Students, socials, tour guides: Oh my!

New York senior Joshua Martin from vlogs about campus life during the pandemic. Brittney Matthews | Photo Editor

By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer

As the pandemic takes its toll on campus visits, Baylor has turned to current students to act as ambassadors to recruit a new generation of Bears.

Jen McCrady, senior director of enrollment marketing in admissions, said the department had to pivot quickly when they canceled all campus events and tours because they were still recruiting for the fall 2020 freshman class.

“We created kind of a virtual event called Why Baylor,” McCrady said. “The whole Baylor community – whether it was faculty members, academic faculty, student life, students, all kinds of people across campus – created more than 100 selfie style videos that really tried to sell Baylor to these incoming students who weren’t able to meet them in person on campus.”

McCrady also said even with the shift, the team of student workers at the visitor center serve as the best university ambassadors who interact with new students on all kinds of platforms.

Throughout the summer, these students hosted Q&A sessions through admissions’ Instagram stories, where they can still be referenced in the highlights feature.

“Those were very popular. I think these incoming students just want to hear the real story from current students,” McCrady said. “They don’t want to hear as much from professional staff. They want to hear someone who’s their age who tells them how it is — what it’s really like to be at Baylor, so those are very successful for us.”

Students have also been recruited to be social media ambassadors for the school by Taylor Beard, social media specialist, who runs the Baylor Instagram account. They meet for monthly strategy meetings, do takeovers and recently started creating content for TikTok, breaking into the 13- to 17-year-old demographic on the platform, she said.

“They give us their raw, honest insight and feedback on our strategy and what we could be doing differently or better to be organically connecting with their peers,” Beard said. ”There is no one better than students to know how to reach other students.”

Beard said story takeovers strike a cord with a wide variety of students, ”because we have so many different types of students, being able to show off those varied experiences can hopefully help prospective students connect with what it would be like to be at Baylor.”

Sayville, N.Y., senior Joshua Martin was referred by a social media ambassador to film a vlog documenting the first week of classes this year for the Baylor Instagram.

“With the vlog we were trying to capture what the first week of school looked like with all the COVID regulations. What I was doing was going around campus showing what was different and highlighting what was the same,” Martin said. “I know for myself, if I was an incoming freshman, I probably wouldn’t have come to campus, so if I was watching that, seeing there’s life on campus, I would probably enroll for the next semester.”

Beard said she also highlights campus and student life with user-generated content on the Instagram. She goes through Baylor photo tags and geotags to find the best posts from the campus community.

“Stories especially lend themselves to user-generated content really easily because people are tagging us directly, and then I can share it immediately,” Beard said. “That’s on a day-to-day basis. I’m sharing how beautiful or cool campus is from students every single day, and that’s completely organic.”

As for campus tours – which McCrady said heavily increase a student’s desire to come to Baylor – they can be scheduled on Zoom at Ways to Connect. A student tour guide will take their virtual tourists wherever they want to go around campus and answer their questions in real time, she said.

“And that’s actually been wonderful for our demographics, who wouldn’t normally get to schedule a campus tour at this time of year,” McCrady said. “Like for our international students and our out of state students, it’s difficult to find time to come to campus.”

After these changes were made last spring and summer, Baylor announced an enrollment record for the fall 2020 freshman class in September, surpassing the last record enrollment for the freshman class in 2014.