The admissions and recruitment process is a crucial component of keeping the college alive and running. Colleges must keep a steady number of students enrolling from year to year. The responsibility of keeping student enrollment steady falls upon college marketing as well as college recruiters. COVID-19 has changed the ways in which student recruitment operates.
“Because of COVID, we have not been able to travel. Normally, we would be visiting high schools, having college fairs and going to the students to recruit more especially in the fall,” said Director for Enrollment Operations Amanda Zienert on the phone. “Now, because of COVID, we haven’t been traveling, and obviously schools don’t want outsiders coming into their buildings because they are trying to be safe.”
In order to combat the issue of limited travel to high schools, student recruitment is turning to virtual options to reduce in-person contact.
“We do a lot of virtual college fairs. We do a lot more virtual visits for students because we don’t want too many visitors on campus either,” said Zienert. “So, that has definitely changed how we meet students and get them interested. As far as our tours on campus, we are not taking people in student spaces. People can come in the buildings but can not do a complete walk-through. With changes in how to do a job, it can also put workers in a position that affects their role as an employee.”
The admissions office has come up with ways to effectively and safely fill the space in the building in order to do their job.
“Because our office is such an open office space, we have done a rotation on what staff is in the office so we don’t have the full staff here at the same time,” said Zienert. “Counselors have been rotating Monday/Tuesday and another group is here Wednesday/Thursday, and they rotate on Friday because they have to be here to work with students. We can do most of our job computer remotely.”
Meeting with parents and students face-to-face is a very big component to the success of getting new students, even when everyone is socially distant and keeping their masks on.
Although some changes to recruitment are temporary, COVID-19 has caused long term effects on the enrollment process.
“Our virtual visits have been very successful,” said Zienert. “It has been helpful for students across the country or students that can’t come from out of state. I think we will continue to do virtual visit days, virtual sessions and maybe one-day virtual high school sessions and be in a classroom on a screen.”
Fortunately, despite the things that have happened this year, mainly the pandemic, Albion was able to recruit their largest freshman class since 2012. this year. Zienert said she feels proud of these results, especially considering the circumstances.
“It definitely wasn’t easy,” said Zienert. “It was definitely challenging, but I feel like we were really good at continuing to voice all the strengths of Albion. All the protocols and safety measures we put in place made people feel more comfortable coming here during a pandemic.”
One of these protocols included rearranging the lobby in the admissions office in order to ensure the safety of whoever comes into the school. Families sit together in their own spaces when they come to visit.
“The biggest change this year is the change we made for admissions criteria this year for the students we have applying is that we went test-optional that is something we have not done in the past,” said Associate Director of International Recruitment Sarah Eggerstedt. “But we knew a lot of students had difficulties accessing the standardized test. SAT/ACT dates were canceled a lot here in the USor student abroad testing, such as the TOEFL.”
Going test-optional alleviates some of the difficulties coming to college. Albion does not want to slow down the process of getting and accepting new students. If students do take the test, Albion does not take into account their scores unless they increase scholarships.
Eggerstedt said the enrollment deposit has also decreased because the school understands that some people may be struggling financially due to COVID-19.
“We rolled out the Michigan promise as well, which is a strategy that the financial aid office came up with to help low-income Michigan families in particular,” said Eggerstedt.
Eggerstedt works closely with international students, whose situations can make things more difficult.
“For me in particular, how it really has affected me is being able to get students to Albion. With it being a pandemic, it moved across the globe at different speeds and at different rates,” said Eggerstedt. “And due to that, some of those closures that happened was with the US embassy and the US consulate. With those offices being closed, students weren’t able to get their visas to travel to the US.”
Restrictions placed on international students can put unexpected strains on college enrollment. At one point in time, Eggerstedt said the college had 17 deposits. Out of those 17 deposits, only three or four students ended up enrolling for the fall semester. Others deferred their admissions to the spring.
“There has been a lot of anxiety and uncertainty at this time, a lot of unknowns so that definitely has been a challenge. I think students are trying to stay a little closer to home. We think that is partially driven by their parents too cause we know that parents are big decision-makers when it comes to that too, usually, they are the biggest influences,” said Eggerstedt.
Albion remaining open this semester motivated new students to apply. While other colleges have shut down or moved online, Albion’s in-person element has aided recruitment during the pandemic.
“I think one thing that has been able to be a benefit is that we have been able to be on campus,” said Eggerstedt. “We have had some students apply to Albion because they said ‘you’re one of the only campuses that are still open and they still want those experiences.’ They say they want that college experience and because we are doing it safely. They have been looking forward to college for 18 years. They don’t want to stay home.”