Firm offers video college toursHigh school senior Augusta “Gussy” Jahrsdoerfer knew exactly where she wanted to attend college: The University of Central Florida. Definitely.
By: An AP Business Exchange By Allison Ross, The Palm Beach Post, The Jamestown Sun
BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — High school senior Augusta “Gussy” Jahrsdoerfer knew exactly where she wanted to attend college: The University of Central Florida. Definitely.
But then, going to the University of Florida would be nice, too.
And the University of North Dakota does have a good aerospace program.
Or what about the University of South Florida?
To decide, the Park Vista High School student did what high school seniors have done for generations — take tours of the schools she was interested in.
But rather than travel to universities across the state and the country, the 18-year-old Boynton Beach resident logged on to YOUniversityTV.com, a Web site that provides video tours and other services allowing prospective students to explore a school without ever stepping foot on campus.
“It really helped save time and money,” Jahrsdoerfer said, saying 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 the school 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 have 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 UCF. 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 since 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.
But Reis said they felt the company had reached a ceiling, and the two began tossing around other ideas.
“We wanted to create something that didn’t exist that people need,” Reis said.
“We saw that we had loved ones who were looking for colleges who couldn’t find much online that wasn’t propaganda from the school. There was definitely no video, nothing interactive. And that just sort of became the springboard for starting YOUniversity.”
In December 2007, Reis and Kotzamanis closed the doors of their business for a month; when employees returned in January, they found themselves in a remodeled office space and with a new company mission.
whole thought process.”
That whole thought process includes a lot more than just video college tours: the site has a number of social components to it, as well.
For instance, students, alumni and schools can upload their own pictures and videos of their schools.
Users can also create profiles of themselves, chat with others on the site, post blog entries, read the latest education-related news and even create their own virtual dorm rooms.
Launched on April 14, the site is already receiving about 100,000 unique visitors each month, and more than 1,700 user-uploaded videos were posted in the first month, Kotzamanis said.