April 14

The College Tour: A Peek at Schools Across the Country

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One of the most common barriers to getting prospective students to your college tour is distance.

Many prospective students simply don’t have the resources to travel across the country and tour all of the colleges and universities that interest them.

What if there was a TV show that offered an insider’s look at each school—their values, the campus life, the academic opportunities—through the eyes of their students?

Alex Boylan, Co-Founder and Executive Producer of The College Tour, a TV series that tells the story of a single college with each episode, joins us on The Higher Ed Marketer podcast to explain what the show’s all about and how schools can apply to be featured on the show.

Making the College Tour Accessible

Early in our conversation, Alex shared that the average cost for a prospective student to go on a college tour is approximately $500 in travel, hotel, and food costs. 

While you might be able to pull that off for a quick weekend trip, for most families, the bill quickly becomes unmanageable by the second or third campus visit.

The average college trip, if it’s outside of your region, is around $500. We want students as well as their parents to sit back and travel across the country and be able to get a really good sense of what this institution is about. 

I think we’re like a bridge between “I’m interested” to “Let me learn a little bit more” to “If I can, maybe I’ll go.” I was just back at Texas Christian University a few months ago speaking to their marketing team. They have students that show up and say, “We’re from San Diego, we saw The College Tour episode, and that’s why we’re here!” 

See how Alex Boylan's The College Tour show is helping make college visits accessible despite the distance.

Being Authentic while Staying on Brand

As we talked about in other posts, maintaining content authenticity is really important for Gen Z students

How did Alex and his team of professional storytellers promote the colleges and universities featured on their show while keeping it real?

Even more importantly, how can you as an education marketer learn from them?

When [we’re filming] a student for the first draft and we know we’re going to talk about athletics, we choose a student who has a great story that’s going to tell the story of athletics of that university. 

First thing we do, we write some bullet points, some guides to help them. But we want the first draft from the student. 

It’s very important because we need it to be their real story. We need this to be authentic.

I like this approach because it gives the student content creator a guide to keep them within the parameters of the content you’re trying to create. 

But it’s not a script. You want to use fully scripted content as little as possible for student content.

However, while you don’t want to fully script the student, you’ll need to help the student before filming with some coaching, or what Alex calls “media training.”

In other words, you’ll need to help them shape the story they’re going to tell. 

It’s nerve-wracking to tell your story in front of a film crew, and those nerves can get in the way of the content you’re trying to create.

Every episode I watch, I’m so proud of these students because – Imagine! – There’s a production television crew coming, and they have to look into that camera lens and touch that audience. And some of these students really open up about their story – and that’s not easy!

Take your Time to Tell Good Stories

Something that I took away from our conversation with Alex was how much he stressed about being patient with the content creation process. 

It takes time and hard work to create amazing stories that inspire prospective students.

Telling real stories sounds uncomplicated, but you know, it’s hard. To make a great episode of television, it’s a lot of work. There’s no getting around that elbow grease that’s going to happen. 

I mean, there are two months of pre-production! Every week, there’s a weekly [meeting with the marketing team] going through one thing or another as we get ready to be in the field. We film for about a week. And then there’s another two months in the postproduction process to go through that. And [the university] is with us lockstep through the long process. 

In fact, I can remember the University of Illinois when we were wrapping up the episode, they asked to keep doing our weekly calls. Because there’s great experience throughout that whole process. I think seeing our process of how we identify stories, helps them identify stories, film, get that talent, [and shows them that] there’s a lot of content out there. 

So if you’re working hard to get out the best content possible for your school like The College Tour, you’re in good company!

If a professional team like Alex’s has to go through all the twists and turns to making a good product, you can be sure it’s just not an easy, quick thing to do. 

So keep up the good work!

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 Alex Boylan to get even more insights into:

  • What inspired the creation of The College Tour
  • Why the show is told through the eyes of the students
  • The unexpected benefits of working with the show
  • How schools can partner with The College Tour

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