How to Master Student Recruitment in the COVID-19 Era

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Higher education has been turned on its head. In the past few months, admissions offices everywhere have had to adjust everything from basic operations to comprehensive strategy in order to contend with the COVID-19 high school and college landscape.

Campus events and tours had to become virtual. Visits to high schools were canceled. Phone calls and digital interactions took on outsize importance. And that was just the three months since mid-March, when the first colleges and universities began to close their doors.

The environment isn’t going away anytime soon. Higher ed institutions are currently in the process of announcing their fall plans, with most going at least partially online. Meanwhile, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) is currently considering whether it should cancel its fall college fairs after already doing so this past spring.

In that environment, college recruiters (from admissions reps to enrollment associates) will need to significantly retool. We live in a new normal, and that new normal will not go away anytime soon. Best practices are changing, requiring training specifically designed to learn and master new skills. That training should focus around 4 core areas, which we’ll discuss in-depth in this article:

  1. Communicating the Value in Online Learning

  2. Mentorship in Navigating Distance Learning.

  3. Managing Increased Anxiety Related to Fall Openings.

  4. Overcoming Objections and Fears of an Uncertain Post-Graduation Employment Environment.

Let’s discuss each of them in more detail.

1) Communicating the Value in Online Learning

There are significant benefits in taking at least part of your classes online. Some of them are directly related to the current environment. A recent survey among high school students, for instance, found that preferences for online learning have increased since the threat of infection began to hover over in-person meet-ups.

Other benefits are more universal. Online learning enables students to take classes and distribute their work on their own time, increasing flexibility for other projects. If your school is considering at least moving part of its curriculum online, training to learn how to communicate this value will be a crucial component of recruiting the incoming class.

2) Mentorship in Navigating Distance Learning

The above benefits are undeniable, but it’s just as important to realize (and help incoming students realize) the challenges of distance learning. A survey taken last month revealed that despite increasing online acceptance, 30% of students will either defer their studies or cancel their admission altogether if their college of choice goes fully online.

And yet, if your school is like most, studies in fall will inevitably include at least some distance learning components. That means it’s time to train specifically on helping your students plan for successfully navigating distance learning.

Some tips are clear. In online learning, it’s more important to keep a schedule and keep track of your assignment than it would be in an in-class environment. Others are more complex. For instance, studies repeatedly show that students feel less of the campus community and support services available when engaging in distance learning. With the right training, you can help incoming students make those connections and increase their likelihood of success.

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3) Managing Increased Anxiety Related to Fall Openings

The anxiety is building. With Coronavirus cases in the United States plateauing instead of dropping, students and their parents are becoming increasingly nervous about their plans to attend college in fall. Adding to that worry is the fact that due to a falling economy, 68% of parents are nervous about their ability to pay for their children’s college this fall.

Managing that anxiety is no easy task. It’s certainly not in the job description of most admissions counselors, who in normal times would be joyfully focusing on the positives of a vibrant campus atmosphere. Instead, the counselor part of this profession has to come to the forefront.

Of course, that’s not always a straightforward switch. The ability to hold a conversation without invoking those fears is just as important as being able to navigate complex topics around finances and uncertain fall plans smoothly. New skills, or a refreshment of old skills, is a crucial part of making that possible.

4) Overcoming Objections and Fears of an Uncertain Post-Graduation Employment Environment

Let’s talk about the long term. Outcomes have long been a part of admissions conversations and presentations, showcasing the value of earning a degree from your school. In fact, it’s one of the most valuable pieces of information both students and their parents are looking for as they make their college choice.

That all chances in an age of uncertainty. Your prospective students are well aware that some experts predict double-digit employment through at least 2021. Add that to the current financial struggles of many families, and the value of a higher education degree is once again in question. How do you overcome objections and fears related to this situation? How can you guarantee positive outcomes when the economy is in dire straights?

Once again, new skills are required to talk about this issue. For instance, skilled labor will remain in higher demand than unskilled labor, increasing the relative value of higher education. Meanwhile, it pays to talk through certain career paths, such as public health, that are gaining popularity due to COVID-19. With the right training, you can help your prospects overcome that fear and uncertainty.

How to Train Yourself (And Your Team) For College Recruiting in the Age of COVID-19

All four of the above are standard conversations taking place across admissions offices today. Prospects and their parents are coming into the college search, or exiting it in preparation for their fall start, with a different mindset than we’ve ever seen. That mindset, in turn, requires new skills, new comfort, and new talking points to put your audience’s mind at ease.

Are you wondering how you can embrace that mindset in your own admissions office? Learn more about the trainings available through Engine Systems. In our Engine Academy and Admissions Accelerator, you can begin to prepare your staff and yourself to master student recruitment in the age of COVID-19.

Calls to Action should focus on inquiring on further training from Engine Systems through Engine Academy and Admissions Accelerator.

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