How do we get out the message?

I’ve reached the stage in life where friends start asking you to talk with their kids about college.  I hate that I’m that old, though I guess it’s flattering that someone thinks I have an opinion worth hearing.  Fortunately in this case, the talk was germane to something I actually have some professional knowledge about since the topic was “where to live when you go to college.” A bit of back story – I attended a small private school and lived in a res hall all four years, so I have no sense of what it’s like to live off campus.  This guy is headed to a big state university where I guarantee his friends are telling him all the glamorous stories of apartment life with pools, no rules and never ending parties and he’s got this mental image of Animal House going on.

So the father, his son and I get together and they lay out a campus map with all the proximate apartment communities marked, info on rental rates, unit types, where buddies live, etc.  I am fortunate to know the AVP of Auxiliary Services at the school, so I’m up to date on campus housing being renovated, new housing being constructed, programming for the residents, etc. and come to our visit packing a strong opinion of the importance of living on-campus (particularly for freshmen.)  Mind you I have no official training in student affairs but I’ve read the reports, seen the statistics and have whole heartedly drunk the on-campus Kool Aid.  I counter with “Why aren’t you looking at on-campus housing?” and the kid looked like he was going to cry.  I guarantee you he wanted to kick me under the table for saying this in front of his dad.

Once I went through the convenience factors of all inclusive rent, walking to class, not having to find a place to park, and being able to walk to the off-campus entertainment, I’ve got the father’s attention.  Then we get into the proof that living on-campus increases the likelihood of academic success, plugs you into campus life, exposes you to more potential friends, and the father is hooked.  The kid still isn’t buying it but he’s starting to come around.  So then we actually start looking at the campus residence halls and talking about what they saw on the campus tour.  Now they have circles around res halls to investigate.

Where he’ll end up living I’ll find out later, but the eye opener is that future students – and more importantly their parents – aren’t getting the message about living on-campus.  I’ve heard this comes out in a campus tour (which my friend did) but I bet the “wow factor” overwhelms the message.

So a question I hope folks out there can help answer “How do we get the message out to high school students and their parents – and get it to stick – about the value of living on campus?”