Optimizing fall college fair travel with today’s technology.
GUEST COLUMN | by Gil Rogers
Year after year, college admissions officers invest thousands of hours planning and coordinating their fall travel schedules in hopes of engaging interested potential students throughout their assigned region. With so much time and effort put in to scheduling your high school visits and managing which college fairs you attend, how can you ensure you are using that time wisely?
Fortunately, your fall travel has a lot more tools and resources available to make your life easier while you are on the road than it did five years ago. I can remember my first year on the road—I didn’t have a GPS or EZPass—which meant a pile of coins and stacks of Mapquest directions in the back seat. Now there are a number of tools that can help with everything from maintaining your sanity to maximizing your time with prospective students.
Maintaining your sanity on the road
Who hasn’t been to a college fair where there are more counselors than students? Or how about those hour-long breaks between high school visits spent napping in your car? (You know who you are!)
We all know that fairs and visits are valuable… but every once in a while there will be an outlier that may not necessarily be in line with your expectations. Rather than spend the time playing Angry Birds (although there is absolutely nothing wrong with that), why not take advantage of the downtime to stimulate your mind? There are plenty of apps that can help you not only pass the time, but also help you stay up-to-date on current events. Some of my team’s favorites include:
- Longform – an app that brings many of the top news magazines to your fingertips. This is a great way to stay in the loop without lugging 100 magazines into the gym with all of your viewbooks and inquiry cards.
- Stum?ed – A fast-paced trivia game you can play on your own or with friends. This will surely help keep your mind sharp during through the Fall travel grind.
- Words with Friends – At this point it’s an oldie, but still a goodie … Words with Friends is a great way to keep your vocabulary strong while competing with your friends.
Of course, as a former Associate Director that supervised an admissions team of about 10 counselors, I am surely not advocating hunching down behind your table and ignoring passers by… but you know when your downtime is and exercising your brain can be a great way to utilize it.
Connecting with students
Ask yourself. “What is the main reason I am on the road?”
The real reason we do what we do as admissions professionals is to connect with the students – creating great matches between our schools and the next class of incoming freshman. Travelling to visit students at their high school is the ultimate face-to-face appointment. And while not all high school visits or fairs produce great results, you can’t argue with the importance of building a connection with students interested in your institution and its impact on your application numbers and yield.
Technology makes building those connections more efficient and impactful, both pre and post-visit. Here are a few examples of best practices using technology to build those connections.
- E-mail your existing inquiries to let them know when you will be in the area. It sounds simple, but some institutions have better data tracking than others and at many institutions this may be a challenge. Give a strong call to action in the message to incentivize students to come chat. Application fee waivers or a piece of your school’s swag can go a long way in building that campus spirit!
- Utilize services like Zinch and CollegeWeekLive to build relationships with students you meet. Online interactions before and after your visits can go a long way in making a strong impression.
- Chronicle your travels on Instagram or Twitter. Have you ever thought of creating a personal hashtag for your travels? Nothing personalizes you to students more than seeing the traffic you had to go through, the late night coffee buzz in your Hampton Inn, or your coffee cup in front of their school to show your excitement for visiting.
- Encourage students to connect with you when they are ready. Most students believe colleges and universities should have a presence on social media. However, less than half actually “like” or “follow” an institution while they are simply researching them. Raising awareness of your presence through links on your business card or just talking about it during your visits is a great way to let the students know you are there for them when they are ready to connect.
A healthy counselor is a happy counselor. It’s much easier to hit those 7:30 a.m. high school visits after a long flight or drive the day before if you are eating right and getting exercise. Yes, your hotel room has a TV — but so does the gym! Take some time to get out there and be active, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. There are a ton of great apps that can help you with staying healthy. From RunKeeper to MyFitnessPal (which syncs to other fitness apps like FitBit and Nike Jawbone), there are great resources to help you keep track of your fitness goals even when you are on the road.
Gil Rogers is the Director of Marketing & Outreach at Zinch, a Chegg service. Special thanks to Nicole Lentine from Champlain College in Burlington Vermont, the Zinch and Chegg Team, and Catie Clark from Straxis Technology for their support in recommendations of resources for this article.