For you as a college admissions officer, campus tours are a chance to showcase unique parts of campus, get your interested students excited and help them imagine their future life.
But, in order to build that powerful connection, you need to actually bring students to campus. And when you can't do that, you take the campus to them, offering customized virtual visits that will grab their attention and engage them. Doing this early on in the recruiting funnel will ensure memorable experiences that ultimately lead to enrollment.
When we talk about student-athletes, tours enable these young stars to interact with coaches and current athletes. It helps them understand what their student life is like. They can also get a chance to ask questions and get more information about the programs and opportunities to identify if the college is the right fit for them. So, including channels of communication and interaction in your virtual visits can help you attract the best student-athletes to your colleges. It also helps increase your rankings, attract more athletes down the line, and improve your sports and athletics programs.
Colleges have criteria for their students to meet, but what about the expectations students have from their prospective colleges? Campus tours are the ideal time for students to identify what school offers them the right program, support, and opportunities to grow, develop and advance.
Hence, you need to put your best foot forward and show students exactly why they should choose to continue their studies with you. Here are some considerations that student-athletes have in mind - and how you can integrate them in a live virtual tour:
The availability and level of sports and health facilities offered are important factors in the final decision. Create tour stops on the map for each location where you want to showcase relevant places to them - like courts, fitness or athletic facilities, recovery centers, places on campus to relax and unwind. Try to include more panoramic (3600) photos and aerial views, it helps capture better the facilities in full. Also, discussing the access and support the students have is very relevant to their future career opportunities.
Tip: make sure you touch on the insurance options available & medical assistance offered on campus, this is really important for student-athletes.
Student-athletes aiming to go pro prioritize this the most. Learning more about the coaches helps them get an insight into what they can expect on and off the field. What kind of talent are the sports coaches looking for, what opportunities do they offer for going pro, and what is the scope of development?
Invite coaches and faculty to participate or host your live virtual tours and make sure to include an open informational session where they can add details about their programs, opportunities students have gotten and can look forward to, talk about sports scholarships, and the academic and athletic expectations from the students.
Additionally, they may also have questions about their prospects on the team. What kind of position can they expect? What are the coaches’ expectations of the players? How much time do sports take up? How many teams can the athletes sign up for?
Tip: if you can't get coaches to host, include short filmed interviews with them in your tour, to build a better emotional connection.
The best advice and information can come from your current student-athletes. This is why prospective students would want to meet with them, learn more about the program, chances, and the kind of support the college community lends to the athletes. They can also envision what their routine would be like on campus if they join a team, how to manage studies, classes, and the team together.
Get current student-athletes to host the live virtual tour - they can show a day in their routine, taking prospective athletes through training, classes, facilities, etc. They can also cater better to answers that are specific to athletes - the balance between sports and academics, how they can maintain it and what kind of support is lent by the college.
Building a rapport can help students understand the kind of academic and extra-curricular expectations the college has for all its students, as well as what the day-to-day life will look like on campus.
Tip: add snippets of other students (not athletes) and how they come together to support the athletes, especially during game season, what kind of community they can expect to see.
Virtual tours also offer students a chance to visit the dorms, the cafeteria, and the amenities the campus offers. It helps them imagine what life would be like on campus, what arrangements they will need to make, etc.
Including powerful visual content with the residence halls and living arrangements on (and off) campus can help students plan better. Understanding the food and amenities available on campus or nearby can better prepare them for when they enroll and arrive.
Tip: include personal recommendations for activities, favorite places to hang out or have fun, or favorite dishes.
While sports are important, academics cannot be ignored. Besides classic information like faculty-to-student ratio, student-athletes look for information regarding the policies set for athletes and those on teams. What grades will they have to maintain, what academic support is lent to them, etc? If student-athletes are required to meet certain yearly standards to be able to compete, what are the measurements for academic success?
Invite your academic and career counselors to join the live virtual tour to help elaborate on academic curriculum and programs. They can also debrief the students about the career opportunities available, the role the school plays in achieving those opportunities, etc.
Tip: go into details on your available services (like mentoring, tutoring, academic advising) it is important for students to know they have the full support of the school.
Questions that often come up are regarding financial assistance programs. Are there any options for sports scholarships? What is the amount the students can expect to get as scholarships? What are the criteria for receiving the scholarships and how can they apply for them?
Financial assistance and scholarship program details can help students apply for monetary assistance and understand their eligibility for the scholarship. For athletes, it is also important to highlight what happens in cases of injuries where students can no longer play on the teams - do the scholarships stay valid? If not, what is the process and what other options can they turn to?
Tip: offer access to as many resources as possible - use the Chat feature to share links where students can apply for financial aid or read more about specific need-based aid.
In conclusion, a live virtual tour can be extremely beneficial for colleges looking to connect with student-athletes. They're more cost-effective than in-person tours and can be a method of shortlisting candidates to whom you wish to offer organized tours. It helps you save time and effort by focusing your efforts on serious and committed candidates. And it helps prospective student-athletes learn more about your school and feel connected to your campus before physically arriving on site.