Cassidy Teager can take prospective students on University of Kentucky tours at any time, whether the visitors are in town or not.
With just a click of the "walking tour" button at Seeblue.com/#3, Teager will virtually walk anyone through the UK campus, giving plenty of details about every stop: up the avenue of trees from South Limestone to the Main Building, then down the walks to Pence Hall and the College of Engineering. She takes visitors to the Arboretum and Sorority Circle. She even stops by Rupp Arena and Keeneland.
In Teager's tour, the sun is always shining, green leaves hang from lush trees, and UK's landscape sparkles with flowers.
It's a new weapon in the competitive world of student recruitment, a way for students who can't make a visit to campus to see UK at its best.
The company that made the video is called YouVisit, and its three co-founders aimed to make tours accessible to students who can't go in person, CEO Endri Tolka said. As an Albanian high school student, he went to Brandeis University because his older brother had gone there. He didn't visit any schools because he couldn't.
"Now having been to a lot of colleges, I might have made a different choice," Tolka said in a recent phone interview from his New York office.
YouVisit has now worked with more than 1,000 colleges and universities around the world.
YouVisit employees make most of the videos, although the school usually provides a guide such as Teager.
"We recommend to really think about what a student would experience, and where they would go on a visit if they were there," Tolka said. "These tours have been very, very important to the schools in terms of being able to recruit students" who live elsewhere.
Tolka said the numbers speak for themselves. Since the site launched on Nov. 3, the UK YouVisit tour has had 2,500 visitors, whose average time spent on each visit is 10 minutes. Those visitors were from 44 states and 30 other countries.
UK spokesman Jay Blanton said the virtual tours — one of the campus and one of new residence halls — cost about $18,000 annually. The money comes from the marketing budget. He said school officials had wanted an online tour for some time. About 121 student inquiries have resulted directly from the online tour, he said.
"It's increasingly a tool utilized by leading universities in their recruitment efforts," he said. "We know from our research that if students come to campus for a visit, they are more likely to enroll. That's not possible for a lot of students, or you may have an issue where students are deciding which campuses to tour."
Blanton said the tours, which have Spanish and Mandarin versions, can also reach key recruitment markets.