Texas A&M Football Field 360 Panorama for Virtual Reality

Colleges Using Virtual Reality to Recruit: Selling Your School Brand

It is likely that you’ve read or heard a lot about virtual reality over the last couple of years, mostly on how fast it’s being adopted in a diverse range of industries. Originally, VR was somewhat limited to gaming and sports, but every day more and more industries are finding uses for it. As colleges look for new and unique marketing avenues, they are looking at using virtual reality to recruit prospective students.

Below, we discuss … 

How Colleges are using Virtual Reality to Recruit

From virtual tours to physical brand activations, recruiting and more, VR isn’t uncommon at colleges, but the amount of reach is still quite limited. This will continue to change as costs go down and prospective students start expecting more interactive experiences when researching schools.

VR has been used by large college football programs, such as Michigan, in order to woo potential recruits with powerful experiences. From taking a knee in the locker room to running out on the field amid screaming fans, virtual reality transforms them into a current student. Not only do these VR experiences create a strong and memorable emotional connection, but they can also help profile a school’s facilities, amenities, and campus life.

Some school’s are starting to integrate these special experiences into their marketing campaigns, using virtual reality to recruit and reach prospective students. The Savannah College of Art and Design is using virtual reality to recruit students; last year they sent out 5,000 Google Cardboard headsets to prospective students as part of a major recruitment campaign. 

Denver, Colorado’s Regis University (a CampusBird client), is also using virtual reality to recruit students. They attribute their use of VR as a marketing tool to a growing number of actual campus visitors. As reported in The Hartford Business Journal May 2016, Kim Frisch, Regis University’s dean in the office of admissions, reported that it has seen it’s campus visitors increase 3.1 percent year over year. “I think there’s pretty good correlation between implementing virtual reality and the increase in our campus visitors,” says Frisch.

Costs of using Virtual Reality to Recruit

It is a common preconception that virtual reality equipment is expensive, and there’s definitely some truth to that. Hardware – particularly full-featured VR sets for desktop – can be $800 and up (and you need a computer that can handle VR as well). On the opposite end of the spectrum, for about $8 you can order Google Cardboard goggles from Amazon, which gives you basic (but still enjoyable) VR access from most modern smartphones.

As for the content, the costs range as well. Prospective students can experience your campus in virtual reality with VR-enabled 360 degree photospheres. This is the most cost effective VR content – some phone apps allow you to take a 360 degree photosphere images that you can then view in a simple VR headset such as Google Cardboard. Professional 360 photospheres (also called 360 panoramas) are more expensive, but still much more affordable than the other end of the spectrum – virtual reality videos. Virtual reality stitching can cost up to $10,000 per finished minute! But this isn’t always the case, and it comes down to how detailed of a video you’re creating.

VR Beyond the Home

School's using virtual reality to recruit students can show them what it would be like to sit in the student section at a football game.

Using virtual reality to recruit students doesn’t have to be limited to the home. Admissions departments can invest in more advanced hardware for use on-campus or at recruiting events. Admissions can use VR to show them what it’s like to be at notorious campus experiences, such as attending a football game, grabbing a bite at the dining hall, or enjoying a sunny day on the quad.

Want to see what your school’s interactive map would look like? We’ll create one of our interactive maps using part of your school for free.