A Tale of Two Visitors

From Tom Field, publisher of Valley Business FRONT, for First College Visit, a series of first college visit stories by business professionals sponsored by SmartCollegeVisit.

On their latest round of college campus tours, dad and daughter visited Washington & Lee, James Madison University, Mary Baldwin, Sweet Briar, Lynchburg College. All five presented great opportunities, but on the negative column of dad’s notebook he wrote:
   “Perfect. But why so incredibly expensive?”
   “I never thought anything could be TOO traditional; but does this place even get Internet reception?”
   “The best dorm room ever; but is there ANY single program the school is known for?”
   “Who chooses a SQUIRREL for a mascot? Are you serious?”
   “Something about this campus seems too institutionalized; a FOUR HOUR tour?”
Now, the negative column of daughter’s notebook:
   “What’s in this town? An ice cream shop?”
Other than that one specific, the remaining observations were all ambivalent or along the line of “I don’t like it.”

Tom Field and his daughter

Can you guess which school received which response? From dad? From daughter?
One thing is certain about college campus tours: You absolutely see the distinctive personality of each. No two are alike.

The websites? DON’T BELIEVE THEM! The direct mail solicitations? DON’T FALL FOR THEM!
Oh, the information and the message may be accurate. But nothing represents a school better than a direct visit. And in fact, one visit only gives you a “first impression.” But it’s a first impression much better than you get through the filter of marketing.

But here’s the kicker. The impression from an adult is no comparison to the impression from a prospective student.

Virginia Tech is a great school. But there is no eye contact from anyone as you walk the campus. Try it. Of course I’m an old 46-year-old invisible man.

Liberty University is growing in its reputation. Kids there actually open the door for you. Try it. Of course, I’m not a 17-year-old girl.
The point is, colleges may market to prospective parents. But they MUST market to prospective students. The message to those two target audiences may not be the same.
Ya’ think? Ya’ think?!!!
To me, the most important objective to seek is the PROGRAM. In other words, the result of what you will possess at the end, when you graduate.

To her, the most important objective to seek is the EXPERIENCE. In other words, the result of what you will get through the whole process.
Maybe we’re both right. If what you do while you’re in college is as significant as what you get from it at the end, then the choice of a college just opened up tenfold. You could do much worse than be a squirrel or hang out at an ice cream shop.


Tom Field is a writer and creative director. He owns a marketing consultancy firm in Salem, VA and publishes Valley Business FRONT magazine. He also currently maintains three prospective college students and seeks professional counseling.


College visits, visits to campus, planning college visitsFirst College Visit on Handshake 2.0, a series of first college visit stories by business professionals, is sponsored by SmartCollegeVisit, a college visit portal with tools and resources for planning campus visit travelcollege visit advice from parents to parents, not-to-miss college campus sites, and more. You're invited to subscribe to SmartCollegeVisit updates, to follow SmartCollegeVisit on Twitter, and to become a fan of SmartCollegeVisit on Facebook.

Age Regression Via the College Tour


  1. Alex Edelman says:

    My stories of college visits are uninspiring. It’s still who you know, and my father’s best friend from high school is a professor here. So instead of an official campus tour, we walked around some labs while talking about old times.

Speak Your Mind