someone on their laptop with a virtual campus tour on their screen

Utilizing Virtual Campus Tours in Student Recruitment

5 min read

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Thaís Roberto
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Since the disruption the COVID-19 pandemic, more universities have invested in complete virtual tours of their campus.

Currently, thousands of institutions host fully digital 360° tours of their campuses through platforms like CampusTours and YouVisit. 

These immersive digital experiences have proven to be a game-changer in student recruitment and engagement, especially in attracting international students who cannot visit universities in person. 

We take a look at how universities can utilize virtual campus tours. 

Global Reach

One of the best advantages of virtual campus tours is their ability to transcend geographical boundaries. With a fully online tour, prospective students from different countries can explore universities they’re interested in without needing expensive and time-consuming overseas travel. 

As a result, universities can recruit from a diversified pool of applicants who might not have considered the school otherwise. Students from different cultural and financial backgrounds can now access the same level of information before applying, offering them confidence in their choice while fostering inclusivity and creating a more diverse campus.

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Cost-Effective Marketing Tool

Traditional marketing efforts often require resources such as funds for travel, printed materials, and in-person event organization. Virtual campus tours can reduce these costs significantly while offering a more immersive and interactive experience for a wider audience. 

Instead of investing exclusively in traditional methods, universities can redirect their budgets toward enhancing virtual tour quality, improving website infrastructure, and developing engaging video content. Thanks to its easy distribution, this cost-effective approach benefits both the university and the students.

Enhanced Personalization

Virtual tours can be tailored to provide personalized experiences to prospective students. By integrating artificial intelligence and data analytics, universities can gather information about the interests and preferences of visitors during their virtual tours and utilize this data to customize the content and highlight aspects of the campus that resonate with each visitor. 

Department-specific sessions can be even more beneficial for students who already have their mind set on a degree. Live webinars and Q&A sessions with faculty and department heads allow students to ask specific questions about courses and research opportunities. 

Likewise, students might be more interested in department-focused campus tours: a student interested in engineering can be guided to explore labs and facilities, while someone interested in the arts can focus on studios and performance spaces. 

24/7 Availability

Unlike physical tours that are limited to specific dates and times, virtual campus tours can be available 24/7. This feature is particularly beneficial for international students who might be in different time zones or have busy schedules. 

Live webinars and information sessions are an excellent resource for engaging with students on a more personal level, but not every student will be able to attend at the time of the event. To overcome this barrier, universities can record every session and make them available for registered students to watch later.

With this option, prospective students and their families can explore the campus at their convenience, allowing for a more relaxed and thorough exploration. This availability ensures that universities are consistently showcasing their offerings, making it easier for students to gather information and make informed decisions.

 

Read more: 

Harnessing the power of student reviews - a key strategy in student marketing

 

Don’t forget about accessibility

Virtual tours must be accessible to every student, accommodating every student’s needs. Enabling closed captions and providing interpreters for every piece of live or recorded video content will ensure that students with hearing disabilities or language barriers can successfully engage with the content.

All visual presentations with text must keep in mind the appropriate font sizes and contrast levels to ensure the content is legible by everyone. It’s also imperative to add detailed descriptions to every image and video.

The tour of the campus itself should demonstrate how accessible the space is for individuals with any mobility, sight, or hearing disability. Finally, the university should ensure full accessibility in the classroom, describing what type of flexibility is available for disabled students and what kind of assistance is available through student services.

Showing what students want to see

Although campus tours are a marketing tool, they need to be crafted based on the students’ needs and not the institutions’. These virtual tours often lean too much into the institutional advertisement, showing the campus’s best and newest buildings and impressive research facilities, and forget to address prospective students’ needs.

Including student ambassadors in the virtual programming and allowing them to welcome and interact with the visitors will create a more genuine bond with the participants. When visiting a new university - online or in person - prospective students want to know what kind of community they will be joining, and there is no one better than a current student with genuine enthusiasm to make them feel at ease.

Additionally, while virtual tours can still provide an in-depth look into the campus, they limit the student’s ability to explore the university’s surroundings and get to know the city beyond the campus. If a student is considering moving to a different country, they will want to know what is easily accessible off-campus: Are there grocery stores nearby? A pharmacy? What kind of entertainment and nightlife is available?

Using surveys before and after virtual tours to ask students what kind of information they’d like to see or what they consider the positive and negative aspects of a tour they attended is an excellent way of knowing what to include in a virtual campus tour, making sure it will live up to prospective students’ needs and expectations.

By embracing virtual tours, universities can amplify their reach and engage with a diverse applicant pool, providing an immersive and personalized experience that will help international students feel empowered in their decisions and create a connection with the institution early in the process.

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