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New website helps students track campus visits

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February 26, 2011

By David Eck

DAYTON DEANERY — The University of Dayton recently signed on with a tech start-up that enables high school students to track and rate their college campus visits on a free user-driven website.


Welcome to College website

The website welcometocollege.com helps high school students keep track of their college campus visits.

(Courtesy graphic)

About 600 high school students and parents are now using the website, welcometocollege.com, which was founded last September by 2001 UD graduate Justin Bayer. The website’s basic listing includes some 4,100 colleges and universities from across the country. It allows students to rate their campus visit on 11 specific criteria covering academics, facilities, campus life and final impression.


Schools that subscribe to the service have an expanded presence on the website and access to student comments and ratings about their campus visits. That data can help schools modify their visit process for maximum benefit, Bayer said. In their feedback, students may note something simple that had been overlooked, such as a tour route that goes through an isolated or darkened area of the campus. St. Michael’s College in Vermont, the Milwaukee School of Engineering, Wittenberg University and the University of New Haven in Connecticut have also subscribed. Other schools are considering the service, Bayer said.


“There’s a lot of great feedback that comes from that visit experience,” said Bayer, who grew up in West Chester and graduated from Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati. “Because the visit is such a critical component for the selection process, that’s one of your greatest assets from the recruitment angle. You’re always looking to make sure you are providing the best visit experience possible.”


UD has used its own tools to gather feedback from prospective students about their campus visit experience, but welcometocollege.com offers more flexibility and entices visitors to be more open with their comments, said Kevin Schultz, social media coordinator at the university.


“It is a site that allows students to share comments with others and interact in ways that are inherently social [and] not inhibited by someone who may be trying to influence them,” Schultz said. “For us, at least, it’s invaluable. We put a lot of time and effort into making our visit great.”


A member of St. Albert the Great Parish in Kettering, Bayer, 32, experienced the impact of a positive campus visit when he first went to UD while still in high school. He was encouraged to visit UD by a Moeller guidance counselor, even though Bayer wasn’t considering that university.


“That visit absolutely changed everything,” Bayer said. “I look back on it as a turning point in my life.”


His campus guide was a graduate of Purcell Marian High School and was active in student government, as Bayer was at Moeller. The campus was appealing, and Bayer felt comfortable with those he met during that visit.


After graduating from UD with a degree in business, Bayer went back to Moeller where he worked for two years running student retreats. He earned a master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of Vermont in 2005, and worked as the school’s admission director and campus visit coordinator.


As coordinator. Bayer began to realize the school wasn’t capturing objective feedback from students about their campus visits. An idea for collecting that information using the internet began evolving and continued after he returned to UD in 2006 as director of development. He had bought the web domain name years earlier and eventually developed the concept for welcometocollege.com. He left UD last April to work on the website full-time.


Bayer put his own resources, including his retirement savings, into the venture. Family also contributed, and he found an investor to provide additional funding.


“It’s amazing how things have played out in this,” Bayer said. “We’re at a point where I can feel the wheels starting to turn.”


Bayer and his one employee, J.P. Gregory, director of partnerships and former director of admissions at Chaminade-Julienne High School, also work with several Catholic high school guidance offices at no charge to highlight the value of the campus visit.


“We know how important it is to get this message out. We look at it as our opportunity to give back” Bayer said. “I really think we found an area that I feel we are one of the first to tackle. I feel there’s a lot of opportunity here.”

David Eck can be reached at [email protected].

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