To narrow down her choice of colleges, high school senior Augusta Jahrsdoerfer did what students have done for generations: take tours of the schools she was interested in. But rather than travel to universities across the state or country, the 18-year-old Boynton Beach, Fla., resident logged on to YOUniversityTV.com, a web site that provides video tours and other services that allow prospective students to explore a school without ever stepping foot on campus.
“It really helped save time and money,” Jahrsdoerfer said, explaining that the site helped her eliminate schools and decide which one she wanted to attend. “We didn’t really have all the money to fly or drive to all the schools I wanted to visit.”
Video tours of college campuses are not exactly a new phenomenon; many universities have provided video tours and information about their campuses to prospective students for years.
But the Boynton Beach-based start-up YOUniversity LLC is hoping to draw users to its sites by offering prospective college students an unbiased, third-party source of information about hundreds of schools in an interactive, social environment.
“Most of our employees are recent grads, who are best able to share their campus experiences with others getting ready to go to college,” said co-founder Ron Reis, who launched the company in January 2008.
The 17-person staff has three full-time camera crews that travel around the country shooting high-definition footage of college campuses and the surrounding area.
They’ve already taped more than 400 top schools throughout the country.
“They’ve done a really good job, and they seem to have found a niche market that people really need,” said Gordon Chavis, associate vice president for undergraduate admissions at the University of Central Florida. Chavis said UCF let YOUniversity film its campus about a year ago and was so impressed with the video that the school put a link on its own web site.
“We were just glad to be a part of it. … A number of new students have mentioned the virtual tour as a positive factor,” Chavis said.
The YOUniversity crews interview administrators, faculty, and students, and while the company asks each school to fact-check the accuracy of statistics, the school does not pay for the video to be made, and it is up to each YOUniversity crew to decide what makes the cut.
“The schedule can be pretty crazy,” said Nicole Erin, a recent Florida Atlantic University graduate who is one of the on-camera personalities for YOUniversity. “One day, we were taping [in] Las Vegas, and we had to be at the University of Arizona the next day. Our flight was delayed and we missed our connection, so we had to drive through the night from Phoenix to Tucson. We shot there, then had one day off, then had to head to West Point.”
Co-founders Reis and Angelo Kotzamanis are hoping the hard work pays off, especially because the pair closed a profitable business and invested personal savings to get YOUniversity off the ground.
The Boynton Beach entrepreneurs had previously been partners in Max World News, a firm that produced video news releases for news stations.