CIVSA

90s Feelings & Campus Visit Ponderings: CIVSA 2019

Noteworthy: Doc Martens & pain medicine buffet

Noteworthy: Doc Martens & pain medicine buffet

If you lived through the 90s, you may be wondering where you can still get away with listening to Smashing Pumpkins while also rocking a No Fear tee shirt and Doc Martens?

Enter Portland.

CIVSA (the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association) held their annual conference in Portland, OR last week, and we're still processing all the good conversations, brilliant colleagues and fun times. A big shout out to CIVSA, the Executive Board, the Conference Committee and our colleagues - we've been honored to sponsor the CIVSA Annual Conference since 2008, and we thank them for their partnership and support.

Don’t you love this backdrop? So PNW!

Don’t you love this backdrop? So PNW!

During our sponsor presentation, we gave three rants/trends we’ve seen over the past year on the road.

Break the Ice. Generation X parents and Generation Z students have little desire to interact with anyone during the campus visit. You MUST break the ice to get people talking. During introductions, ask students to introduce who they’ve brought with them so parents feel included. Pack your lobby with staff and ambassadors ahead of the start of the visit to mingle. Don’t just ask families “Do you have any questions?” but really talk to them - what shows are they watching, are they sticking around to eat in the area, any vacations coming up? If you show some interest in them as people, it’ll help start the visit out on a sociable tone.

The Best Offense is Data. If you’re pondering cutting Saturday visits, go to your data. If you’re being asked to add 5 more open houses in the fall, does your data support that idea? Registration numbers may look good, but no-show rates, conversion, and yield can be your best offense when looking at how to best distribute your resources. Spending time and money on visits that aren’t positively impacting your goals is a waste (and burns your on-campus partners who often participate). Use. Your. Data.

Super Star Ambassadors Aren’t Always. We love having overly involved current students become ambassadors. The notion is they have tons of experiences to share with families because they’re doing so much on campus. But are they? Super involved students usually are 1. pressed for time (because they’re overly committed and just getting the tour done), 2. aren’t thoughtful about providing a meaningful, conversational tour (see #1), and 3. have in-depth experiences in their area of interests but not generally. If we had a nickel for every SGA President that doesn’t have time to go see an on-campus play or do an internship off-campus or attend a basketball game… The next time you’re in ambassador selection, consider the student who has more time to give you and campus and is really into meeting families.

We also took questions via text from the audience. Here are some of the questions and brief responses:

”What’s is the most common mistake you see ambassadors make?
Walking backwards and reciting a tour script word for word.

“What are guests least likely to forgive?”
Bad wayfinding on their arrival to campus, a lack of available parking, and the absence of “fun” (i.e. college is a fun experience, why shouldn’t the visit also be?)

“How do you get RSVPs to attend events? We have so many no-shows!”
Lots of communication ahead of time. We also never give guests an easy out like “Can’t attend this event? No worries. Let us help you reschedule by emailing this person.”

“How do you get ambassadors to remember this is a JOB (ours are paid)?”
By having clear expectations and accountability. Nothing gets the attention of paid ambassadors more than putting them on performance evaluation plan (if they’ve violated expectations) and/or firing someone.

“Have you ever worked with a Canadian university?”
We haven’t, but we have passports and love all things maple!

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Wrapping up, we invited our clients attending CIVSA to Wake Up with Render! We hosted three client breakfasts during CIVSA and loved the conversation we had at each surrounding the campus visit. We asked our clients to compare this past year of their life, their campus, their visit, or higher education in general to a 90s song. For your listening pleasure, we’ve compiled the songs into a Spotify playlist! Lots of feelings in this playlist.

Will we see you next year for CIVSA in Orlando, FL? Or at the CIVSA Student Development Institute in Albuquerque, NM?

Waking Up with Render! Not pictured: Nutella waffles that were consumed by the pound.

Waking Up with Render! Not pictured: Nutella waffles that were consumed by the pound.

Reflecting on CIVSA 2018!

Another year of learning and hugs... and this time we had cheese curds!

CIVSA (the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association) held their annual conference in Milwaukee earlier this month, and we're still processing all the good conversations, brilliant colleagues and fun times. A big shout out to CIVSA, the Executive Board, the Conference Committee and our colleagues - we've been honored to sponsor the CIVSA Annual Conference since 2008, and we thank them for their partnership and support.

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We asked our clients at our annual client shindig, Hooch and Hors d'oeuvers, about the biggest issues facing the campus visit today. Based on what we heard and discussions, here are our big three takeaways from CIVSA this year.

Visit programs are stretched thin. Middle and elementary school groups are eating up a lot of valuable energy and resources in visit programs. We understand that children who connect with a brand in their youth have a higher affinity for brand loyalty...but a one hour campus tour isn't going to develop that level of emotional engagement. It's time for other offices on campus to start hosting those groups to allow admissions to focus on who they need to recruit - high school and transfer students. Or ponder - is a tour really right for these groups? How about a student panel with guides for 30 minutes, lunch on campus, and a science demonstration? Get creative to free up for your visit program for your higher priority students.

More isn't better; better is better. We get it. Some VPs, Deans, and Directors think more people and more events equate to success. When in reality, the data often shows that huge open house events aren't converting students. At the other end of the spectrum, an event with 5 students and their guests can be a waste of resources, time, and energy. If you need to go back to the basics to reset your events, do it. One open house in the fall, one in the spring, and accepted student programming as needed.

Faculty, faculty, faculty. What do we do with them? What's the right level of engagement? How do we get them involved? That's a question for your faculty. Every campus is different. Sometimes, the classroom visit can be really successful (if executed as active engagement, rather than passive). At some campuses the dining hall is the central gathering place on campus, making it a perfect meeting spot for faculty and visitors to interact. General presentations at the conclusion of the tour can be given by faculty. 1:1 meetings with faculty for seniors, applicants, and admitted students only. There are limitless options. But you have to do what's authentic for you and your culture. Start by asking them.

Hope to see you next year for H&H at CIVSA 2019 in Portland, Oregon!

Hope to see you next year for H&H at CIVSA 2019 in Portland, Oregon!

Want to chat with us more about these? Shoot us an email, find us on social media, or track us down at our next conference.

PS. Congratulations to our colleagues from several client campuses who were honored as recipients of CIVSA annual awards at the Greased Lighting closing dinner at Harley Davidson!

Nick Kovalakides Outstanding Member Award

Lindsey Darling, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Individual Acheivement Award

Barbara Loftus, Rutgers, The State College of New Jersey

Foot Award

Ashley McDermott, Louisiana State University

3 on Thursday: Wrapping up CIVSA!

We learned. We hugged. We cheesesteaked!

CIVSA (the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association) held their annual conference in Philadelphia last week, and we're still reeling from all the good conversations, brilliant colleagues and fun times. A big shout out to CIVSA, the Executive Board, the Conference Committee and our colleagues - we've been honored to sponsor the CIVSA Annual Conference since 2008, and we thank them for their partnership and support.

Whether you were there or missed out, we're ready to break down our three big takeaways from the conference for you.

  • Campus Visit Growth. There has been tremendous growth and momentum to the campus visit industry. CIVSA has grown to over 1000 members and had approximately 600 campus visit professionals in attendance at the annual conference this year. The campus visit has steadily been gaining the recognition it deserves and is now seen as one of (if not THE) the most importance pieces of the recruitment and enrollment of best-fit students. What does this mean for the industry? More and more of our clients are hiring dedicated campus visit professionals. No application reading, no traveling. Just all campus visit, all the time.
  • Prior-Prior = Chaos-Chaos The introduction of Prior-Prior financial aid packaging is hitting the campus visit hard. We're seeing an increase of students visiting 4 - 5 times, especially if they committed back in the fall. By the spring, they're already looking for orientation-esuqe programs. What does this mean for you? You may need to think about adding early orientation programs, moving up your accepted student programming earlier in the year and/or adding a spring program for students that deposited in the fall.
  • Ambassador Struggles are Real. Conversations, how to handle difficult parent questions, what to wear, how to behave... you name it, they're struggling. If you're still training your tour guides now like you did 5 years ago, it's time to change. Think beyond customer service training. Improv training, networking hours, and even demonstrations on how to shake someone's hand properly may go a long way with this generation.

Want to chat with us more about these? Shoot us an email, find us on social media or track us down at our next conference.

PS. Pardon our french, but our colleagues are kind of badasses in the campus visit world. Congratulations to our colleagues from several client campuses who were honored as recipients of CIVSA annual awards at the Roaring '20s closing dinner (hence the outfits)!

Olivia McGuckin, Randolph-Macon College, Inaugural Individual Achievement Award  

Olivia McGuckin, Randolph-Macon College, Inaugural Individual Achievement Award  

Wes Sullivan, California Lutheran University,       Nick Kovalakides Outstanding Service Award

Wes Sullivan, California Lutheran University,       Nick Kovalakides Outstanding Service Award

Terri Franks, University of Georgia Footprint Award

Terri Franks, University of Georgia
Footprint Award

Philadelphia Shoop, Flagler College,          Footprint Award

Philadelphia Shoop, Flagler College,          Footprint Award

3 on Thursday: What We Learned from CIVSA SDI

2017 marks our fourth year presenting at the Collegiate Information Visitor Services Association's Student Development Institute (CIVSA SDI)! We've been honored to meet hundreds of the best and brightest college student tour guides, ambassadors and professional staff over the years, and this year's SDI hosted at Arizona State University was no exception.

What did we learn? Here are our 3 things!

Higher education is a top career choice

15 years ago, a graduating senior would fall into admissions and recruit for a couple of years while they worked through graduate school or were looking for a "real job." In 2017, we, more than ever, are hearing from tour guides that are putting admissions as their top career choice. They have aspirations of being VPs of Enrollment Management, consultants, inventors of technology to aid the campus visit and more.

So how can we all mentor, nurture and educate them to the processes and resources? Students now view themselves as (para) professionals in their roles as tour guides and ambassadors and want professional development. Attending CIVSA SDI is a start, but how are we involving them in the decision-making process? Where is their voice?

Their desire for a more active leadership role within your area leads us to the second thing we learned: For many of today’s students, their involvement as a tour guide is not just for love of school but for career experience.

We are noticing many ambassadors are behaving more strategically in their thinking about the campus visit. They understand the soft skills they gain and value in being a guide: problem-solving, public relations, the ability to anticipate, active listening, we could go on and on. We suspect this is why many students filled the front rows of our breakout session assigned for the professional staff/advisors: “Hello from the Outside: Lessons from Outside Higher Education” This session talked about how you should look at banks, hotels, and other experiences to improve your campus visit.

Why is this all happening?

A recent editorial “The Last American Teen" about Homeland/GenZ in a special “Brand Story Telling Guide” of Adweek Magazine ponders:

"What we’re looking at is an entire generation coming of age during a period of cultural crashing, where the economic and social fabric of America seems to be fraying and tearing.

Being a classic teen requires safety and space for carefree self-exploration, and Gen Z is not registering the world as that kind of place right now.

It’s more important now to sprint to the apparent safety of at least the trappings of adulthood. 60 percent of the generation thinks that you have to start “making it” while you’re still in your teens, with many looking to get on their grind while still tweens.”

If students are more focused on how big brands are staging experiences, then we think you should (as well) look outside of higher education.

Don’t look to the school up the road for best practices; look at world class and profound experience stagers. (more thoughts on this topic can be found here)

Much of our discussion at the conference happened at and centered around the host hotel, Moxy. Moxy is a new concept by Marriott focused on making millennial travelers more at home. Call it hip, sexy or cool, it is a well thought-out experience. You don't check-in at a boring lobby desk; you check-in at the bar. Stressed out at the end of your day? No worries. There's an acoustic guitar hanging on your wall so you can let it all out. Don't want to feel so isolated while you're traveling alone? Every open space had communal seating to invite community-style conversation and activity. The Moxy gives its guest the tools to create their own stories memories and experiences.

As our client, Olivia McGurken (Randolph-Macon College) said about the Moxy, "I felt like Alice in Wonderland at the Moxy…. Everything I touched either led me to interact or do something else than I’d originally intended, or I was more curious at the end of my investigation than in the beginning…. I was left wondering and set up to keep looking for surprises during my stay.”

What can you learn from the Moxy to inspire your campus visit? (Hint: do you really need that big check-in desk?)

What did you learn at CIVSA SDI? Find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and email to keep the convo going.