The College Tour - A Conversation with Alex Boylan


In this episode of the Higher Ed Happy Hour podcast, Ian spoke with Alex Boylan. Alex is a producer and host for the Amazon prime series, "The College Tour." In the show, Alex travels across the U.S. giving an in-depth look at colleges and universities from a student's perspective. The show covers issues of great importance and helps higher education institutions with their student outreach, branding, and marketing efforts.

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of their conversation. And if you'd like, you can listen to the conversation here:

Ian Evenstar: I've watched a handful of episodes. I love the show and it feels, what I like about it is it feels like it's part travel guide, and part documentary filmmaking. Like a day in the life. It also has an element of an infomercial, for those people who know about long-form advertising. I'm curious, is this an accurate assessment? Is my impression of the show's format correct?

Alex Boylan: I think that's pretty good. I've never heard anyone describe it like that, but I think that's spot on. I mean, you know, this whole thing started because my niece Isabelle did not have the finances, like 99% of these high school students out there to travel around the country and visit every single campus she wanted to go to. And during that process, she was given one trip. She came to visit me in LA and after that experience, and seeing her need of wanting to check out across America and see these campuses, that's where the whole light bulb went off. And so really we've just tried to stay true. Each episode tells the story of one university through the authentic lens of real students. And I think that's the key, it's real current students, and these are really their stories. And even we get, if we ever get into the production process of making the show, you know, writing, even writing these scripts, these are real students' stories. So I think that authenticity is what really is resonating with the audience now and just, uh, fortunate for the ride to be on this is, uh, first time for sure that I've ever created a show out of a problem. Yeah. Never before have I ever done that. So it's been a, been a fun success.

IE: So we have your niece to thank for this. So that's, that's great.

AB: If you watch at the end of every episode, you'll see, inspired by Isabelle Paul Nasik and millions of high school students around the world. That's, that's the story behind the show and she gets the credit at the end of every episode for that.

IE: Oh, that's cool. That's cool. And did she finally, I guess, did she ultimately end up finding the school of choice?

AB: Great question because this story goes full circle. Episode three is about Arizona State University. In that episode, we did a story on a young woman attending there who had a full ride via the Starbucks scholarship program that ASU had with Starbucks. Like, work at Starbucks and she applies for it. And so now Isabel has a full ride at Arizona state university because of watching the show. She would've never known about that opportunity without this, uh, without this series out there. So really fun to how, how that story comes full circle around.

IE: And do you find that mostly, given your audience, do you find that mostly it's students still tuning in and, and trying to extract value and information from the show? Or do you also see guidance counselors, parents, and administrators? Who's really extracting value from this show at this point?

AB: Our primary audience is young people, probably. I mean, it keeps getting younger by the way, but it's 8th grade roughly to that like 11th, 12th, that's our primary audience. I mean, that was the whole show was designed for, I'm really excited about that because we think this might be the first time where we're getting these two demographics college, everyone in high school looks up to when you're 16, 15, you look up to those 19, 20-year-olds and we're, and the show is getting these, these two audiences to speak to one another. It's almost like a peer-to-peer conversation. But what we have found, which is really interesting, is it's the parents, it's the teachers, it's the guidance counselors. I mean, we're in constant communication with about 60,000 high schools, and college counselors across the country. And they're a massive part of our audience because they're the ones directly talking to students, trying to help them figure out their path. The counselors reach out to us and asked us, Hey, could you guys create a course? And so a few months ago we released a video-based course. Everything is for free on and it's just taking pieces of these episodes, bringing them into the four key pillars that we think could start the idea of how to start thinking about what college might be right for them. And what we have found in this process. Even though once again, all are designed for young people, it's the parents that are also taking this class because college has changed a lot and they might have a certain vision for what their college experience was or where they went to school. They don't know about all the campuses. So we are finding more and more parents taking the class so they can have educated conversations with their young people and, and start like, you know, having a fun time as they figure out which school's right for them.

IE: This is required watching for anyone maybe entering high school or getting closer to that application process. So I have a 16-year-old, I think I shared that with you going into his junior year. I now know exactly what I need to do before the end of the summer, which is to watch all the episodes with him and my wife, and sit down and start to have more of an educated conversation about what college is.

AB: It's great to hear that. We hear all day long it's summertime right now that these students, their homework over the summer is to watch the college tour. That's what we're, we're hearing that across the board. So we pinch ourselves. Like this is amazing, but also what we have like been trying to push exactly that is like, create like a viewing night as a family, because really anyone can watch the show, you know, a 10-year-old can watch the show and get something out of it. A 16-year-old can watch it get, and you're gonna get something out of it as well. It's fun. It's a, it's a love letter to higher education. And so you get to travel. This country learns about different campuses and cultures and people. And it's really just been a pleasure. So we're really blessed to have a show that hits so many different demographics all because it's, once again, going back to your original, you know, thought it's like fixing a problem.

IE: And it's a great service that you're providing. I, I know that this is a component to your livelihood and, you know, your kind of career trajectory as a, as a host and traveler and filmmaker, but you're offering a great service to all of those in need of higher education and, and wanting to pursue. So it's virtuous, you know, and I, and I think that you should be commended on that.

AB: I really appreciate that. Just little background, I've spent my life filmed in so many countries around the world, working on some of the coolest, biggest shows in the world, Lisa Hennessy, I mean, she helped build reality TV. I mean, she was like a pioneer building survivor and, and, you know, world's toughest race, like massive franchises, ask anyone inside of our company right now, everyone we're at a good age to it where, you know, have done all those, you know, big primetime shows where everyone is. I don't think anyone's been as happy as they are right now in doing what we do because of the stewardship. We feel like this is having a tangible effect. It's not just a, oh, look at this cool whatever show there. Every single episode, every single story is speaking to someone and helping their path in life, hopefully in a better way. And so it's absolutely right. I mean, we, the stewardship and just the feeling of gratification, we feel internally, it's something that I've never had in my career.

IE: Yeah. I guess, uh, I'll go out on a limb here. It does have a higher purpose than say just a pure entertainment-focused reality-based TV show, right?

AB: Yeah, absolutely. There, uh, this is all purpose behind it. Every single aspect is interesting. Cuz the department of education reached out to us a couple of weeks ago. You would've never thought in my life as a travel producer, I'll be talking to the department of education, but it's interesting. And then they were explaining to us, you know, 15% of high school students don't even graduate high school, only 50, 40, 50% are going on to higher education in the first place. Wow. But when young people can see what they wanna do and they can see the path, everything else starts clicking into place. And so we'll see. I mean, we're, we're only a couple of years into this project, into the show, but the idea that this show is helping lift, you know, a rising tide lifts all boats. Yep. Just telling real stories is a pretty powerful thing. And just something that I'm extremely blessed to be a part of.

IE: That is powerful. And from an agency standpoint, we find ourselves oftentimes trying to communicate or find ways to communicate the value of higher education, especially now that there are so many online programs available and there are certifications outside of a university setting or offered by a university. And this is a great way to still showcase and communicate the value and the need for higher education, which of course helps kind of justify the expense that comes along with that experience. So I think you're, you're doing a lot of branding for higher education as well as facilitating that very difficult and complex decision that happens, you know, through the course of, of deciding if it's right for you or not.

AB: And you're spot on, you know, it's interesting. My sister, going back to Isabel, a very bright student, her mom has her master's. So she's coming from a family that like going to school, just a matter of fact, almost they're one of their first conversations with me is like, shit, is he going to college literally because you know, she's very fortunate. She grew up with uncles and aunts and her mom that work in the television film she's grown up in this business, you'll get a job. And it was interesting that they were even thinking that. And so obviously that is a conversation in the marketplace. And when I think the statistics show for themselves, what happens when you get a higher education, the statistics are there. You're gonna have a much better path in life when, when you go about that. And I always love to say, I hope this show is helping young people. And when I'm speaking to high school students saying, this is not a four-year investment, this is a 40-year investment. This is an investment in your life. First of all, it's the best time you're ever gonna have. Ask any adult and they look back and say, college was awesome. The resources you have the stuff you're gonna be exposed to. That doesn't happen in the real world. So I'm always telling you, imagine you love gaming and also music, whatever it is on a college campus, you're gonna have access to play with this stuff. You're gonna get access to professors to help educate you. And you can go and do anything from biology to business. All this stuff is at your fingertips. That if you're in the real world and all of a sudden, it's like, oh man, I really love to like play an instrument and like bring a game in here. What's gonna cost to rent a studio? You don't have access to this, this, this stuff to play with. So you can. So these young, you know, you can find your passion. You can find your purpose. So Absolut, I hope, you know, the college tour is helping tell that story. This is a 40-year investment. This is not just four years. This is setting you up for life. These are gonna be your best friends for the rest of your life. These are gonna be a lot of your colleagues for the rest of your life. The location will probably be part of you for the rest of your life. So there are all these little pieces of the puzzle that sometimes I think are getting overlooked in this narrative. It's a hundred percent worth it, both from how much money you are going to tangibly make afterward, to the experiences. And most importantly, to have an awesome life. You gotta, you gotta be able to be exposed to things in order to figure out what you should do in life. And that's a lot harder to do off a college campus at the age of 18 than within it.

IE: If you ever wanna be a VP of admissions at a high-level university, I feel like someone could hear your voice, and your advocacy, and hire you on the spot. And to that, to that end, also, for those of you listening, who are trying to communicate the value, I love this line. This is not a four-year investment. This is a 40-year investment in your life. And people can maybe take that with them and, and put that in as part of their pitch, if you will.

AB: By the way, I think in general, cuz it's, it's so fun. Before this show, I hadn't been on a college campus in... I mean, I'd go back to my Alma mater at Jacksonville University, but in general, I didn't know all this and higher education has changed. It is changing with the times. I think people need to understand this back in. I went to school, it was a lot of books. There was a lot of studying. It's not that. Now, this is experiential hands-on learning that is taking over. So you are getting your hands dirty and, and universities colleges out there, they understand, we need to get you a J B after this, right? That's what this, this, this mission is on. So, and another, another aspect that I'm hearing more and more, and I'll talk about my Alma mater, just because it, it was, you know, they had a new president came in about 10 years ago and he transformed the university in higher education. A lot of times they don't like to think of students as customers. Sometimes they don't like to talk about it. They don't like to say it, but that crack is starting to happen. That crack is starting to happen. And I think it's important that it does. And I'll tell you, I was sitting with the president, Tim cost at Jackson Lee university when we were filming MIMA Mater's episode. And I was raving to him cause I go, listen, this is a completely different university than when I went there, like unbelievable what you have done here. And this guy, he was, um, he was a VP of Pepsi. So he comes with the business brain and he goes, Alex, this isn't rocket science. And he goes, I just asked the students what they want. And I gave it to them. He spent his career thinking about a customer, right? Thinking about, what they want, what are their needs? What is the value that I can provide for them? So he goes, I just listened. And what the student said, it's like, like, Hey, listen, we're on the river. Can we get a beach? Right. Like we're studying all day long. We like to have some recreation era. And so we just went around and just started listening to what the students wanted and catered that experience to them. And I think you're seeing this across the college as in the university's landscape. So yeah, I think it's just important for parents and older people out there that had a college experience. It's different. Now, these students are getting to see the dorms, the food options, the experience, and what they're being exposed to. It's incredible.

IE: That's actually really inspiring to hear, because I think sometimes there's resistance within leadership at, at a university to make a change and to kind of succumb to market pressures. But if you look into any other industry and any other category, you have to listen to your customer, right? So even though that's a dirty word, it's the exact thing that is needed in order to evolve your college experience and stay relevant, and build brand equity. I love the fact that that's where his head's at. And I hope that people listening will take that as a, as a card and play that card more often because I think that's really smart. Listen to your students as if they're your quote-unquote users or customers and draft or evolve your business model and your offering to meet those needs

AB: And think about it and, I mean, it's a really expensive customer. You're not buying a can of Coke. You're not buying a laptop. Right. Do you know what I mean? This you're, you're willing to spend four years of your life and a lot of money to do this. And so I granted I don't come from the education space, but I see no problem with saying, they're our customers. Let's ask, what do you need? Cuz they know what the next step in life is. They know where they want to be next and they're learning that. And so, um, and in general, I'm witnessing it across the country right now. It's a really amazing experience on these college campuses.

IE: I'm sure you've seen that. Not just apply to like student services per se, or the amenities, but also the curriculum. And how you learn and how courses and classes are structured, like listening to the learner, you know, which is at the heart of all of this and making changes and evolving your courses, your classes, your, your learning environments in the same way that you might be adding a beach to a river, to use your example.

AB: I appreciate you bringing this up cause that's probably a better thing to talk about than a new beach. You know what it is, this next generation, it's all about customization and higher education is meeting that conversation. When I went to school, I'm sure for you as well, it's kind of like here's your curriculum to get your business degree or whatever it was now. It is so cool. Cuz you can like pull, oh, is this what you need? You need to get here in three years, and if you wanna have this, let's create a custom path for you. So that word customization, we hear all the time. And that is something once again, listening, cuz that's what the younger, the younger just generation that's coming up around. They're, they're used to wanting their information at their time and at their pace or they're used to having everything customized for them. And so colleges need to keep up with that on an academic level to UN so that that's the language they speak and that's the experience that they want.

IE: And we're on the verge here of getting philosophical. But I think that customization, I refer to it as hyper-personalization, you'll probably be seeing that earlier as well. Right? Like not every eighth grader should be on the same course taking the same classes and moving along like a conveyor belt. Right. We have to personalize this experience because our learners, our children, they have different interests, different attitudes, and different capabilities, and why not make education tailored and personalized to their experience to really bring out the best in them?

AB: I couldn't agree more. And I love that word, hyper-personalization.

IE: So let, let's talk about the mechanics of the show itself, uh, because I think anywhere you choose to kind of turn your attention or your spotlight, you know, they're the chosen one. So how do you choose to select which universities get brought to the surface, and what does that process look like?

AB: Yeah, it's a great question. I mean overall now, I mean our internal goal is to tell the story of every single, you know, college and university across the country. But obviously, there are 4,000 of them. If you include community colleges, which we did our first one not too long ago and we wanna tell every, every story there. So that's really, how do you tackle that? How do you tackle wanting to tell the story of every college in university in the country?

IE: This is what we call job security for you, right?

AB: Yeah. So really we set off, if you look at every season, our biggest thing was just diversity. We knew we didn't wanna just tell the story of like big state schools or, I mean, there's, there's so much, there's so much at our fingertips here in the United States, America, we truly are blessed. So I would say diversity is probably the easiest way to answer that question. So if you look at season one, we're telling season one episode one, Fort Lewis, college Durango, Colorado 1600 students. There are so many awesome things I could tell you about that school. That's a very different experience than the university of Illinois or the University of Connecticut. Once again, in that same season, along with what we did, I'm looking up at a map here, but Florida tech, a small technical school that was built to serve NASA in Melbourne, Florida, is super small. But if you wanna be an astronaut and you wanna work at NASA, it's a great school to go to. Each one of these experiences is, is completely different. So that is our, probably our biggest thing is trying to stay in each season, trying to stay diversified. Of course, it's six months for a process for us to make an episode that's in television terms. Everything we do on the college tour is probably double the work of a normal episode because imagine it's not like the college tour walks on campus, it's like, oh, here's the story of, um, you know, Tulane university, congratulations. No, I mean, we have to be locked in step with that university because the university knows their vibe. They know their story. We're here to help guide that ship and make an episode out of it and bring it all to life. So imagine each episode, two, two people or two families, really two different businesses need to come together, right? Get to know each other and go through this process step by step. So we can have an awesome episode at the end of the day. And so, um, obviously lots of variables in there from timing time of year staff there's resources. And once again, it's, it's we look at this as a co-production with each, each episode as a full co-production. So, you know, we're gonna slowly chew through it. We're very fortunate right now. I mean the first year was really getting the format down, building the team. Um, and so, you know, we're, we're at a pace now where we're, you know, except for dead of winter, we're filming, you know, two, we're two episodes a week, I'm on two college campuses a week. And um, you know, we might soon be able to ramp that up a little bit, but we are, we've gotten our system down and our team built. And so now, you know, there's a lot out there, but right now we just, the big thing is every season as you'll see, that is staying diversified. And it's interesting, we're hearing, you know, we did our first, all the college tour in Español. All in Spanish, Spanish speakers and listening to that market because Hispanic serving institutions and that market demographic is, is going up. It’s really raising. And when you listen, that demographic's different. That is not an if my parents, like not, Isabel's going to college at, you know, Arizona state University, we are going to, you know, that that's, that market thinks it's we, it's a family decision. So now we did our first, uh, episode at Maricopa community college, which was awesome. And so we're, and we're having lots more conversations even with past schools that we've already worked with. Um, and new schools about that. So it's almost, it's the same, but different it's its own series because it's a different, it's different communication, to be honest, uh, and just like what that, what those stories are and who that market is and how they're making decisions. So once again, this started as a very seed because Isabelle couldn't figure out where to go to school and it just keeps kind of growing. And all we do as producers really is, listen. We're just constantly listening to the market and you tell us what you need and what your wants are. Of course, we have a format of a show and we have our responsibility to the networks and how we deliver that show. But aside from that, we're here to listen to this market and help this market because we've throughout the last couple of years, we've fallen in love with this market. I feel like I have the best job in the world to travel to college campuses and tell real young students' stories in terms of hoping to inspire the next generation. How cool is that?

IE: Yeah, it's incredibly cool. And as we mentioned earlier, also very valuable. One of the things that came to mind as you were, you were speaking is the fact that you also have to kind of curate and select and maybe groom a little bit, or coach the students that you feature right at each of these campuses. So two families coming together, but it's also okay, who inside your family there is the best person to help us tell this story. Which is just another nuance that I think doesn't go into a typical production. So maybe talk a little bit about how you select the students and, you know, do the universities put forward, like these are the ambassadors we think would be great. How does that, uh, unfold?

AB: Great question. And, and any show regardless of the college tour or any show for that matter, casting is key, right? Your cast of characters is especially for the college tour, because this is the voice. These are like, this is gonna, this is what's gonna represent, what is your university all about? Once again, we deal with casting like we cast with any show. So we have a super wide net. It's just big picture, digital flyers put together with all the information. That goes out to every student. We're coming. The college tour is coming to campus. Tell us your story, you know, and it's as simple as that, it's as simple as casting. So we get just general, you know, students applying, let's just call it and, and creating casting videos. Of course, we're talking to deans and heads of departments, because if we know, we want to tell the story of this engineering program, they might have some, you know, great students in mind. But yeah, that takes a bit. And it’s one of the first things that we deal with. Because the story of someone, sometimes if you imagine how we always say, you know, it's like a painting and every week we're kind of putting more paint brushes on it. Eventually, we're all gonna see the same movie. We're gonna see the same episode. We gotta kind of trust the production process to get to where we're going to go. And, um, many times it's like, yep, we're gonna tell the story of this. And we gotta tell the story of that. But then all of a sudden, I'll give you an example. At the University of Illinois, we, weren't doing a story on engineering. This student, Mihir from India, his story is unbelievable. He, since he was a kid on the streets of Delhi, he was like taking, you know, lawn mowers apart and putting 'em back together. He just had an engineering mind. During COVID he got inspired to try to help figure some, you know, what can they do to help. Ends up reading a paper on a professor from the University of Illinois, reaches out to that professor. They kind of start working around the world together on something. And next thing you know, Mihir now is an amazing engineering student at the University of Illinois. And so what a powerful story, you know, of an international student and how he found his way. And now what the university of Illinois is doing to help further his knowledge and his education on becoming, you know, a professional engineer. And so, and there are many stories like that. So sometimes universities, they know exactly. Here are a couple of great people, but more often than not, they had no idea, the diamonds of the rough, you just don't know about 'em. And somehow the magic of the college tour kind of brings them to the surface and we're able to tell their stories.

IE: That must be a delight. That reminds me of just documentary filmmaking in general, right? Is like, you kind of get these uncovered stories or these diamonds in the rough, as you put it, uh, as you go through the process. What are some big surprises or maybe the converse of that, you know, what are some challenges that you've seen as you've gone, uh, gone through this experience?

AB: I gotta tell you it's been such a blessing. I wish. And by the way, I'm always super positive. When we do these kickoff calls, first call we do after we're moving forward, the university it's like, imagine it's their whole team. So you got admissions, you got marketing, you got everyone's head. And then, of course, it's us. You got your executive producers. You're supervising producers, you're production coordinators. Like it's one big, like, Hey, we're gonna talk about this from a 30,000-foot view and then we're gonna dive into this production process. The process, it wasn't, it didn't start this way. Cuz early on, I can tell you some fun, they're not horror stories. They were just fun. Like episode one, I didn't want the students to sound read. Right. Even though it's their story. And if I back up here for a second, after a student's casted and they're giving the segment to this day, of course, we give parameters, we have teams to help them. But the first draft of their script, that's coming out of their mouth. They write it. And there's a reason for that. Because if we take that away now it's not their voice and then we are ripping the authenticity out of the show. So every single, every student you see there, that first draft is written by them. And then of course pretty we'll come through and we'll make some TV tweaks and figure out how we're gonna cover this with B-roll, et cetera, et cetera. Um, but anyway, fun story, back up. We’re at episode one, just like anything, you're learning in the first process, like, is this gonna work? And is this gonna be great? So I really didn't want the students, I was worried about them sounding rehearsed. You know, I wanted to sound authentic, even though it is authentic, how do we bring that to life to be authentic? And so I was one, I was just like, just kinda roughly know your bullet points. And then we show up to film, and of course, they're nervous, right? I mean, there's a camera crew set and it's a young student. They’ll be like, what am I supposed to say? They'd be like a deer in headlights. And so it was on episode one, we're like, okay, turn, we're gonna change this up. You guys gotta memorize the script. And so now, now students go through full media training, right? I mean there's a full onboarding process to get them ready. Of course, their script is kind of locked. We have these, you know, just different processes to get them as prepared as possible for when the real deal happens. And we're sitting there on set. And our I'm really, we're very fortunate in where we are in our careers, in this business. I mean our directors and I'll just name a few. I mean, Darren Darren is like, I mean, he was the showrunner of "Undercover Boss." I mean, these are the most experienced executive producer showrunners, and everyone who touches the college tour just wants to keep working on it. And so we're very good to have some of the best in the business there to make them feel comfortable. And there's not one student yet that we haven't been able to get over the goal line. So whether they're an, A type personality and they're excitable and, or they're not, it's our job to make them look like absolute rock stars.

IE: Well, I'm gonna highlight just a little bit of advice here that you gave, because I think this applies to not just the college tour production, but marketing in general for university, which is this idea. Let's say the university's trying to tell, I don't know, some vignette stories from their student perspective on their Instagram or their TikTok channel, or maybe highlight some alumni stories, say on their website as part of one of their, their program pages. Let the talent write their script. Don't try to write it for them. Maybe give them some parameters, as you said, or say like, Hey, it'd be great if we could hit these points, cuz these are part of our messaging, architecture, whatnot, but let the talent write the actual script. And I think this for me is the first time I've ever heard it. And now I'm thinking, okay, our next video series that we're gonna do a TikTok to try to highlight these stories of these students for this university. We're not gonna write it for them. We're gonna come up with these talking points and then let the talent themselves put it in their own words. Really key piece of advice there.

AB: It's in the best stories are the real ones. And so, um, I think that's the, you know, that's the essence of the magic and I'm, I'm just really proud that we've been able to, um, to stick to that and it, and, and a big kudos to universities. I mean, this was starting off something new, as you'd mentioned, universities in general, don't like change. They don't like something new. And so to have this third party come in and help this. And so I think it's a big testament to higher education in general, for them to have trust in our team. Just trust in the process and trust in their students is a lot of trust going along here, you know, in order to pull off this episode. But it really just, you know, finding great students with great stories. That's, what's better than that. Nothing's better there. No one, I mean, no, no high schooler wants to hear, no offense to us, do you know what I mean? Some 40-year-old, 50-year-old, and sixty-year-olds, seventy-year-olds, talk about how awesome the university is. They grew up in a world of YouTube. They grew up in a world of TikTok. They grew up in this world of just keep it real, keep it raw. And so we, we try to kind of mulled all that together with this show.

IE: They can sniff it out almost instantly, if this is an authentic, genuine point of view or if this has been scripted by some administrator in an office, you know, trying to like basically persuade them or convince them that their college is best.

AB: I won't go to the whole backstory, but there is a couple of digital series we do now, right. Where I sit down with the presidents, and heads of admissions. A digital series that kind of spawned outta nowhere. I filmed this on my cell phone and these little digital series have kind of started to like really become something. And it's interesting because I, we have, when we started it, we don't edit the pieces. It's literally this candid, just like you and I, right now, it's this candid conversation. And somehow because of the college tour I've got, we've gotten buy-in from all these presidents and people. It's just like, as soon as we edit this, cause they're like, we're gonna edit this. Right. It's like, no, we can do it again if we don't like it, but let's sit down and let's just push record for eight minutes and let's have a conversation here. And that magic, and now you'll really get the energy of what that leadership is all about. And so it's been, I don't know, it's been really fun to take a, take a world that typically doesn't like change and to see them adapt so well and, and just kind of go with the flow of how the college tour and the different series that we're doing to jump on. So it's, it's not just the students. I mean, we're getting literally presidents being okay with, let's let this rip, let's have some fun because that authenticity that parent’s gonna resonate, that guidance counselor's gonna resonate, and that student is as well.

IE: Yeah, that's good. You're letting them like kind of unfurl some of the control that typically, maybe they would come to their, their brand message and uh, just, you know, show a more human side to, to what they believe and what they're trying to communicate. So, couple more questions. I know we're, we're approaching the end of our time here. Thank you again for just spending time with me and sharing all of your insights with our audience. It's been great. So I wanted to ask just about the way that student interests are today. Like kind of what they're looking for in a campus or an experience versus say when you went to school and what you were looking for. Have you, have you seen changes in the intent or the desire? I know we talked about the market factor. We need a job or a return on investment, but what are some other surprising interests that you've heard from students?

AB: I think for me, in general I would say I'd probably go to experiential learning and, and I would say, and internships and connections. I mean, I'd say those two things are this bridge between, you know, I'm learning, I need to start getting some real experiences under my belt. And so that's, I would say mostly it's hands-on experience. It's really fun watching a lot of these young people it's like, I want to, I don't wanna just learn about business statistics. I wanna be in the room, you know what I mean? In a case study on X company and actually have real, you know, life. And I'd say that's another part we've seen a lot of professors, a lot of just bringing, like, I've done this for 20 years, like bringing real experience into the classroom. We're seeing that across the board. And I think, what a fun way to learn because there are courses, I'm just gonna use business international, business major. There are principles that you need to learn and you need to understand, but you know, there's nothing like getting out there, getting your hands dirty, and failing, right? Because that's the reality of like getting comfortable like, oh, that didn't work. And like, textbooks sometimes don't translate into real-world scenarios. And so the more you're just, you know, dealing with that the better. And I just, I think that young people want that 10 times more that, I wasn't even thinking like that. I just, it wasn't even in my brain. Right. When we were in school, I was like, okay, this is what I do. And it's hit the books. Right. And now it's more of like, yo, I think it's collaboration in working. You just watch even the spaces you see at these universities. There's, you know, we were, I was just, uh, filming. We were filming. We're still filming UC, uh, Cniversity of California, Riverside right now. And they have a student success buildings and they're all across campus. And you walk just like, oh my gosh, it's, it's like, you're walking into a WeWork. And I mean, that positive way, it's like a collaborative environment where it's not a, a library. I went to the library to study. That's where I went when I was at school. Now it's like, it's, it's what the young people it's like, oh cool. Like I got a place to take a call. I got a place to go work quietly, or I got a place to collaborate with other people. So it just, the whole layouts of like actual buildings, it's a different feeling than certainly what we had.

IE: Oh, that's really cool. That's a great insight. But yeah, you, you kind of underscored this idea of experiential learning, giving some real-world application and, and experiences along the way. I, I imagine that also translates to liberal arts. So kind of not only just working in the lab and doing your lab assignments, but then how do you actually start to begin drafting research and maybe starting to publish a little bit so you can fail forward with your publishing. But yeah, this, uh, this I think is a, is something that needs to be told, you know, more readily and, and at the forefront. And it's great that the program that you're, that you're producing is allowing for that. In terms of disparate, or you use the word diversity earlier, you know, we wanna make sure we're selecting a diverse set of, uh, college campus experiences. How do you kind of address or accommodate that a student-athlete let's say might, be much different or looking for a different aspect of a university compared to say, someone who's purely interested in the academic component of the experience. How do you cover such a wide diverse set of interests for the student body that might be considering a university?

AB: That's a great question. And obviously, it'd be impossible to touch every single, you know, exactly every demographic. There was an interesting paper that just came out and I wish I could speak. Anyway, this paper came out and it was talking about the challenges with in-person tours. And it gave the example of one student, a high school student who goes to this X university and gets on tour. Because that tour guide, and the person here and the potential student and the tour guide, the university were so different, just culture, demographics, whatever. They were just different people. Because he didn't resonate with the tour guide. He was like, I don't want to go. Quickly told his mom was like, I don't wanna go here all because it was. So it's tough when you think about it. Of course, we gotta do tours. Colleges need to do tours, but a lot is being relied on what is the demographic of the people that are taking the tour and who's giving the tour. That's a really hard thing. It's probably impossible to match up. And I think that's what helps out with The College Tour, because now we can get all the voices told as best as possible. And so, you know, I would say in our shows, every school is different. A couple of things are synonymous, almost none. We're most likely to do something on the location. Most likely. I would say something, if there's any like one segment that you almost can guarantee is gonna make it usually location, campus culture, um, and athletics, is there a lot, whether it's a small D3 three school or a big time powerhouse, you know, we're usually touching on, you know, that, that a little bit. And, and that, that athletics can come from different voices. You know, sometimes it is coming from that like star athlete. And they're just talking about the programs in some facilities, but if you watch like Yukon, it was really cool. We told, we told that from a fan’s lens. Because most of the students, you know, basketball's big time at Yukon and they have a lot of championships there. And, and so it was like, let's tell this story from the fanbase, because that's really 99% of the students are gonna have from experience. So, you know, we try to touch on all of them, but you know, it, it's hard, you know, of course, it's, you can't do it all, but these episodes would be eight hours, 10 hours long. So we do our best to try to, you know, that, that once again, that, that just all comes in that pre-production process. And it's tough to really figure out how to, how to weigh one over the other. But sometimes you'll have a, you'll be able to find the right student that can tell three stories in one through their story. That happens a lot. So we look for that when we're casting. It's like, oh, okay. This person has a unique perspective. We're able to touch on athletics, but also, you know, X, Y, and Z as well.

IE: You could almost do a whole season just on one campus. Right. It’s like each episode could be a different inflection of, you know, the wide variety of, of offerings that a college provides. Well, this is, this has been great. How do people reach out? Like if there's a, a Dean listening to this and thinks, you know, oh, we would love to be featured. How do they go about that process?

AB: Absolutely. is the catch-all for everything. Everyone out there can figure out where to watch the show and all their different devices. But there's a contact page right there that goes right to our producing team. And we’re on top of it. So if you're a university out there, you're interested in having an episode feature, please just go there and write in who you're at. And, someone will reach out to you real soon. I think we're right now working on season nine. So it's good time to reach out.

IE: Very cool. Any final words for the listeners? Any one piece of advice you wanna share?

AB: Honestly, cuz this is higher education. Thank you. I mean this from the whole production team, it's probably about 60 people that touch an episode at the college tour. Every single one of us comes from a different place and we all have fallen in love with higher education. So I think to your audience, thank you for what you do and keep going for it. And, and we're just really happy that we can be a potential solution for a lot of people out there. And hopefully, just lift up this whole marketplace.


Let's Work Together

Do you need help with recruitment for your organization? Let's work together to take your outreach efforts to the next level.



Older Post Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Higher Ed - A Conversation with Trisha Daho Newer Post Competency-Based Universities

Higher Ed News Brief

Sign up to get the top headlines in higher education every week.