Sometimes we’re amazed when we visit college campuses. The admissions or welcome center lobby is old, poorly decorated, and completely uninviting to prospective students (and their families).

Think about it; When you walk into a crappy hotel lobby, how do you feel? It generally is a good indication of what you can expect in the room and throughout your stay. Not very exciting, is it?

On the other hand, when you walk into a well-decorated, clean and inviting lobby, it sets the expectations for your experience. And it elevates the level of excitement. The key is to properly SET the expectations and excitement level for prospective students. If they are not impressed by your first impression, don’t expect them to be excited during the tour. And don’t think it’s trivial, or that “students that come to our school can see beyond that.” Bull. There’s no one who would rather walk into an Econo-Lodge lobby than a Four Seasons lobby.

We see admissions offices every day when we visit colleges and universities around the country. Some (but very few) really wow us. Most of them, unfortunately, are really underwhelming and generally speaking, are a relatively decent representation of what to expect during our visit. The good ones are surrounded by a progressive team of forward-thinkers and marketers. Just like the top hotels.

So here’s the point: Clean up your admissions office. Modernize it. Wash the windows. Update the furniture. Make an effort. DO NOT rest on your laurels that students will see through this. Your world is far too competitive to bank on that strategy.

And there’s no excuse for NOT making these improvements. Get some money from your school’s endowment and spice the place up. You’ll notice the difference in your visitors and your team immediately.