My oldest daughter, Hannah, and I recently spent a few days in Nashville visiting colleges. Yes, it’s hard to believe in one year she will be off to college … somewhere. So, we’re doing the college tour routine: Schedule a visit, sit through a presentation, and take a walking tour.
While I had grown up in the same church tradition as Lipscomb, I had never actually visited the campus until this week. I was pleasantly surprised by the campus (though I’m not exactly sure why I was surprised that it would have a nice campus). On the walking tour, I even passed an old acquaintance — Keith Lancaster, of Acappella fame. Hannah was given a free t-shirt (swag!) at the end and so we picked up a t-shirt for Hope that says “Lipscomb Softball” (their team recently made the NCAA tournament).
Next, we went to Belmont and did the tour. The first thing we noticed were the huge, beautiful buildings and trees. Lots of trees. Our tour guide walked backwards the entire way, somehow avoiding fountains and curbs. Belmont is known for its quality music program, which is no surprise given its location in Nashville. We left Belmont with no swag in hand.
Our third stop was Vanderbilt. I had never been to Vanderbilt either and thought, “Hey, we’re in Nashville for a few days. Let’s go see Vandy.” Of the three schools, Vanderbilt (by far) has the largest and prettiest campus. It has everything a three billion dollar endowment can buy. For this tour, our guide was an engineering student who actually enjoyed talking to live people. Before we left, we went to the college bookstore and purchased our own swag.
Here are my reflections as they relate to the process and the impact.
- At Lipscomb, it was an admissions presentation first, tour second.
- At Belmont, it was a tour first, admissions presentation second.
- At Vanderbilt, it was an admissions presentation first, tour second.
I think Lipscomb and Vanderbilt did it right: hit you with the presentation first and let your last impression be of the campus. Parents want the facts and figures but kids are interested in how the campus “feels”.
Both Lipscomb and Vanderbilt had admissions representatives who were former students and not just hired professionals. This was evident in how they talked about their experience with the schools. They often referred to what they did as students, how the school had impacted them personally, etc. The Belmont rep probably did more to DISCOURAGE us away from Belmont than to move us TOWARDS Belmont. I went to Belmont really, really wanting to like it and how the session ended really disappointed me. The admission rep was a nice fellow, and would have been fine in a meeting with just parents or kids already sold on going to Belmont. But if you were new or undecided, the last session was counter-productive.
All three schools used current students to conduct the tours. This made sense and all three did a fantastic job. Again, the personal side came out and added color commentary to the experience.
From a marketing and communications perspective, Vanderbilt was the top and Lipscomb a close second. Unfortunately, I felt like Belmont was a distant third. To be fair, both Lipscomb and Belmont had far fewer students on the tour than Vanderbilt (Vanderbilt had at least 40 students, Belmont had 6, and Lipscomb had 2). I know from a communications standpoint, it’s often harder to present to a smaller crowd than a larger crowd.
At Lipscomb, it was just the two families sitting in a room — informally — and it was a great opportunity to talk to the rep about various things. She was friendly, upbeat, and spoke highly of her Lipscomb experience.
At Vanderbilt, the rep did an outstanding job presenting her school and keeping us engaged. She was funny, quirky but not odd, self-effacing, and polished. As we were leaving for our campus tour, she even remembered that Hannah had introduced herself as being from Colorado — after hearing 40 other students introduce themselves, too.
Here’s what both of them had in common along with the student tour guides: they loved what they were doing.
It left me thinking: If you love what you do, there’s a good chance I might end up loving it, too.
Think about that.