Heather Sumperl Aug 10, 2020 8:37:31 AM

5 Secrets of a Successful Virtual Tour

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Students are going online to virtually "visit" more schools than ever before, yet according to an informal poll, 74% of colleges still have a lot of work to do to improve their online experiences. Even worse, students have taken notice with 51% saying their virtual tour experience was only a “somewhat effective” replacement.1 The biggest complaint we are hearing is students can’t seem to differentiate one school from the next with an out-of-the-box experience.

A virtual tour should: 

  • Create value
  • Distinguish your school from the competition
  • Promote an inclusive campus

All virtual tours are not created equally and a successful virtual tour requires thoughtful execution crafted by experienced digital storytellers. Here are several considerations to keep in mind as you design or enhance your next virtual experience:

1. Your Campus is Built Around More Than Buildings

Sure, today’s generation loves a good 'Instagrammable' campus, but the campus experience is defined by so much more than its architecture. Promote what truly sells your campus, the people, the stories and the value. Your campus is a diverse portfolio made up of unique individuals. And with diversity, comes enriching experiences and enhanced critical thinking. Strive to create an inclusive and welcoming environment that speaks to everyone.

2. One-Size-Fits-All, Fits No One

When was the last time a one-size-fits-all pair of jeans fit like a glove? If you’re like us, the answer is NEVER. Following the same suit, the idea of a universal virtual tour model sounds nice in theory, but what is the likelihood that an out-of-the-box solution would address the needs of all of your students? Well, the answer is clear with 40% of rising seniors having participated in a virtual tour and/or information session saying they were largely dissatisfied with their experience.

Customization is king and plays an important role in differentiating what makes your school unique from the rest. Create immersive digital experiences with video viewbooks and interactive campus maps to showcase specific benefits and qualities of your school.

3. Connection is Key

Often overlooked as a key differentiator, admissions staff can demonstrate value in their interactions with prospective students. It’s a fact that students are more likely to enroll in a college or university they have an established emotional connection with. With closed campuses and cancelled events, recreating the student engagement experience has become critically important in influencing enrollment.

Implementing a simple solution such as live-chat into your virtual tour allows for a more personalized interaction with prospective and newly enrolled students. Employ the help of student ambassadors to engage with prospective students through anecdotal moments as they virtually guide students around campus.

And, we love what our friends over at Louisiana State University have done by embedding student stories and perspectives in their My Five Faves guided experience. Prospective students want to hear authentic, day-in-the-life stories over university produced brand creative.

My Five Faves LSU

4. Supplement, Don't Substitute

Institutions can set themselves apart from the competition by diversifying their marketing distribution channels. In the future this may look similar to a hybrid offering model. Keep in mind that:

  • Students want to tour campuses from anywhere at anytime
  • Even as schools begin to reopen their campuses, some students may not feel comfortable returning to in-person-only tours
  • Virtual tours offer expanded reach to prospective students

The virtual tour isn’t intended to be a long-term substitute for the in-person visit and does not take the place of traditional admissions efforts. With that said, the virtual tour absolutely has its place post-pandemic and will be expected as we plow head first into this accelerated digital transformation. As one of our StudentBridge partners so eloquently put:LSU QuoteIn our recent white paper study, institutions reported increased engagement among transfer, graduate, and international students that were often left out of the traditional in-person tour experience.

5. Reopen Campus with a Self-Guided Virtual Tour

While 65% of students list the campus visit as the most influential factor in enrolling, only 1% of colleges predict that campus tours will resume as normal this fall.

Several schools are reporting great success with the implementation of VisiTOUR, StudentBridge’s web-based, virtual tour app. VisiTOUR leverages the power of Google Maps to guide on-site visitors through campus using 360° images, videos, audio and text to highlight each stop on the tour.

Not only does it act as a virtual guide, VisitTOUR facilitates emotional rapport by connecting prospective students with their potential futures. Students can choose to follow designated tours or design their own based on academic and social interests.

And if you’re worried about a shrinking inquiry pool due to stealth on-campus visitors, VisiTOUR requires a name and email to get started.


Since the start of the pandemic, almost one million people viewed a virtual campus tour produced by StudentBridge, a whopping 42% increase over 2019! We have helped over 250 colleges and universities stand out in the crowd and achieve their enrollment goals. Let us help you reach yours.

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Source: Carnegie Dartlet. (June 15, 2020). Rising Senior Report: A Study on Covid-19’s Impact on the High School Class of 2021. [Report]. https://www.carnegiedartlet.com/resources/rising-senior-report/

Topics: Admissions, Virtual Campus Tour, Higher Ed Marketing, Student Recruitment, Campus Tour, Higher Education

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