In the past few weeks, several hundred prospective students have toured the University of South Carolina Beaufort -- without stepping foot on campus.
Instead, they toured the locations virtually.
In July, USCB launched virtual guided walking tours of its Historic Beaufort and Hilton Head Gateway campuses. They let prospective students see the school and what it has to offer, according to vice chancellor of enrollment Mack Palmour.
"We feel like this is going to give us a great avenue to make prospective students aware of who we are and what we have available before they even come here," he said.
The virtual tours let visitors go through the campus at their own pace. It first begins at the Hilton Head Gateway campus, then heads north to Historic Beaufort.
The tours include an audio guide telling listeners about the school, as well as videos and 360-degree panoramas of the two campuses. It takes students to main spots, including class buildings, science labs, art studios, the libraries, housing units and extracurricular sites.
Palmour said they designed the tour to mirror what students would see on an in-person tour. From those actual tours, USCB has gathered feedback about what prospective students want to see the most and what information they need.
National survey data show that one of the primary ways students choose a college is by visiting its campus, according to vice chancellor for student advancement Lynn McGee. So USCB wanted to create a tool to bring its campus to students, she said.
"We are very blessed to have such a beautiful, functional and high-tech campus, and we just wanted to get it out more effectively," McGee said.
After taking the tour, prospective students can schedule an actual visit, request more information or apply to the school.
Since its launch several weeks ago, about 700 people have taken the virtual tours -- many from out of state and even other countries, Palmour said. Of those, as many as 10 have applied to USCB after the tour, he added.
The school expects that number to grow as high school juniors and seniors begin searching for colleges this fall. USCB also plans to use the tool at high schools and college fairs to help students get a feel for the school, McGee said.
Palmour said the tour will be updated frequently with new pictures and videos. For example, the university's new recreation center will be added to the tour when it opens later this fall.
Other schools around the country, such as Yale University and the Ohio State University, have created similar tours. Palmour said it seems to be a popular trend and he hopes it will help USCB continue to increase its enrollment.
"There is nothing that substitutes for an actual campus visit, and we offer those every week," he said. "But this is just another arrow in our quiver, to make prospective students and families aware of what we have to offer and pique their interest."
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.
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- USCB to build new Sand Shark recreation center in Bluffton, Nov. 7, 2013
- USCB offers students experience not possible just 10 years ago, Oct. 4, 2013