Putting "X" in Visitor Experience: Texas Wesleyan University

We love a good photo opp. And we love traveling in Texas. Everything is bigger - including opportunities for guest interaction. 

On a recent visit to our client Texas Wesleyan University, our campus tour led us to one of the most instagrammable moments of our 2018 travels. 

With a goal to have students use "TxWes" more, this installation helps build school spirit and support their marketing campaign. Brilliant, memorable, and fun. 
 

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Confirmations with Pizzazz, Please!

Recently, a friend of Render's had an unexpected surprise hit her inbox after a little online shopping.

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How festive is this confirmation email?And once Celesta's package shipped... 

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If Native can make buying and shipping deodorant this fun, how can you rewrite your campus visit confirmation emails to be more inviting and celebratory? Your visitors are taking the time to invest and visualize themselves as part of your community. Let's have some fun with our emails in an authentic, genuine way that reflects how grateful we are to see them on campus. 

Lobby Conversation Starters

Ever sat in the lobby of a doctor's office? Us too. It's quiet, uncomfortable, and the only noise you typically hear is the shuffling of magazines and papers.

Breaking this quiet is tough. Music, good furniture, ambassadors and staff floating in the lobby, and good hospitality can all help. But getting families to converse with each other/breaking the ice is the toughest part.

Recently, we were at a restaurant where conversation starters were stamped right into the table. They were provocative, funny, and definitely broke the ice.

What can you do to help start conversations between families?

 Yes, I'll have a side of feelings with my burger. 

Yes, I'll have a side of feelings with my burger. 

The Student Experience: Birthdays

Our name is Render Experiences, which means we spend time pondering the overall student experience beyond the campus tour into their time as a student and beyond.

College campuses celebrate student birthdays in a variety of ways (and if you don't, you should be). Recently while traveling through Asheville, NC, we saw the display below at their airport. If you are traveling on your birthday and bring your ID to Guest Services, you can pick a gift from the airport! How fun!

We know Admissions can't control everything (nor do you have the budget for everything), but could something like this be a collaboration between Admissions & another office on campus?

PS: I definitely would have picked the koozie. You?

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Disrupt Your Campus Visit Experience

Who is visiting campus? What do they want from the campus visit? 

The answers to these questions have changed in recent years, and we have found that too many institutions are not adjusting their visit to correspond with those changes. In the latest issue of OctaneenrollmentFUEL's quarterly magazine, Jeff Kallay responds and offers up a solution to those struggling to keep the attention of visiting families. Disrupt Your Campus Visit Experience makes the case for flexible tours and relevant content tailored to the GenX parent and Gen Z student now in the college search process. 

The article provides the basics of what families are asking while on campus and includes three best practice examples from our clients that have "disrupted" their campus visit to better suit prospective families.  

Is your campus visit relevant to today's audience?

A Response to Colorado State Incident & Best Practices

We always tell our clients: you can only control what you can control. You can't control the weather, the argument families had in the car on the way to campus, the inappropriate shoes they chose for a walking tour (heels, what?), or, unfortunately, your guests' attitudes.

Recently, at Colorado State University, a woman called Campus Police to investigate two prospective students after they arrived late to the in-progress campus tour. The woman believed the teens were acting suspiciously. Turns out, the two young men are naturally introverted and quiet (shocker). Unfortunately, they both are young men of color. After a confrontation with campus safety officers and the two students missing the tour, national attention focused on the campus visit experience and safety of prospective students on tour. Colorado State reinforced its commitment to inclusivity and diversity in an institutional response.

Let's pause for a sigh.

We've been telling our clients for a couple of years that families are obsessed with safety. The most frequently asked question we hear on tour (no matter where we are) is "How safe is campus?" In a world where Americans have been aptly trained on "See Something, Say Something," we've given a lot of leeway for how we each define safety to be projected on any situation.

There are much larger issues wrapped up in this incident that we must solve (much larger than the scope of Render's expertise). But, much like our clients, what we can control is helping you better prepare. Below are best practices from our clients in identifying visitors on tour and handling late arrivals.

 George Washington University uses different colored stickers (dependent on where they are at in the admission process) to identify visitors while on tour.

George Washington University uses different colored stickers (dependent on where they are at in the admission process) to identify visitors while on tour.

Buttons, stickers, lanyards, namebadges.

Often, identifying visitors is as easy as giving them something to wear. It helps your tour guide identify who is supposed to be on tour, invites your campus community to say hello to visitors and allow them to tour spaces not shown on the tour, and serves as memorabilia for guests.

 The University of Iowa provides every prospective student with a VIP badge to wear during tour. The back has a list of local restaurants in Iowa City.

The University of Iowa provides every prospective student with a VIP badge to wear during tour. The back has a list of local restaurants in Iowa City.

Having student volunteers serve as "walkers."

Several of our clients have their tour guides or another student volunteer serve as greeters or "walkers." In the instance of a guest arriving late to the tour, a greeter or walker brings that guest to the tour group. Your walker can introduce the guests to the group. Don't simply show your late arrivals the tour route on a campus map and expect them to find the group on its own.

Build in a quick information session.

Perhaps you're not a fan of information sessions, but they do serve a couple of great purposes in the visit: they often provide visitors the basic facts they need to experience campus, but they also give you a buffer for late arrivals. Information sessions don't have to be an hour long. Even 5 - 10 minutes can be enough to give families a cushion. It's much easier to fill in what a family missed during an information session than what they missed on a tour.

 Syracuse University provides stickers of Otto the Orange to all visitors on tour.

Syracuse University provides stickers of Otto the Orange to all visitors on tour.

Invest in walkie-talkies.

Or any kind of device that allows tour guides to receive updates while out on tour. In the instance of a family arriving late, your front desk can let you know a family is headed out to the guide (delivered by a walker, of course). This leaves the guessing out of where your guide might be on the tour route, allows them to pause, and greet the late arrival. Bonus: your guide can radio back to home base when a stat question arises, and be kept alert in case of emergencies.

These are just a few. We could go into a long rant about inviting campus safety officers to tour guide training to educate both parties on how to handle emergency situations, setting expectations with families about the values of your community... there's lots to unpack here.

 Northeastern University offers a swanky ID badge and lanyard which reads "Admissions Visitor."

Northeastern University offers a swanky ID badge and lanyard which reads "Admissions Visitor."

Questions? Concerns? Quandries? We're here to discuss.

Something for Everyone

There are many reasons why we all love our monthly delivery subscriptions. Its fun; and excitement is built for several days before delivery because you never know what's coming. One of the Joyce family favorites is BarkBox. With two dogs and 1,000 square feet in New England, we utilize all the animal entertainment options possible.

One of the things we love about Barkbox is that there are just as many options for humans to enjoy the experience as there are for your animals.

We pondered - what does this mean for your communication plan? Most of our clients heavily utilize email - one plan for reaching students, one for parents. But, in a world of monthly delivery services, should you consider a family-inclusive monthly delivery to their home?

 Fun for children, funny for adults, tasty for dogs.

Fun for children, funny for adults, tasty for dogs.

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Save the (Training/Event) Date

Every great campus visit person understands that, even though you're in the thick of day-to-day logistics and operations, you always have to work six months in advance. Visitors want your calendars open online, which means scheduling tour guides, asking faculty and staff for help, and blocking off major event and university dates months in advance.

One of the biggest conundrums facing campus visit folks is the all-important task of informing tour guides about upcoming major event dates and training retreats. How many times have you heard "Well, I can't do that date because I already have this thing...?" To get tour guides when you need them, you must be first to get on their calendar.

Campus Visit Rock Star and our colleague at Lander University, Amanda Platt (Associate Director of Admission), took a tip from modern life and current culture. When our friends and family need us at important life events, do they give us a couple weeks notice? Of course not. We get... save. the. dates!

Amanda creates a series of magnets to help ensure Lander Ambassadors are where they need to be (and most importantly, when Amanda needs them most). Magnets are inexpensive, fun, stand out among the paper/flyers/postcards college students typically receive from organizations, and can be designed quickly and easily.

What are you doing to get on calendars 6 months out?

 Hello Lander Ambassadors! 

Hello Lander Ambassadors! 

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Client Brag: Birmingham-Southern College

Recently, at the start of their spring break, we passed through Birmingham-Southern College's campus.

At the gate of campus, their awesome Campus Police officers (or "CamPo" as they are known at BSC) set up an "auto check" station for students who were beginning drives to their spring break destinations. Students could get their air tire pressure, fluids, and more checked by the very helpful officers.

In a world where parents are looking for institutions that keep students in mind and staff will have their children's backs, this is a hit! Kudos to BSC for making this happen!

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Yield Season's Greetings

Spring may be just around the corner, but we know it's far from break time for you.

Render wisdom holds that if you aren't thinking seriously about yield in September, you'll have a big problem on your hands come May 1.

That being said, we know the heat ratchets up this time of year (hey, we've been there).

To help get you through, here are Render's "3 Things" to keep in mind during yield season:

  1. Every action and interaction matters because it says something about your brand. Be intentional; the devil is in the details.

  2. The basics never go out of style. It should go without saying, but we'll say it anyway: Shake hands firmly. Make eye contact. Smile. Return phone calls and emails consistently and more quickly than expected. This stuff is so important.

  3. Be the trusted advisor. For many students, the stress of which school to commit to can be worse than wondering if they will be admitted in the first place. Find ways to put their minds at ease and they may just open up and share what's really at the heart of their decision.

Finally, don't forget to remind everyone that things are going to be okay. After all, there's always Spring Break...

Sending positive vibes and warm "Yield Season's Greetings" to you and yours!

The Render Experiences Team

[Render recommends grabbing your caffeinated beverage of choice (plus snacks of course) and gathering with your staff to discuss. We hope these points will spark conversation about how you'll yield best-fit students—both this season and all year long.]