Most higher education professionals dedicate September through May to students. And why shouldn’t they? It’s when most prospective students apply — and when most current students need on-campus help like virtual tour and interactive map tools to improve their student experience.

But don’t forget about summer as a crucial student engagement time. During this season, your prospects use virtual tools to inform themselves about your school and campus. What they find can make a major impact on their perceptions, experience, and decision to attend your school in the fall.

Especially considering that 10% and 40% of incoming students melt during the summer, optimizing your virtual campus tools to fit what they expect is perfect for keeping them engaged in your school before the fall.

Here are the three major ways you can optimize your digital campus tools according to how your students and prospects want to use them over the summer.

How do prospective students use your virtual campus tour over the summer?

Before students apply and while they’re still considering other higher ed options, your virtual campus tour is indispensable.

Summer is the time when the college search stars to get serious. During the summer, prospects try to learn as much about your school as possible, including what the campus looks like, what the school’s story and culture is like, and how it differs from all the other options on their list. A great way to do this is through touring your campus—whether that means in-person or online.

With your virtual campus tour, students can tour your campus during the summer and get a great sense of your school and the culture from their desktop or mobile device.

Optimizing your virtual tour for students considering their options

Visuals are key for students in this part of the recruitment funnel. Summer is a perfect time to capture some great panoramic images and videos of your campus that you can then add to your virtual tour. If needed, work with students on campus during the summer (such as admissions tour guides or orientation student leaders) to stage some pictures that show vibrant student life.

Beyond that first step, integrate more comprehensive components of your campus and university culture into your virtual tour. Share information about the school’s history and present, including through a link to your website. You can highlight anything from hands-on learning opportunities to popular student events and hangout spots. The more you can paint a picture of what it’s like to study at your college, the better.

Treat your virtual tour as a way for your prospective students to research your school. Use them as gateways to more comprehensive content (from web pages to videos) that dive deeper into each topic you choose to cover.

How do incoming first-year students use your virtual tour and interactive map over the summer?First-year students watching a college virtual tour on a tablet

Once they’ve applied and been accepted, newly admitted students are excited to attend your school. Concurrently, a good number of them will likely also be nervous. For many, this is the biggest change in their lives up to this point. Also, the ongoing trend of summer melt may have them still considering their options well into the summer.

At this point, students will use your virtual tour to get another look at the campus to reinforce their decision. They’ll start familiarizing themselves with your environment. They’ll also use your interactive map to gain valuable information about tuition and financial aid, as well as academic information for choosing their classes.

Optimizing your digital tour and map for incoming first-year students

Accepted students may have slightly different needs than those still considering your school. However, they’re still very much prioritizing these communication channels. Target content specific to them by creating more specialized tours, like a “student experience” or “incoming student” virtual tour designed to help students get engaged in different parts of your campus that you’ve heard them prioritize.

An “incoming students” category can be especially valuable on your interactive map. Built the right way, it can act as a hub for incoming students, providing them with all the information they need throughout the summer. From orientation buildings to the location of academic and support buildings, along with relevant website links, they can use it as a go-to resource for all their summer needs.

You can get even more specialized based on these needs, like a move-in map category that provides in-depth information on parking locations, traffic flow, key pickup locations, and more. Build your interactive map around your students’ stated needs to help shepherd them safely into their first college semester.

How do returning second-, third-, or four-year students use your interactive map over the summer?returning student using virtual map

Naturally, older students who have already spent time on your campus approach your digital campus tools differently than those just getting used to the environment. They’re already familiar with the buildings, hangout spots, and parking lots.

However, that doesn’t mean they don’t use your virtual resources at all. In fact, internal Concept3D research shows that 86% of students still use the campus map once they’ve set foot on campus.

Over the summer, returning students use your interactive campus map to check for:

  • Construction updates
  • How they can get to and from the classes they’ve scheduled for fall
  • What areas to avoid during freshman move-in day

Optimizing your interactive campus map for returning students

To optimize your virtual campus map, for returning students, label any campus construction areas that students might want to be aware of. Make it easy to find for any student looking for information, and add regular updates (with pictures or text) that show progress on major projects like new buildings.

Finally, consider adding specific wayfinding paths between academic buildings and residence halls or provide walking directions from returning students’ off-campus housing to campus. These help students measure just how far their daily walks would be. For students with longer commutes, providing traffic paths and public transportation into campus will also be an important component of the interactive campus map.

Leverage your virtual tools to keep students engaged all summer

Just because school is out for most students in higher ed during the summer doesn’t mean they stop engaging in your content. In fact, there’s a huge opportunity for you to engage with them where and when they need it the most. Maximizing your virtual campus tools to address all the needs students might have is your best bet at enhancing their student experience.

The good news: you’re not on your own. Our map and tour solutions are specifically designed for an optimized student experience. We can help to build out yours. Contact us today to get started.