parent to a reserved visitor space. Rather than a generic reserved space, the sign actually has the parent and student’s name on it, which creates a memorable first impression to the parent.
From there the parent walks toward the clearly identified main office. Directional signs and campus security provide clear direction to the office. Then, the parent knows they have arrived when they see the personalized admissions welcome sign with their name on it. Impressed with this level of personalization, the parent and student walk inside the waiting area.
Once inside the building, they are warmly greeted by the admissions receptionist with an “I’ve been expecting you” attitude. The receptionist greets them by name and welcomes them to the campus while choosing not to answer the incoming phone call because the most important person is standing in the office.
A cup of Starbucks coffee, a bottle of juice or water is offered to the guests. Pre-printed nametags with the first name of the parent and student are given to them to wear. The prospective parent and student immediately feel welcomed at the school.
While waiting for the admissions director, they complete an information form and relax on the leather couch. The information that the parent already gave on the phone is pre-printed, allowing the parent to focus on some select key questions that will better inform the admissions director. On the wall, a large flat screen TV provides scrolling pictures, key stats and key messages about the school in an attractive and engaging format. Yearbooks and brochures are also on the coffee table to view.
Just minutes after the parent’s arrival, the admissions director enters the room and greets the parent and student. They proceed to the admissions conference room with comfortable seating for a conversation about the parent and child and their search for a school. Rather that telling them about the school, the admissions director focuses on getting to know the parent and student, as this will help direct the focus of the personalized tour.
After the conversation in the admissions office, one of the parent ambassadors arrives to go on the tour with them. From there, they begin to tour the campus. While touring the campus, several teachers and staff stop and greet the visitors. They actually knew in advance that they were coming to visit, as the admissions director had already sent the faculty and staff a message about this important tour.
While on the tour, the student and parent are greeted by several students. They stop and say things like, “This is the best school ever” and “I hope you are in my class when you come to my school.” The parent ambassador is able to give a parent perspective on the tour.
During the tour, the admissions director stops in some select classrooms. In every class a student ambassador approaches the parent and student and personally welcomes them to their class. The student reaches out their hand for a handshake, tells them their name and gives an overview of what the class is currently doing. This happens in several classes. The teacher also welcomes the parent and child to the class.
Towards the end of the tour, the admissions director stops by the Head of School’s office. Even though she was in a meeting with two board members, she steps out of her office to welcome the visiting parent and student to the campus. The head of school gives the parent a school-branded coffee mug and invites the parent to come back to attend one of the upcoming coffee meetings. The student is given a T-shirt that is cool to wear and a “free pass” to an upcoming basketball game.
At the conclusion of the tour, the parent and student sit down in the admissions director’s office to review the application process and to answer any additional questions. This meeting is used to reinforce that which had been showcased on the tour, as well as to close the deal.
Then, the admissions director walks the parent and student out of the office thanking them for visiting campus and asks the student to stand next to the welcome sign. The director takes a digital photo of the student by his name as a memory of his visit. Both parent and child is then walked out of the building and thanked for visiting campus.
Once the visitor has left campus, the admissions director sends the photo of the student by the sign via email that includes a personalized note referencing the family and their fit at the school. This email is sent immediately after the family leaves the campus so that they will receive the message while they are on their drive home. The head of school also sends a personal, handwritten note to the parent and student thanking them for visiting the school that will follow several days later.
The parent and student leave raving about the school and the way that they were treated. In comparison to the other schools in their community, this visit stands out and makes a difference in their decision.
Think about your campus visit for prospective parents and students.
What are you currently doing to make your campus visit stand out?
Are you close to the ideal or do you need to make some improvements?
Picture: Entrance lobby at Hill Country Christian School of Austin, TX.