So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Colleges relying more on mobile tech for visits by potential students

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The UC Irvine Student Union is a regular stop on campus tours. This and other schools want to enhance the experience for prospective students by developing mobile apps to carry along or use from afar.

The season for college scouting visits is upon us. Visit any campus in the next six months and you’ll likely see the college tour guide walking backward, facing high school seniors and their parents, describing an old brick building to the right and another one to the left. The tour’s all about selling the academics, sports, and social life and convincing students to apply.

What seals the deal? Kirk Brennan, USC’s undergraduate admissions director, described it as intangibles that amount to what he called Magic Pixie Dust. He said that’s what fell on his high school-aged daughter during a recent campus visit.

“It was a place she didn’t want to visit," Brennan said. "She didn’t want to stop on our trip and now it’s among her top choices just because of the feeling she got on the campus.” 

That campus tour isn’t enough for every applicant, though. Neither is a presence on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Universities and colleges across the country are increasingly creating apps to enhance the campus visit. Brennan said USC is developing an iPad app aimed at thousands of prospective students each year and the ones overseas who consider applying to the private university.

“Our hope is that we can help find that Pixie Dust experience in an app,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s a quality experience that really reflects the spirit the students feel when they come here.” The university’s not rushing the process; Brennan said the app may be ready in a year or so.

UC Irvine is working on its virtual college tour app too, said Bryan Jue with the university’s admissions office. “We take some still shots and then overlay it with pre-recorded or pre-videoed message from one of our students describing the myriad academics,” he said. It will allow viewers to see 360-degree panoramic views of the campus, virtual visits to classrooms and labs.

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