Schools across the country are rethinking their virtual admissions programs and virtual tours as our country continues to face a growing threat from COVID-19 this winter. If you had reduced numbers of visitors on your campus earlier in the fall, perhaps you are now moving online to showcase your school. And if you’ve been virtual since last March for admissions, you probably need a fresh look at your campus for your remote visitors.
Nothing can replace the magic of an in-person tour with the right chemistry of a student tour guide and prospective families. But there are several things you can do virtually that allow your campus and community to shine during the critical fall admissions season.
Create a “Favorite Spaces” tour to complement your standard virtual tour.
Today is all about authenticity. If your students and faculty are still allowed on your campus, ask them to take hand-held smartphone video of their favorite spots on campus. Keep them short and personal and be sure that they record themselves as well in the space and not just narrate it with a voice-over. It’s important that prospective students see as many current students as possible, so they can get a feeling of your school’s community. Topics that narrators can address might be:
- Why they love the school.
- How they feel when they are there.
- What they’ve accomplished in that space.
- Favorite school traditions that happen there.
Think chemistry teachers talking about labs and a diehard drama student giving a virtual tour of the theater. Their passion will be contagious.
Edit these together and post it on your website and social media channels. Viewers will get the feeling that they are being let into a “secret” look at the campus – and they are. The results will be very authentic.
But what if your campus is now completely remote? You can still do this by asking people to film themselves talking about their favorite space. Edit these videos with still photos of the space. Add “lower-thirds” titles (the part in documentary filming where the person’s name and title appear near the bottom of the screen when they are talking).
Gather “found” footage.
Reach out to the senior class and ask them to send you footage from their phones (trust me, they have a ton!) of them having fun at school last year and even this year, if they were able to be on campus for hybrid learning. It can be silly or serious. Explain that you are making a video to share with prospective families and be clear about what kind of footage you want.
Edit these into a short montage of clips. This “Senior Perspective” video may not hit actual spaces on campus, but it will show in a very real way the connections your community has with each other. Be sure to show a variety of student interests (arts, STEM, athletics, service, etc.) and consider asking a student leader to record an intro video for it, something like, “We wish we could welcome you to campus and you could see in person the kind of spirit our school has. We asked our seniors to dig into their phones and share videos that capture what they love most about being a [YOUR SCHOOL] student.”
It is important to explain that your video uses pre-pandemic footage, but that this is the kind of pre-COVID-19 school spirit community that continues at your school now.
Why use student-created video? What is the one thing that every student touring your campus wonders? It’s not how many APs you offer. They look around at the current students and imagine being friends with them. Since many schools right now can’t provide this essential piece in-person to prospective students, you can showcase it with genuine student footage. (And you have a great school spirit video to share with your seniors.)
Update Your Old-School PowerPoint Tour.
No shame if your virtual tour is a scroll of campus photos. It’s low-tech and gets the job done. But you can add audio to this tour by narrating the PowerPoint and hosting it on your website. Consider asking various members of your community to send narrations for different buildings. Email the photo(s) you want them to narrate and give them a format to follow, such as:
“Hi, I’m [NAME] and this is our [NAME OF PLACE.]” Then ask them for a short explanation about what happens in that building.
Leave out the facts about when it was built, etc. It’s too much to focus on, and students don’t really care about a new state-of-the-art building. You want your viewers to experience the deep feelings your community has when they are there. Make sure to include titles on your slides that provide the name of the buildings.
Consider a Mobile Tour.
Tours created on a mobile device for mobile devices are another great way to show off your campus. Through their mobile devices, visitors can safely explore at their leisure and still receive important information about what goes on inside your building, even if they can’t go in the door.
There are a variety of virtual tour apps for iOS and Android (Kuula, Concept3D, LiveTour, Animoto, Fusion) that offer the ability to create “Mobile 360 Virtual Tours” on a mobile device; some work well on desktop. Using text, audio and images of buildings, families can select the area of campus they are in to receive the additional information that normally would have been provided to them on a regular tour.
If your campus grounds are open to visitors, but people are not allowed in buildings, make a QR code for the mobile tour, print it on a flyer and post it on the doors to invite visitors to scan to learn more.
Finding ways to “get” people to campus when they can’t come to your campus in person is challenging. But the effort you make to be as virtually inviting as possible will be appreciated by families at a time when every connection matters more than ever.
Get an expert’s take on what makes your video sing for your virtual admissions program. Read our interview with Merritt Trigg, Director for Strategy and Development for Hackstone, a Baltimore-based production company.
Need more ideas for your virtual admissions program? Download Kalix’s e-book Creating an Effective, Engaging Virtual Admissions Program.