This is that time of the year when millions of high school seniors sprint home after school hoping to find a super thick envelope stuffed into the mailbox from the dream college that they’ve applied to, or in some cases, ANY college they’ve applied to. This year, students who applied and have been accepted by Skidmore College, a small liberal arts college located in Upstate NY, will find something slightly different in their mailbox.
Skidmore College is giving their accepted candidates letter a huge makeover by using an immersive 360VR video as part of the congratulatory acceptance letter. Each envelope comes packed with a VR cardboard viewer along with a link that directs them to a 360° video, giving the new college student a sneak peek into what their college experience during the Fall will look like.
This VR acceptance letter makeover goes beyond just a typical college tour. Luke Meyers, Director of Marketing and Engagement says, “this was a chance to answer one of the top questions accepted candidates ask, which is what is it like to be a Skidmore student when I’m not in class.” The college communications team felt that using immersive video was the best way to answer that question, “why not use something like 360VR to bring Skidmore student life to the accepted candidate,” said Meyers.
“Letting them experience something that was more authentic so they can see themselves as part of the Skidmore experience was the main goal of this campaign,” said Vickie Riley, Manager of Videography and Digital Resources. She goes on to say “when students view our 360VR experience, they get something that is a lot more authentic and they can see themselves as being a part of Skidmore.”
This isn’t the first time a college or university has used 360° video to engage students. Princeton, Kent State, Yale and many other schools have used immersive videos as a way to bring the college tour to the student. But Skidmore College is one of first to use it as a way to notify students that they’ve been accepted into college. The Skidmore Communications team knew students had already toured the campus, sat in on classes, and talked with faculty. So it was about giving the accepted candidates something more, something a letter or booklet couldn’t provide. “We’re trying to tell a story versus just dropping someone into an environment,” said Luke Meyers. He continues with “we didn’t want the immersive experience to be tour based, our hope was to capture snippets within each piece of immersive video so that it played into the much larger Skidmore experience.”
The idea for the package came about when Interim Vice President for Communications and Marketing, Debra Townsend tried on a VR headset at a board of trustees meeting. She saw the opportunity to connect with students on a much different level. The idea of using it as part of the accepted candidates letter seemed very new, and it meant changing how they notified students, but the college was up for the task. “This was a test for us – we’re just getting our feet wet but there are lots of ways we can use new technology like VR differently with different audiences,” she said.
The college also see’s AR/VR being a big part of their future communication with students and alumni. Diane O’Connor, Director of Campus and Media Relations says bringing “new dimensions” to college printed materials using augmented reality is huge for engagement. She goes on to elaborate on the idea by saying, “using augmented reality with a LookBook or college magazine to bring printed materials to life to engage our Skidmore community and new students will play a big part in how we communicate with them.” Vickie Riley goes on to say, “as long as our audience is into that, then that’s where we need to be.”