A New Way to Experience College Tours
By Liz Yokubisony, LizYokubisony.com I September 27, 2022
College tours can be daunting, to say the least. Narrowing down which colleges to visit can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. For both parents and students. Add to that inflated gas prices and airfares, and many parents would prefer to avoid the expense and hassle altogether. Enter The College Tour – a new way to experience college tours. From the comfort of your own living room.
An Alternative to Expensive College Tours
The College Tour (TCT) offers students and their parents the chance to watch student-led college tours via Amazon Prime. Not an Amazon subscriber? No problem. TCT is also available free of charge via Freevee and on the website itself. They even have an app. The goal? To ensure that the content is accessible to everyone.
The genesis of the idea came from the show’s co-founder and host Alex Boylan. Alex got his start in television by winning The Amazing Race, and later went on to build an impressive resume of creating, hosting, and producing TV shows.
A few years ago, when Alex’s niece was in high school, she and her mother stayed at his home in Venice, California while touring campuses in southern California. After a few days, his niece started talking about wanting to visit colleges in Texas and New York. Much to the chagrin of her mother, who had intended for this to be her one and only college tour trip.
Alex started helping his niece research colleges online and was quickly overwhelmed. “With 900 community colleges and 2500 four-year colleges/universities, I thought how can we distill all this information?” recalls Alex. “It was the first time I created a show based on a problem that I was dealing with. And that’s exactly how The College Tour was born.”
Alex tapped friends and colleagues to create a team of 60 talented people, many of whom helped build Survivor and The Biggest Loser, that share a passion for the show. And while it takes up to six months to produce one episode of TCT, they work lock step with the universities every step of the way. “I never would have thought in a million years that Hollywood and higher education would work together so well,” Alex says with a smile.
The show is student led, featuring real college students who share their personal stories and individualized college experiences. The idea is to utilize an older demographic (current college students) to reach a younger demographic (high school students) and get them excited about attending college.
“It is an honor and a pleasure to be in the position we are to lift up higher education,” says Alex. “If you need to be inspired by the next generation, watch The College Tour. These young people are incredible, so special. If there’s one thing America can get behind, it is the future of our children.”
A Diverse Mix of College Tours
Currently, five seasons of the show are live, and profile over 50 different college campuses. TCT operates on a rolling launch – meaning that as soon as an episode is complete, it is rolled out on the website and the app. Then it is released as an entire season on Amazon Prime and Freevee. Season 6 is scheduled for a November 2022 release.
The diversity of colleges profiled each season is impressive. For example, Season 1 features Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, Arizona State University and Delaware Valley University, to name just a few. This means that prospective students can watch a tour about a small liberal arts college in the heart of the mountains, one of the largest universities in the country and a small, private school that focuses on agribusiness and animal sciences.
According to Alex. “Our goal is to tell the story of each and every four-year college and community college. It’s a massive passion project and the way we’ve approached it to date is staying diversified. Each school is so different, in terms of location and culture, and we want to get to everyone, but our biggest limitation is the timing.”
Student Led Campus Tours
The focus on diversity is also reflected by which students The College Tour selects to profile on each campus. TCT offers open casting at each location which means that any student can apply to be on the show. “When we’re casting, we’re thinking about diversity. The idea is for prospective students to watch a full-fledged experience at one college from 10 different student perspectives rather than a single tour guide, like traditional campus tours,” says Alex.
Each episode is designed to show the heart and soul of the campus, which is a collective goal of TCT and the selected university. Together they evaluate the best stories to tell until slowly the episode starts to reveal itself. Each student writes their own first draft of the script for their segment, so the stories are genuine and individualized.
After casting is complete, TCT does a full onboarding with each student, helping craft their authentic story. Then they are all given a crash course in media training, so they are comfortable in front of the camera. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that some of best directors in the industry are working with these students, ensuring that the end product is a source of pride to the student, the university and TCT.
Value of The College Tour to Parents
As an extremely cost-effective alternative to traditional college tours, TCT is a conduit to get students to campus without leaving home. In fact, many families are sitting down and watching an episode together, once a week.
“TCT really puts the parent on the same page with the student, allowing them to connect with their student and have great conversations,” says Alex.
“We are doing the best job possible to bring you to that campus from your living room, while saving you time, energy and money.”
Additionally, at the suggestion of high school college counselors, TCT offers an online class, at no charge, to help students prioritize their interests and narrow the search process. “The class is organized into bite sized pieces, layering the information while giving context to what you’re watching,” says Alex. “It lays out, on a macro level, what students need to be thinking about as they start to narrow down colleges that interest them.”
There are three more classes in the cue: the newly launched first-generation class, and the upcoming classes focused on international students and majors. All these classes will pull videos from the show to help high school students get inspired to take the next step in their college search process.
“On an extremely macro level TCT’s goal is to inspire high schoolers to graduate high school and go on and get a higher education degree no matter what that looks like – a certificate, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctorate,” reflects Alex. “The best thing is figuring out what you want to do in life and getting the education to make that happen. Hopefully The College Tour is a small part that.”