We just recently finished with the college tours for my daughter. I was thinking about giving an impression of each school, but I decided instead to list the things that schools did that made an impression on me.
Keep it Simple, Stupid – Every college has an information session before the tours. Every college says a lot of the same things during these information sessions. So much o that almost every one of them talked about the charity dance marathon they do like they are the only college that does one. A lot of these sessions were an hour when they didn’t need to be an hour. I was impressed with my alma mater, The University of Kentucky. They only had a 30 minute information session and gave us better information than most that had hour-long ones. Tell me the basics. Give a slice of life and move on.
Make the Tour Meaningful – Some of the tours were so light on details they were no more useful than me walking around the campus on my own. They need to be more than just walking around campus pointing at buildings. Give us some anecdotes, tell personal stories, do anything that makes it memorable. Indiana and Penn State were very good at this. The Penn State guides were the best ones we had. They answered questions honestly and made the tour more personal.
Don’t Charge for Parking – The only one that failed this one was Delaware. Everyone else gave us free parking. We had to pay there. You are trying to woo us. This is not a good start.
Feed Me Seymour – Pointing at the dining hall is not as effective as providing a meal in the dining hall. Penn State and Washington University in St Louis provided a free meal in the dining hall. UMBC charged us, but at a discount rate. If you want us to be impressed with the food options, letting us sample is the bet way to do this.
Swag – Wash U is the only one that gave us meaningful swag. I use the nice Wash U water bottle every day. It doesn’t hurt to have something with the school name on it around the house if you want to stay fresh in our minds. Nice job Wash U.
Follow Up – Kentucky wins here. A handwritten postcard from the tour guides thanking my daughter for visiting. Really nice touch. Delaware fails. They keep inviting us to visit after we have already visited.
Obviously, things like cost, academics and the like will be the most important part of the decision, but if there is a tie things like the above could make a difference in the decision.