Higher education is a competitive industry, and it’s not about to get better. Earlier this year, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center showed a 3.5% enrollment decline in spring 2021 alone. Fewer students went straight to college than they have for decades and the high school student population dropped precariously in many states.
As higher education admissions become more competitive, following the status quo in recruiting students may no longer be enough. However, innovative tools to reach and engage prospective students are still highly effective in reaching even your most ambitious admissions goals.
We’re not here to talk about the interactive campus map as a wonder pill. But dig deeper into this tactic, and you will find surprising versatility. Your interactive map can help you reach your admissions goals in more ways than one; eight, in fact, all discussed in more detail in this guide.
1. Never Get Prospective Students Lost Again
Regardless of the size of your campus, wayfinding is a crucial part of the visit experience for every prospective student and family. They need to know exactly where to park, where to find your admissions office, and how to get to your event spaces.
A basic campus map can accomplish the trick, and many admissions offices send basic directions on how to get to the right parking garage or auditorium. But, when it comes to visits, the work on the margins can matter. When families visit 10+ campuses during the prospective student’s junior or senior year, the one that makes wayfinding as simple as possible will be remembered.
That’s where the interactivity of the campus map comes into play. Here, you can easily mark which event or office spaces are most important, and integrate GPS navigation capabilities to make it impossible to miss. Prospective families cannot get lost, and they’ll appreciate how easy it was for them to find what they need.
2. Show off Your Ease of Transportation
Once on campus, your students will want and need to get around. They’ll want to know how to get from point A to point B, whether that be by walking, through a shuttle bus, or any other type of transportation. It’s why “can I bring my car” is one of the most frequent questions admissions offices receive from newly admitted students.
Your interactive campus map is an opportunity to show off just how easy it is to move around campus. The possibilities range widely:
- Add all parking lots with designations for which parking lot is reserved for what audience, potentially even adding live data on parking lot occupancy.
- Add your shuttle bus routes, integrating live traffic data to show when the next bus arrives along with the typical bus schedule.
- Add any construction sites that may require temporary re-navigation when getting to and from class, including the detours students can take.
This type of traffic organization may largely be beneficial for current students, but prospects can benefit from it as well. It allows them to understand just how they can get around campus, and whether the reality matches with their expectations or ability to bring a car.
3. Create Self-Navigation Opportunities
Especially in the age of COVID-19, not every prospective student or family will want to gather in large groups on their college search. And yet, visiting the campuses of potential schools is still a major decision factor for most applicants. So, many have taken to visiting schools they’re interested in on their own, touring the campus on their own time.
Of course, that trend has also come with an increasing lack of control from admissions offices. No longer can they tell the school’s story as effectively or point out the pieces of campus proven to “sell”. A construction site is just a construction site until an admissions guide can tell the story of the new student center coming next year and all of its amenities.
The solution: self-guided campus tours, displayed on your interactive map. Simply mark the spots you want your families to visit and record short (1-2 minute) descriptions from tour guides for each spot. You can now send your self-guided campus tours with all prospective students, both as part of your communications plan and via signage at typical admissions parking spots.
4. Showcase Your Campus Life
Most of the points above, while undeniably helpful, are still basically about wayfinding. However, your interactive campus map can accomplish much more than that.
For example, it’s a place to show off the events you’re holding on campus. In addition to simply showing where these events take place, add pictures and videos that show Move-In Weekend, Homecoming, and more. Athletics is another great opportunity to add campus life and college spirit to the map experience.
This is all about showcasing the student experience. Check out Texas A&M University’s digital map as an example, which used a plethora of interactive elements to let students experience the campus and its student life. It paints a picture of life at the university, which is exactly what prospective students are looking for when making a college decision.
5. Expand the Experience Beyond Campus
Let’s be honest: admissions offices want to sell their campus and university, but students and families are interested in life outside of campus as well. After all, this is the place where they’ll spend the next few years of their life, a true “home away from home” that will shape their early adulthood.
Fortunately, your map doesn’t need to stop at these boundaries, either. Instead, it’s an opportunity to showcase your surroundings:
- Show off the local town, including restaurants, attractions, shopping opportunities, and more.
- Show off local nature and recreation opportunities, from trails to lakes or other getaway spots.
- Show off local lodging opportunities, like hotels, for the inevitable family visit.
You can even include information that parents may be interested in, like support opportunities or local religious institutions. The key is understanding what your audience is looking for and then building a map specifically for them.
6. Tell Your University’s Unique Story
Never underestimate the power of storytelling. In admissions marketing, it moves your tours, materials, and open house from a simple bulleted list of university benefits to a compelling experience. It’s why a strong university brand is so important to reaching your admissions goals.
That story should be told through all of your channels. Ideally, it reverberates through every interaction, and every touch point, your prospective students will have with your university. Your map, though, can play a crucial role in helping your unique story come to life.
Think about your university brand. Are you strong in academics? Use your interactive campus map to showcase all of the spaces in which students can collaborate, perform research, and more. If your school is known more for its international experience, take the previous section one step further and expand your map to show global locations of impact for your students. You can even show off your study abroad locations! A focus on sustainability is perfect for a map that showcases the LEED certifications of all buildings. Whatever your university’s unique story is, your map can help to tell it.
7. Collect Relevant Inquiries
Finally, don’t underestimate the potential of your campus map to make a tangible impact on your enrollment funnel. As you showcase your campus and its many benefits, don’t forget to ask your prospective students’ information. Give them an easy opportunity to sign up for on-campus events or simply request more information.
Michigan Tech University wanted to learn exactly how their campus map was influencing prospective students. So it embedded a CRM Request for Information form in its interactive campus map, increasing opportunities for their prospective students.
The results were significant. Within nine months, 4% of all map visitors were filling in the form. A third of these inquiries representing a student’s first touch with the university. Simply adding a form to the map allowed Michigan Tech to collect more students’ information, reducing the number of stealth applicants and building a stronger inquiry pool.
Building a Campus Map to Boost Your Admissions Goals
Of course, none of the above benefits are automatic. Simply including a static campus map in your website will likely not make a tangible impact on your admissions goals. You need the right solution, built the right way, in order to successfully connect your map with your enrollment progress.
That’s where we come in. Concept3D has extensive experience in the higher education space, and we have built our campus map platform specifically to excel in both the basic expectations of wayfinding and far beyond. Contact us for a conversation about how we can help you reach your enrollment goals in 2021 and beyond.