Over the last year, shutdowns and social distancing have meant a shift in the admissions process for most private schools.
Campus tours and open houses are a core piece in closing the deal with prospective families, so with in-person tours and events on hold, many schools moved the admissions experience online.
Pivoting to Virtual
Since virtual tours have grown as a popular alternative, schools must adjust to keep up with these changes. Parents and students have become conditioned to viewing from home, and even more of their decision journey has moved online. Virtual tours are here to stay. Now, even if you are reopened for in-person visits, you need to have a digital means of visiting your school.
If you have not created a digital admissions plan and are ready for things “to go back to normal,” you may want to reconsider. Pivoting to virtual allows you to reach families earlier in their decision-making funnel. Virtual tours and events contribute to the first impression, increase brand awareness and consideration as prospects evaluate alternatives, and ultimately impact conversion. On the flip side, if you don’t create a virtual experience, your competitors who are doing this will have the edge.
BENEFITS OF VIRTUAL
- Increases exposure
- Enhances engagement
- Provides valuable content
- Qualifies leads
- Creates connections
DESIGNING YOUR DIGITAL EXPERIENCE
Encapsulating Your School’s Culture and Campus
Adding virtual tours and events calls for an initial investment, but the innovation is cost-effective, and there are options for every budget. Your digital footprint should mirror your admissions goals and objectives and have a similar feel to your in-person tours and open houses. Families ought to be able to experience your school’s culture and campus in the same way that they would firsthand. You’ll share details of your program and give them the opportunity to hear from students, parents, teachers, and alumni. They can look inside the classrooms for “a day in the life” encounter. And you’ll want to incorporate a little face-to-face time with your admissions counselor to outline next steps.
“You want to take your prospective parents and students on a journey that helps them gather valuable information and considers their point of view.”
Crafting Your Virtual Options
Your experience could include Facebook Live, Zoom Meetings, Zoom Rooms/Messenger Rooms, Google Slides, pre-recorded videos, an interactive campus map, photo galleries, and other similar features. We recommend a hybrid of live and pre-recorded content and a page on your website to organize it all. You’ll want a logical flow of content that is easy to browse.
Short video clips on a variety of topics are preferred over a long corporate-style video. Titles might be something like: Meet a Student, Learning Languages, Path of a Graduate, Building Robotics, Friday Night Lights, Community Service Day, Teaching with Shakespeare, etc. This way, site visitors can click around on topics that are most interesting to them.
Interactive maps are engaging as well. Even if your school doesn’t have an expansive campus or state-of-the-art facilities, consider a graphic version. When someone clicks on a pin, it could reveal a photo of students utilizing the space with quick facts and unique, memorable stories.
Building Two-Way Communication
Finally, plan for two-way communications, particularly in a live event. This could be done in chat rooms or by having someone monitor comments in a Q&A session. Minimally, you should have a registration form and a call-to-action button to schedule a follow up with an admissions counselor.
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