Colleges Attract Students With Unique Campus Tours

These schools offer memorable tours with bikes, boats, and golf carts to showcase their campuses.

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Birmingham-Southern College, a liberal arts college in Birmingham, Ala., also offers golf cart tours on what they call "GEM Cars," or Global Electric Motorcars, to help visitors see areas of the school's 200 acres that aren't part of the walking tour. These areas include the athletic facilities, a newly created lake, and several residence halls. The tours are personalized to the prospective students, says Tyler Peterson, the school's director of recruitment.

Some colleges are utilizing their strong technology programs to enhance their walking tours of campus. California Polytechnic State University, in San Luis Obispo, offers a downloadable iPhone app of a self-guided campus walking tour. Cal Poly also was the first to create a GPS device, called the GPS Ranger, which prospective students, families and even current students, can check out at the visitor center. The device shows your location on a campus map and displays short video descriptions narrated by students about specific buildings on campus when you approach them. Jim Maraviglia, the assistant vice president for admissions, says there has been a steady stream of use of the devices, and new videos are being created for the device specific to each college on campus. Check out a demo of the GPS Ranger.

[Read about our college road trips.]

David Knapp, a senior at Cal Poly, enjoyed using the GPS Ranger to tour campus. "It felt like a customized tour that you are able to do at your own pace." Knapp says the tour was very comprehensive. "It really hit all of the information points on campus, so I think it would be helpful for prospective students. It gave you the formal information, and it also gave a little bit more customized information from a student's viewpoint."

Stanford University, another school that offers a self-guided campus walking tour iPhone app, also offers golf cart tours, which enable prospective students and families to see parts of its 8,200 acre campus that aren't covered in walking tours. Students visit the Red Barn, the campus's equestrian center; the Cantor Arts Center, the art museum on campus; and the athletics facility. Director of Visitor Relations John Friesman, says the golf cart tours cost $5 and visitors should sign up online prior to the visit.

[See our Guide to College Admissions]

School Memorabilia

Another way schools are making their campus tours stand out is by giving out memorabilia. West Virginia University's campus tour ends on a sweet note with a WV logo cookie given to each visitor, Wilburn says. At Ohio State University, each student receives a buckeye candy, made of chocolate and peanut butter, at the end of the tour in honor of the school's buckeye mascot. Admitted students can get their photo taken with mascot Brutus Buckeye on the beginning of the tour; the student gets a frame with the photo at the tour's end. "With this photo we are creating a memory," says Jill Hampshire, senior assistant director of visitor relations at the school. "When a student is able to take a photo home with them, it lasts way beyond their visit here."

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