Admission tours to be revamped

Ellen Porter, a freshman business major, leads a tour of the campus for prospective students. DTH/ Erica O’Brien

The campus tour.

It’s a college staple that many remember as the first time they fell in love with a campus.

UNC is revamping its own campus tour experience to attract more students — especially the highest-achieving ones.

An innovation task force led by Grayson Cooper, a sophomore Admissions Ambassador, or tour guide, plans to personalize campus tours beginning next school year.

The task force plans to reroute the student-led campus tour to include more academic buildings.

It also plans to provide a second tour, offering longer, individualized visits of professional schools, labs and specific departments to some students.

Its goals are to attract top North Carolina students to campus for official visits and encourage applications from high-ranking out-of-state students.

In 2009, 58 percent of out-of-state students and 25 percent of in-state students who toured UNC’s campus never applied, according to task force data.

“Campus tours blend together for students,” said Andrew Parrish, assistant director of undergraduate admissions. “It can be hard for them to differentiate between schools.”

Cooper said prospective students indicated the desire to get a better feel for academics in surveys completed after their campus tours at UNC.

He said he thought more top North Carolina students — defined as students in the top 3 percent of their high school classes or with a score of 1400 or greater on the SAT — would tour campus if they were offered personalized tours.

Only about 50 percent of those students visit the University in an official capacity.

“I think it’s just that they’re familiar with the campus already and know a lot of people who go here,” Cooper said. “But we really want to get these kids to come on tours.”

Parrish said the tours for top students would focus primarily on interaction with other students in a department or school.

“Prospective students care more about the students’ perspective than any other perspective,” he said.

Parrish added that prospective students could learn about internships, mentoring and daily classroom experiences from current students.

Freshman Lauren Oswald said her campus tour last year focused mainly on campus life, with less emphasis on academics. She said she would have enjoyed seeing classrooms along her tour.

Parrish said he wants to make sure tours remain open to all prospective students but work to attract the highest achieving applicants.

“As a public university, we are the university of the people,” he said. “But we could use this kind of more specialized tour in recruiting top prospective students.”

He said he wants to keep looking for new ways to set UNC apart for prospective students.

In addition to the plans already underway, other new ideas are being considered less formally.

One suggestion is to do away with planned tours altogether, and to allow Admissions Ambassadors to take students wherever they want, so that each group would get a different experience.

“We really want to capture Carolina,” Parrish said. “We have this dynamic, vibrant, spirited institution with a lot of energy. How do you take that experience and capture it on a tour?”

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