UP to be featured in ‘The College Tour’
By Netty Jurriaans, The Beacon I November 17, 2023
Camera crews on campus made for an entertaining week before fall break for students and faculty on The Bluff. But more entertainment is soon to come as UP will be featured on the 11th season of “The College Tour” airing this May on Amazon Prime Video.
“The College Tour” first premiered in 2020 and three years later has featured over 100 college campuses in their 10 seasons.
The show aims to offer students who are unable to visit these campuses in person a comprehensive understanding of them. It offers a visual of campusand an in-depth look at the culture and student experience that defines each institution.
“How do you find your tribe, your vibe, those intangibles, the culture of the place?” host and Executive Producer of “The College Tour” Alex Boylan said. “That’s where the college tour was born. The whole idea was like, ‘how is there not a show where you could sit back on your mobile device or TV and just watch real students telling real stories about their campus?’”
Boylan was inspired by his niece during her senior year of high school when she was struggling to pick a school. He realized that due to finances and time it’s impossible for students to experience every university they might be considering. With an extensive background in reality TV, Boylan knew this show would benefit all students grappling with the difficult decision of where to attend university.
With the show’s target audience being prospective students, UP sees this as a marketing opportunity. All universities featured on the show pay to be in it. Vice President of Marketing and Communications Michael Lewellen declined to reveal how much UP paid but believes it will raise UP’s profile and ultimately increase enrollment.
“It’s within normal advertising and marketing costs,” Lewellen said. “It’s not anything unusual or beyond what we would normally spend as part of our overall marketing and advertising budget. The platforms that they bring is what makes the investment worthwhile and then, of course, the production and the fact that we get to show off our students.”
Conversations with “The College Tour” team began three years ago. Due to COVID and changes within administration, UP held off on moving forward until they felt it was the right time. According to Lewellen, the visibility that comes with this feature is very important and the addition of President Robert Kelly was vital to UP’s episode.
“It’s opportunities like this that don’t come along very often,” Lewellen said. “I think that’s part of the reason why we wanted to take advantage of it.”
The vision finally came to life beginning this past August when students received an email with information about casting. Each candidate sent in a two minute video talking about their experience at UP. Casting was a joint effort between UP’s team and “The College Tour’s” team, looking for candidates with unique and important stories to tell.
With over 30 applications, the final casting was only 10 students: Ian Thompson, Denver Backus, Laya Duguid, Israel Osorio, Zora Richardson, Julia Thomas, Allana Gladman, Oliver Jeppe, Kieurstyn Camacho and Darius Newman.
“We had some students that were nominated by faculty and staff,” Lewellen said. “So it was not easy to choose those 10, which I think is a good problem to have.”
First-year political science major Allana Gladman is one of the 10 students selected to appear. As someone interested in a career in television, Gladman saw this as an opportunity to boost her resume.
“This is a way to get my face out,” Gladman said. “It might be a small thing but at least it’s something.”
“The College Tour” was on campus filming Gladman and the other nine students for only five days, allotting around two to four hours for each student. The production process for one episode takes about six months. The pre-filming process takes about four months — coordinating, casting and script writing — and post-production takes about two months.
According to Boylan, the students are the main authors of the show’s scripts, with only minor input from the marketing and production teams. The show’s core purpose is to share the authentic stories of these students and inspire others who can relate to their experiences to consider applying to the institution.
“We really feel like we’re standing up for higher education because there’s a little bit of a narrative out there that college isn’t worth it,” Boylan said.
Boylan believes that “The College Tour” brings a personal and unique perspective to not only UP but to higher education in general — with benefits across the board for students and the visibility of institutions for marketing purposes.
“It really is designed as something that is going to raise UP’s profile both nationally and even internationally,” Lewellen said. “We’re going to get a chance to show off the beauty of The Bluff while showcasing our students and, of course, the UP experience.”
Netty Jurriaans is the Community Engagement Editor for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated that the episode will air on Amazon Prime Video in February 2024. The episode will actually air in May 2024.