Eduventures Summit Preview 23

The State of College Campus Visits

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June 14-16, 2023 | Boston, MA

Special Keynote Session: José Andrés

Once a reliable indicator of enrollment interest, campus visits have become somewhat of a wild card in student recruitment. Since the pandemic began to recede, many institutions have reported lackluster attendance, even among admitted students. Eduventures’ most recent Student Sentiment Research™ indicates that 82% of high school sophomores and juniors report plans to visit college campuses before they apply. Yet only 48% of seniors say they did.   

High Intentions, Low(er) Value

The pandemic left college-bound high school students longing to experience the schools they were considering applying to. Finally, campus visits are back, but it seems that students no longer hold them in high regard.   Figure 1 shows the best information sources for narrowing your application list, according to prospective students.   

Best Sources of Information When Narrowing Your Application List, 2023 vs. 2019Figure 1.

  In 2023, only 36% of college-bound students said that open houses and campus tours were among the best sources of information for narrowing their potential application schools. That is a steep drop from the pre-pandemic response of 63% in 2019, when it was by far the top-rated source.   It appears that students have shifted their perspectives, and the frequency and purpose of these visits have also changed.  Notably, seniors who visited are more likely to have participated in official campus visits (81%) than visiting juniors (66%) or sophomores (54%). Visiting sophomores were most likely to have done so unofficially (46%) compared to juniors (34%) and seniors (19%). While most students opt for self-guided walking tours, nearly half of seniors attended open houses, info sessions, or admitted student events, respectively.   These findings suggest that students now find equal value in independent campus exploration and curated institutional events. But without the institutional narrative and knowledgeable guide, what are they getting out of these visits? 

What Is the Purpose of a Campus Visit?

Campus visits generally consist of an information session followed by a guided tour, with most institutions assuming a general lack of knowledge among visiting students. Our Student Sentiment Research sought to understand what information students prefer to receive during these events and what can be conveyed virtually (Figure 2).   

Preferred Features for On-Campus VisitsFigure 2.

  Figure 2, which summarizes responses from college-bound students of all class years, reveals a preference for on-campus delivery across all features. This is consistent with students’ enthusiastic intentions of visiting college campuses.   But a closer look at the data reveals a specific pattern of preferences. Students primarily seek insights into the student experience, including campus appearance, location, facilities, and community fit. Conversely, they are more open to obtaining information about admissions, financial aid, academics, activities, and interacting with faculty in a virtual format.   That suggests that while information should be provided during campus visits, it should not overshadow the focus on the campus atmosphere and allow students to envision themselves within the community. Students are adept at gathering facts through institutional websites, social platforms, and college comparison sites before they apply. 

The Bottom Line

It is important to point out that despite relatively low participation in official campus visits before applying, Eduventures research also suggests that the vast majority of seniors, about 80%, do eventually visit at least one college campus prior to attending college.   Gen Z is quite savvy at finding information online. And when it comes to campus visits, they seek answers that go beyond what websites, online message boards, or even ChatGPT can provide: Will I be happy here for the next four years?   It is no surprise, then, that many students opt for unofficial campus visits—especially in early search. This allows them to explore the campus freely based on their own interests, rather than being influenced by the institutional narrative. Traditional campus visits, however, still tend to provide an abundance of general information, resulting too-often in a generic, sometimes uninspiring experience.   It’s time to reimagine the formal campus visit and enhance the experience of your prospects. Here are two key strategies: 
  1. Personalize the campus experience. Tailor the visit to student interests by gathering information on their preferences through your registration form or a follow-up email. Group visiting students with similar interests and create a more personalized experience for key student segments.
  2. Share college facts beforehand. Since most students have already researched basic fit factors like available majors and cost, provide this type of information in advance through quick-fact sheets or FAQs on your website. During the visit, tour guides and info session hosts should focus on providing a stellar visit experience while being prepared to answer any additional questions if they arise without lengthy monologues.  

Never Miss Your Wake-Up Call

Learn more about our team of expert research analysts here.

Eduventures Senior Analyst at Encoura

For a teenager, the college decision looms as a complex make-or-break moment, a pivotal turn on an imagined path to adulthood. Understanding the decision-making factors, along with perceptions around your institution, college, and more, will help you make data-driven decisions to stand out from your competition.

Thursday June 15th, Eduventures Summit, 12:30pm - 1:45pm

Johanna Trovato, Eduventures Principal Research Analyst and June Claughton, Eduventures Senior Quantitative Research Analyst

Never Miss Your Wake-Up Call

Learn more about our team of expert research analysts here.

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