Cycling with Counselors: Lessons from My Summer Biking Adventure

Last June, I had the opportunity to join up with the Tour D'Admission, a group of college counselors that spend a summer week cycling to college campuses in a different region/state. This year, their Pacific Northwest tour route came right by my place on Puget Sound. I started biking a few months earlier, so I joined them for the ride from the Vashon Island Ferry to the campus of University of Puget Sound. As part of their trip, They stay in campus housing, enjoy campus dining, tour campus, and meet with admissions.

When I met up with them, we battled the hills of Tacoma in chilly, wet weather together, dined on delicious chowder and sourdough at a local favorite restaurant (Duke's), and chatted about all things college admissions.

What did I learn from these counseling professionals?

  1. They, like Render Experiences, believe in campus visits that embrace authenticity and reveal the DNA of a campus.
  2. Where students will eat, sleep and live their lives matter and should be revealed early in the tour.
  3. Outcomes matter, and information sessions should have an abundance of them.
  4. Tours all sound alike, and the commonality of campuses (security, forming clubs, one-cards, etc) become boring.
  5. Customize to families' wants/needs as much as possible.

Will I join Tour D'Admission for their Summer 2019 tour? Stay tuned to find out!

Next Level Showrooms: Creating Residential Sales Centers

If you've been following Render(ings) for the past year, you know we've mentioned the increased emphasis and attention today's parents place on dining, residential life, and student services during campus visits. Specific to residence life, how do you reveal the breadth and experience of residential living on campus when you show a generic showroom? And does it have to be high-tech?

Recently, I joined some friends as they searched for a new home. A new home, like a residential college experience, is both an intimate product choice and investment.

I really liked how they had these large boards (imaged and finished on a nice solid board) revealed models; photos on one side and floor plans on the other. I watched as the salespeople used them, as did potential buyers. Putting these "in-hand" allowed a tactic sensory moment and also made it more real (vs. digital).

How can you emulate this approach on your campus?

  • A board could have one side listing all the types of halls (community, suite, apartment), who lives there (first-years or upperclassmen), a map of where it is on campus, and exterior and interior (community spaces) photos.

  • The other side could have floor plans of the building/hall as well as the floor plan of room(s) and photos of current students' rooms.

Bonus points for putting them on the walls of your showrooms to help turn the space into a true residential sales center.

Washi Tape: Not Just for Taping

Aesthetics matter. Every time we're on a campus, we take loads of photos for our clients of positive, negative, and missed cues, many of which are rooted in the aesthetics of campus.

We often think that investing in aethetics of building interiors is going to be expensive. Installing art, painting, designing and installing large graphics, wrapped windows... it's can be a daunting task (but well worth the effort).

But during our travels, we've started to see college students take aesethics into their own hands. Without big resources to make interiors more fun and festive, they are turning to a cheap option to spruce things up - washi tape.

Check out some of the examples from our travels. Can you invest in washi tape and let your students take it from there?

We need your thoughts! - {More} Steps To Being Memorable

Earlier this fall, we traveled the Northeast with an expanded version of our signature tour guide workshop, Steps To Being Memorable. We are planning on taking what we entitled {More} Steps To Being Memorable around the country, but we need your thoughts on where to go next.

Please take a moment (or the estimated 5 minutes Google told us this would take) to fill out our survey! We want to hear from you on your workshop preferences and when its best to visit your neck of the woods. Thank you in advance!

P.S. If the form above is not working, please use this link.

Uncomplicated Visitor Announcements: Butcher Paper

Can we pause to appreciate this Snickerdoodle, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, and vanilla ice cream sandwich? Drool.

Can we pause to appreciate this Snickerdoodle, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, and vanilla ice cream sandwich? Drool.

Like we always say: Everyone's favorite word is their own name. It's one of the reasons we love seeing visitors welcomed by name the day of their visit in your welcome center.

Campus visit folks welcome visitors by name in a variety of ways: monitors with a digital slideshow, dry erase boards, chalkboards, printed posters... you name it, we've seen it (and love them all equally).

But on a recent trip to The Cookie Monstah in Danvers, Massachusetts, we stumbled upon this great butcher paper installation used to display daily specials. Huh. What a great idea. It's easy to install, easy to maintain, is a fun/creative way to display names, can be used for other announcements, and more.

Butcher paper. Give it a try.

Even more in love with the branded painters tape securing the bottom to the wall.

Even more in love with the branded painters tape securing the bottom to the wall.

Client Brag: University of Richmond

Shout out to the University of Richmond for crafting this campus visit mailer promoting their rockin' dining hall.

It would have taken a lot for this severe arachnophobic to visit UR as a high school student, but... cookies > fear of spiders.

We love the mailer for its focus on the importance of food, the explanation of nickname (D-Hall), and, most importantly, the "pro tip." A big kudos to their team for pulling prospective families into the experience of eating lunch on campus and giving them the toolkit to fit in like a Spider.

Thanks to our great colleagues at UR for allowing us to share!

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Three Cheers for Chalkboards

Why do displays for your Welcome Centers have to be overly designed, stuffy, and outdated the moment you print them?

Three cheers for our clients who've chosen to install chalkboards and use them in fun, purposeful ways in their daily campus visits! They're modern, timeless, and, again, FUN.

(Also included: a few of our most recent favorite chalkboards in our experience excursions!)

Setting Expectations: Sweet as Pie

The campus visit often serves many audiences, and you're constantly trying to please everyone. We'll be the first to tell you - you can't please everyone in one campus visit. The best you can hope to do is set good expectations on your website, in the registration process, in emails, and during the visit.

While at a diner in Vermont on a family roadtrip this summer, we saw each table had the pop-up below. It's long, but it sets some real expectations about what you can expect from the diner. When we sat down, our server encouraged us to read both sides while she got our drinks.

They put their values out on display and told customers their food may take longer than initially expected. We love how they explained the why and the process as well as their take on being a diner. Also, pie. The pie was indeed delicious (as promised).

How are you setting expectations for your guests?

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Also, who doesn't love a diner table that comes with a copy of the Constitution?

Also, who doesn't love a diner table that comes with a copy of the Constitution?

Ambassador Conversation Training

We love our ambassadors, but let's admit it: sometimes they struggle making basic conversation with families. After "Where are you from?" and "What are you interested in studying?", they don't know what else to say.

At the annual conference for the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association this summer, our colleague Ashley McDermott (Louisiana State University) showed us "Chat Pack" which she uses when training ambassadors to be better conversationalists.

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In the spirit of ambassador conversation training, here are some additional games, cards, and resources other Render clients are using. (No sponsored content here; just happy to share.)

Table Topics

Big Talk

Rory's Story Cubes

Conversation Cubes

Do you have something that works well for you? Hit us up on social media or via email to share!

Lessons from Vacation: Washington D.C.

We've written in the past about how welcome centers are moving toward more static displays and the rise of sidewalk graphics for wayfinding/storytelling.

While visiting Washington, D.C. for a Spring Break trip, many examples were found of both. Check out the photos and captions below for inspiration toward a better visitor experience. 

The Newseum: floor decals at the East/West Berlin Wall exhibit. 

The Newseum: floor decals at the East/West Berlin Wall exhibit. 

The Newseum: using static displays to engage visitors in conversation. 

The Newseum: using static displays to engage visitors in conversation. 

Ford's Theatre: static display engaging visitors in conversation.

Ford's Theatre: static display engaging visitors in conversation.