Building your admissions funnel has always been hard. After COVID, it got even worse. Check out our conversation with Collin Palmer to see how The University of Toledo is making a college tour comeback!
Is it okay to say it out loud?
For most higher education institutions, post-COVID college tours stink. 😕
Health protocols simply make it difficult to have an engaging, interactive experience with prospective students as they visit your campus.
That, and students are simply tired of being on Zoom calls.
I think everyone is.
That’s why it was so exciting to hear what the enrollment team is doing at The University of Toledo.
My co-host, Troy Singer, and I had a great conversation with Collin Palmer, Director of Undergraduate Admission, on The Higher Ed Marketer podcast about getting creative during this unique post-COVID time.
I wanted to post the highlights of our conversation here on the blog for you, but don’t miss out on the episode!
In the conversation, we get into some of the details around using data to drive marketing decisions and more.
But for this post, let’s talk about dog tours and TikTok sessions. 🙂
Recognizing the Reality on the Ground
COVID has hit higher education recruiting hard.
People have spent so much time on Zoom calls that colleges and universities are having to get far more creative than just hosting a Zoom webinar in place of a college tour.Click to tweet
Pair that with the reduced travel for recruitment, ACT and SAT cancellations, and hesitancy to travel to institutions, it’s made building that admissions funnel incredibly difficult.
For institutions like The University of Toledo, these restrictions have caused lots of enrollment-related challenges.
These are challenges we all can relate to, but Collin revealed a key challenge that I feel most institutions don’t want to face – and it has nothing to do with COVID.
The University of Toledo is a regional institution with national recognition, but a lot of our students come from Ohio and Michigan. Many of these students think they know what they need to know about the institution. I think many of us in higher education run into that same problem with students in our own backyard. And so we’ve thought about, how do we prove [to them] otherwise, while also empowering them and teaching them about the institution?
Prospective students in their own region think they know everything there is to know about the school.
So they don’t even give The University of Toledo a chance as they consider their college choices.
This is a problem that most colleges and universities have but are often unwilling to face head on.
Collin’s team thought hard about this problem.
“How do we make it different? How do we keep them engaged? How do we pique their interest?”
That’s when a great idea was born.
The enrollment marketing team at The University of Toledo began thinking through what was important to students in their own backyard of Ohio and Michigan.
They realized that many young students would try to catch the perfect lighting for their Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok videos.
As a general rule, the best time to get the right natural lighting for photos is in the morning or the evening.
So, Collin’s team kicked off three “Twilight Tours” where they would invite students to visit the campus from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. We’re really going behind the scenes.
Rather than a typical admissions presentation and a campus tour led by one of our current students, we decided to actually meet and begin the program at the parking lot right in front of our football stadium.
We’re going to have some food trucks. We’re going to take students into the football stadium at the University of Toledo, up to the roof of the press box – which we’re very excited about! – to the fifth floor of the library, to the hallways of our University Hall, and just spaces around campus that we’re definitely not hitting on a typical tour.
This is such a creative and intriguing way to engage with students.
Collin’s team started by thinking through something the student’s are already asking: “Where’s the best place to take my next Instagram photo?”
They made sure the answer was their campus tour.
Another way The University of Toledo is serving the needs and interests of prospective students to get them to campus is by putting on “dog tours.”
What we’re doing is inviting prospective students and members of the community to bring their dogs to campus to do a lawn tour of the University of Toledo. So we’ll stop outside of the Student Union, University Hall, the football stadium, the admissions building in Libby Hall.
We’re going to have cookies for humans and cookies for dogs.
[This is] just a fun and unique way to do something a little bit different, but also [it’s a way to] bring people on campus and see the University of Toledo in a different way than what they’ve probably experienced in the past.
And because it’s a lawn tour, it’s very COVID safe, because we aren’t going to need to enter any of the campus buildings or anything like that. So we’re very excited about it!
Pets are certainly a big part of prospective students’ families.
The fact that Collin’s team is recognizing this and including those members – their pets – of the family and participating in this decision to attend college strikes a chord.
Through the dog tours, people understand that The University of Toledo gets them.
To get different results, do something different.
I think the biggest takeaway I got from this conversation with Collin was the value of thinking outside of the box.
I really like the creative liberty The University of Toledo gives to their enrollment marketing team to try new things to pique the interest of future students and differentiate themselves from other schools in their area.
Discover more when you listen to the podcast!
Like all of our blog post reviews of The Higher Ed Marketer podcasts, there’s so much more to learn in the podcasts themselves.
Listen to our interview with Collin Palmer to get even more insights into:
- How they’ve gotten creative around campus tours, instituting nighttime and dog-specific tours
- How they’ve kept the community involved in the admissions process
- Why they rely on behavioral data from more than traditional freshmen
- The different ways they’ve had to think outside of the box to maintain that admissions funnel
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Images via nmu.edu