All colleges understand that campus Discovery Days, days typically held in the spring and early summer to allow potential students to explore the campus before committing to attend, are important recruiting days. Tours are usually carefully mapped out and may be made up of very small groups or even individuals and their families, especially at smaller colleges. Once students have been granted admission, however, many colleges become far too lax regarding customer service toward students. Preregistration days in the summer are just as important, and steps should be taken to be sure students feel just as welcome on these days as they do before applying for admission.
Many campuses lack adequate signage to let students know where things are. Finding the campus is the first trick. Road signs are imperative for helping people unfamiliar with the area. Perhaps everyone in town knows where the college is, but someone from out of state probably doesn’t. Visuals that will help with the guidance are also great, like big balloons or other blow-ups on top of one of the student center.
On the campus, maps that lay out all the buildings, walkways and parking lots should be readily available, preferably by student ambassadors scattered around near parking areas as well as in pamphlet slots in less populated areas. Signs, even hand-made, that point to buildings and list personnel and their positions can be invaluable when trying to negotiate an unfamiliar campus. A short bulleted list of duties for offices or staff might be helpful, too. For instance, instead of just “Nancy Mann, Director Comprehensive Learning Center,” which means nothing to some visitors, adding “-disabilities services, –tutoring, –time management presentation @ 1 pm” helps students find pertinent areas much more easily.
Well-traveled paths might be marked with chalk or removable stickers on the walkways. Maybe the yellow footprints lead toward the student center and the red toward financial aid, for instance. Make it easy for visitors to find their way around on preregistration days.
Not all students will think ahead, so giving a heads-up about what to expect, the schedule for the preregistration day, and what materials they should bring is important. A pamphlet mailed out a couple weeks before a planned preregistration day with a check-off list of things to accomplish during preregistration is a great help. More copies should be laid out with the campus maps, too. This same information should be readily available on the campus website and should be emailed a couple days before the preregistration sessions.
Students should be reminded of fees they will need to pay so they will bring enough money. A general idea about costs of books will encourage them to purchase texts when they are registered, as well. They should be reminded to bring a driver’s license and other documentation they might need, such as transcripts or financial aid documents.
The busiest office on any campus during preregistration days is the financial aid office, and long lines can certainly be frustrating. Colleges should use extra help these days. Student ambassadors may be helpful for guiding students to the right areas or assisting with basic questions about financial aid. Temporary help can be hired to answer phones, check email, and input or copy forms. Workstudy students can handle many such issues as long as privacy isn’t violated. A big sign before the line begins telling students what materials they may need to have with them can also save the frustration of waiting in line only to find out they have wasted their time.
Most colleges now allow some sort of online registration, but obviously not all students take advantage of the system. Many students go to campus to sign up for classes because they want to experience the campus. That means they want to see the residence halls, find out where their classes are, learn where the library is, and so on. Buildings need to be open, well-lit, and staffed. Little things can make a big difference, too. Be sure bathrooms are open and vending machines are stocked.
Students haven’t really committed to a college until they start the courses. Most colleges offer at least a partial refund before classes start, and having a poor preregistration experience is a good reason many students bail and head for other opportunities. Colleges need to think of preregistration days as times to highlight their helpful attitude and create some good publicity. Word of mouth can mean a lot when students are choosing an educational institution.