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How Interactive Maps and Virtual Tours Can Help Colleges Reach Students in Rural Areas

March 28, 2019 by Sam Slater

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For urban and suburban high school juniors and seniors, going to a college recruiting fair with many different university representatives present is a common occurrence - but this is not the case for many students living in rural areas.

Colleges often do not send recruiters to rural high schools because doing so is not cost-effective. Recruiters can reach 1,500 or more students at a single urban school but may have to visit ten rural schools to reach those numbers. As reported in a recent story on NPR, “Rural households also have lower incomes than urban and suburban ones, the Census Bureau reports, meaning that rural students are less profitable for colleges, which often have to offer them financial aid.”

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While it may be more expensive and difficult for college recruiters to travel to rural America, they are certainly missing talented students who would be a great fit at their institution.

One way that colleges can better reach rural students is by improving online visibility, and making it easy and fun for prospective students to explore the campus in-depth. Interactive maps and virtual tours can play a big role, and the numbers reinforce this: on average, visitors spend over six minutes on interactive campus maps (based on Concept3D data from higher education interactive campus maps), and when prompted, 40% of virtual tour viewers provided their contact information.  

Interactive 3D maps and virtual campus tours bring your institution to life and make it much more real and exciting. They immerse a prospective student in campus life, and give them a compelling feeling of the university, even if they are thousands of miles away.

Make the Campus Feel Like Home

Students in rural areas can be more reluctant to leave home than students that live in more suburban areas. It can be tough for any student to move away from home, not to mention the challenge for his or her parents. Local communities can be tight-knit, and the shift away from home is a big one. Part of the challenge is envisioning oneself or their son or daughter at the location, getting more comfortable with the idea, and understanding all that a higher education institution has to offer.

Interactive maps and virtual tours can help with this by creating a virtual on-campus experience.

Emphasize What Makes Your Campus Different

Does your college do something exceptionally well or different than others? Showcase them on your map. From sports to greek live and special programs and clubs - they all can be displayed with icons, descriptions and photos. Virtual tours, videos, and 360-degree photos can also be added to the map to give future students a better vision of the program.

Because universities can be far away from many rural students, it is important to show them what’s different about the school and encourage them to take the next steps in the application process.

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Show - Don’t Tell

With the Concept3D platform, college can become more than words on a webpage - virtual tours can actually walk future students through a college campus. To further enhance the VR experience, audio narration can be added to explain what users are experiencing and leave them with an extremely memorable experience.  

Colleges can even offer to send rural students an informative packet with a Google Cardboard viewer and a direct link to the virtual tour, making it easy to dive right into a 360° experience.

Using VR brings a campus to life and can be a game changer - especially for rural students that live far away from campus.

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