college admissions

Authenticity & Airport Seating

Render's Jeff Kallay recently visited our client Monmouth College (IL). While flying out of the Quad Cities/Moline, IL airport, he noticed this new seating option.

John Deere is headquartered in Moline, and he loved how the airport embraced the authenticity of their area and celebrated Moline's largest employer.

We love the #DeereSighting hashtag.

We love the #DeereSighting hashtag.

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In your visitor center, instead of the usual furniture, what if you brought in seating that emulated your sports arena, library, chapel, or other popular campus spots?

Client Brag: The University of Pennsylvania

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Our client, the University of Pennsylvania, has been hard at work the past few years making many changes to their campus visit experience.

We've long been champions of people (not programs) and stories (not stats). Proud that Penn is adopting the same philosophy!

Read the article from The Daily Pennsylvanian detailing all the changes their admissions offices and the Kite and Key Ambassadors have implemented!

Kudos, Penn!

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

FCNY18 & The Campus Visit: DryBar

Alli Webb and Brittney Joyce: FCNY16

Alli Webb and Brittney Joyce: FCNY16

Render followers know we're fans of the Fast Company Innovation Festival. This past October, Render's Brittney Joyce and Dani Napier spent a week in NYC traversing the city to pick up lessons from the world's most innovative brands.

We often use DryBar as an example of the evolution of The Experience Economy: getting people to pay for something they didn’t know they needed AND being able to charge a premium price for that product/service.

What has Co-Founder Alli Webb learned among the way? Here are a couple lessons we thought were useful for you & the campus visit:

Brittney Joyce: Mid-blowout with hair that was 90% dry shampoo.

Brittney Joyce: Mid-blowout with hair that was 90% dry shampoo.

  1. There are a lot of copycat studios that have cropped up over the years offering blowouts. Alli said she used to be obsessed about what those studios were doing and how much they emulated the experience staged at DryBar. After a while, she stopped caring. She realized that although they offer a similar service, they’ll never be able to fully understand the thought and intentionality within the DryBar experience (ie: how they hang mirrors on the walls directly behind chairs for a customer’s turnaround reveal).

  2. The people of DryBar are everything to their experience, and hiring the right person is critical. How does Alli ensure the people they hire are the right people? She does a “cultural interview” where managers just hang out with candidates for a while and talk. If the candidate seems friendly and cool, then they get to blowout someone’s hair.

What does this mean for the visit?

  1. Stop being obsessed with the school down the road or your major competitor. We often share best practices with our clients, but no one approach to the campus visit is right for all institutions. You have to be true to your culture and design a visit that authentically reveals your campus DNA.

  2. Usually campus visit coordinators or staff members hire students, and we often find that staff members hire students who share their own personality traits (aka, we hire people just like us). Involve as many people in the hiring process to ensure you’re getting the right person for the job, and think about ways to include more rounds in a selection process other than an interview.

TL;DR: Just be you and think psychographics (not demographics) when hiring or selecting tour guides.

DryBar Co-Founder Alli Webb dishing all things authenticity.

DryBar Co-Founder Alli Webb dishing all things authenticity.


Client Brag: University of Puget Sound

We love brands with a little sense of humor. This handout at the University of Puget Sound proves you can still look polished while having fun.

These drink tickets for accepted students allow for a coffee break at some point during their customized visit. Since admitted students will be bouncing between faculty, class visits, coaches, tours, and admissions, a caffeine break (at one of their three delicious PNW coffee shops on campus) is a must.

Thanks to our creative colleagues at the University of Puget Sound for allowing us to share!

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Revealing Safety via Vending Machines

Today's propspective parents and students are obsessed with safety. On a recent trip through Concourse A at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, we spotted this CVS vending machine. At a time when everyone is freaked out that they won't have access to healthcare items when needed, should you ponder putting a similar vending machine on campus?

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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?

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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