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Rethinking your campus tour: The McMurry Experience

Jessica Gallagher

There’s a lot to be said about a campus tour. It’s usually the first time that a prospective student sets foot on your campus. This is your opportunity to leave a lasting impression that should ideally make enrolling at your institution a no-brainer.

Every institution offers some sort of general campus visit. Whether you call it a Campus Tour, an Information Session, or a Daily Visit — it’s all the same. Its purpose is to cram as much as possible into a few short hours to showcase your institution. But — every institution is offering this kind of visit, and we all know that students visit more than one school. The competition is fierce. This generation of students has gone beyond just visiting your institution’s website. They’ve found you on YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat (You’re using Snapchat, right?). They’ve clicked on hashtags to read about other future and current students’ opinions. They already know you, and they expect you to know them. A personalized experience is one that’ll set your institution apart from the others. So, is it time to rethink your campus tour?

You’re probably thinking: No. We’re already doing the right things. We’re even handing out t-shirts. What else is missing?

Personalization is missing. Customer service is missing. A truly unique and thoughtful experience is missing.

At VisitDays, I work with tons of institutions of all shapes and sizes. I have the amazing advantage of learning who’s doing what and why — and more importantly — how much effort is involved. One of my customers really stands out, and I think that they offer a thoughtful campus tour that really focuses on each individual student’s experience. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do?

McMurry University is a private university in Abilene, Texas. With around 1,100 undergraduate students, this faith-based institution offers 45 majors and a 13:1 student to faculty ratio. They also host a truly meaningful and unique campus tour. The woman behind the curtain is Becca Eggleston, Coordinator of the McMurry Experience. I’ve had the pleasure of working with her and her team for the past year. She piqued my interest by sharing that one of the questions they ask prospective students when registering for a campus tour is for the name of their favorite candy bar. At the end of the student’s visit, they’re given an entire bag of their favorite candy bar.

But wait — there’s more. Becca graciously spent some time walking me through what happens during McMurry’s campus tour.

Becca prepares for each student’s visit by printing out and laminating a nametag, which is showcased upon arrival with signage that identifies the student as McMurry’s Special Guest. These students and their families are also given Special Guest reserved parking. As the tour kicks off, students see their names displayed on TV screens around campus, welcoming them as VIPs. Students meet with Financial Aid and are shown McMurry’s campus — including outdoor spaces, university buildings, and classrooms.

Next, students meet 1:1 with a professor in their major. In addition to the more general facts and advantages of studying their field at McMurry, the professor focuses on the student by asking them things such as: Why are you interested in psychology? What happened in your life to make you decide to become a nurse? What are your future plans and career goals? Meeting with a professor 1:1 easily goes from “intimidating and scary” to a personal and thoughtful conversation. The professor shows empathy which proves that they truly care about helping that student’s current and future goals. Students realize that McMurry University can help them not only graduate, but also achieve their dreams and aspirations.

As the tour wraps up, Becca takes a picture of each student — twice. The first picture goes into their CRM, and this helps her team put faces to names. A team member can easily identify a student and can follow up with them over email, leading with: Hey John! I just saw you on Tuesday! The second picture is a Polaroid, full of funny faces and lots of props. Becca keeps these Polaroids, and on the back, she writes down the student’s name, the date, and their expected entry year.

If the student doesn’t want to meet with an athletic coach, it’s time to part ways — but not without a present! Each student is given a McMurry bag with their names written on it to ensure that not a single student misses out. There’s no: Whoops, we ran out! here. The bag contains helpful pamphlets about the university, a McMurry t-shirt in that student’s size, a 20% discount coupon to their bookstore, and an entire bag of their favorite candy.

Are you impressed yet? Because it doesn’t end there.

Becca and her team keep track of which students enroll at McMurry. She goes through all of the saved Polaroids, and she sends it back to the student along with a postcard that reads: This was our first memory with you! We can’t wait to make even more!

Yield is the cherry on top. From start to finish and beyond — prospective students feel welcomed. They feel special. They feel like McMurry cares about them not just as a student, but as a young adult with hopes and dreams. This isn’t just a campus tour to Becca and her team. This is an experience. This is memorable. This is one for the books.

Is your campus tour one for the books, too?

This article originally appeared titled as "Rethinking your campus tour" in a Medium article.

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