The Campus Visit: Impress Them before They Arrive
by Ardis Kadiu · Jun 28, 2017
The visit experience begins online. Make sure it’s seamless.
Colleges and universities will tell you that when prospective students visit campus, details are important. In a memorable example, a Boston Globe article described how the lack of bananas in a college’s cafeteria made a prospect think twice about attending. (The school sometimes serves fair trade varieties.)
The student wasn’t worried about missing out on his daily dose of potassium. He was concerned with what the bananas signaled about how well he’d fit in with the philosophy of the college.
Most schools also say that when things go well, students who attend a campus tour or open house are more likely to enroll than those who don’t. So, to meet enrollment goals, schools put great care into their visit programming — from signage to welcome centers to tour-guide training.
When everything matters, how can schools make sure they’re doing all they can to make a good impression? A starting point is examining two aspects of their visit experience that get less attention: before and after.
Searching and Signing Up
If a prospect looked on your site to find and register for a visit event, how easy would it be?
Most schools use the calendar feature of their content management system to post visit events. Some use pages, too, which causes headaches because they have to be manually unpublished after an event occurs.
CMS calendars make it fairly straightforward to publish events organized by campus departments. What they lack are tools that help admissions offices better promote visit events to prospects and admitted students.
Event451 is different. It’s an event CMS expressly created for higher-education users. Event451 is part of the Element451-developed Element451, a CRM for admissions marketing.
Event creators enter visit information into Event451 much like they would in any CMS. The events are published in a mobile, user-friendly microsite that’s branded to the school. Events can also appear in a feed on the school’s site as well as via the open APIs. Having the feed on the homepage and on admissions pages makes it easy for students to find upcoming visit events.
When a student finds an event they want to attend, signing up from any device is simple. They fill in basic information, click “sign up,” and are registered.
We recommend keeping sign-up forms short. A template for event creators to quickly add a registration form includes fields for name, email, and phone (so registrants can receive event-related texts). But creators can add whatever fields are needed, and even turn on payment processing.
Schools can feature all types of campus events. Those showcasing guest speakers, social occasions, and other happenings that are attractive to prospects or admitted students are good choices.
Informed, Engaged Registrants
Today’s students are accustomed to the notifications of social networks, apps, and ecommerce. When they download or order something, they know they’ll receive an email or text confirming their action. They also expect progress and follow-up messages. For example, when their order will arrive, and what they thought of it.
Event451 includes similar functionality. When a student registers for an event, a confirmation message can automatically be sent via email and/or SMS. Event creators can also schedule event reminders to go out a day or two before the event.
At the event, greeters use Event451 to check-in attendees with ease. They add people who didn’t register online and indicate the status of those who don’t show up.
Once the event has happened, messages are automatically sent to registrants. Thank you messages to attendees and sorry-we-missed-you messages to no-shows.
Maximizing attendance is one reason schools use Event451. Another is that every interaction with a prospect applicant, or admit is an opportunity to connect in ways other schools might not be.
We developed Event451 to eliminate some of the challenges that come with event content management. For example, events like campus tours often occur daily or weekly. Rather than enter each separately, event creators enter the event into Event451 one time and set it as “repeatable.” Every instance then appears on the calendar. No tours during a holiday? No problem. Those dates can be excluded.
Organizing related events is also cumbersome with typical CMS calendars. Orientation is a prime example. With Event451, related events can be grouped into a series. This makes it easy for participants to see everything in one place.
Promoting events to prospects, applicants, or admits typically involves designing an email and sending it through an email marketing system. Because email is built into Element451, there’s no need to use another platform.
And for schools using other Element451 modules (e.g. the application builder or admitted student microsite) contacts are stored in one database. Simply segment the list of who’s invited, and send.