Higher Ed Admissions Teams Reevaluate How They Attract Students

Originally published to Fierce Education - January 12, 2020

The current pandemic is forcing many college admissions teams to reevaluate how they attract potential students and their parents. They are finding that the previous methods of personal face-to-face meetings and other recruitment techniques are hard to replace in a pure digital format.    

In the past, college recruitment has centered around tours and in-person admission efforts. But COVID-19 has forced admissions teams to think of new strategies. Without the ability to meet with student on campus or in their hometowns, recruiters are worried about building connections, according to a new survey from Tallo—an online platform that connects students with higher education institutions.

In the survey of 30 admissions staff, 25 said they feared that students and parents would lose interest if their college does not open or remain open during the spring semester. Also, COVID-19 has impacted best practices around diversity and inclusion.

In fact, 85% of respondents said their university is working to help end structural racism in higher education, according to a Tallo survey. And as many as 93% also said that racial and ethnic diversity is clearly reflected in the recruitment materials used by their admissions team.

“Diversity and inclusion were major themes in 2020 for Gen Z, so it’s encouraging that college recruiters are keyed in to advancing the priorities of prospective students,” said Casey Welch, CEO and co-founder of Tallo. “This year will be a turning point in a lot of ways, and the high expectations students have when it comes to higher education are without a doubt pushing us in a more positive and inclusive direction.”

Most college recruiters said that COVID is still a top concern for prospective students and their parents—57% strongly agree that parents are highly concerned and 33% strongly agree that students are highly concerned.

And on the subject of diversity and inclusion, 87% of admissions staff said that their college was actively working to end structural racism and 40% of admissions teams have changed their approach to these initiatives in the past year.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see how seriously college admissions offices are taking issues of diversity and inclusion,” Welch said. “Every student has a right to feel safe and welcome on campus, so I’m encouraged by colleges’ continued efforts to make that a reality.”   

In addition, 70% of those surveyed believed that racial and ethnic diversity is clearly reflected on their college or university’s admissions team and 93% agreed that racial and ethnic diversity is clearly reflected in the recruitment materials used by their college or university’s admissions team.

On a positive note, the shift to virtual has forced recruiters to meet some of these students online, where they are spending a majority of their time. The preferred method for communicating with students is 63% via email, while 30% prefer phone. And for communication with parents, more than 73% of staff prefer email and 13% prefer phone.

Finally, 70% of those surveyed 70% believe prospective students will lose interest in their college if they fail to remain open during the spring semester. And 83% feel that parents will also lose interest if the school remains closed.

“Recruiters are going to have to expend even more energy assuaging these concerns for the upcoming Fall students,” Welch said. “I also think that colleges and their admissions departments should get creative when it comes to expanding financial aid. Recruiters cited the increased financial strains on families as a significant challenge of this recruitment season, so being able to share tuition assistance, scholarships, and other financial aid packages earlier than ever will help these students out a lot.”

Moving forward, Welch said that a hybrid approach to recruitment is going to be the best way to proceed post-pandemic. While there are certain in-person aspects of recruitment that can never be completely replaced, switching to virtual and digital marketing efforts has made it possible to connect with students who admissions offices may have otherwise never reached.

“Generation Z is used to connecting with their peers online—these new virtual recruitment tactics mean that recruiters are finally meeting prospective students in their comfort zone,” he said.

To learn more about Tallo, visit tallo.com

KEYWORDS: COVID-19, college, Applying for College or University, College, Tallo

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