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When classes are able to resume at colleges and universities across the country, campuses will look much different than they did before COVID-19. A survey conducted by SimpsonScarborough of high school seniors revealed that many who planned to enroll in a traditional four-year residential college or university in the fall prior to this pandemic may alter their plans. In fact, 24% of surveyed high school seniors say they may change their minds about the college they want to attend, as a result of COVID-19. And another recent poll discovered that “about 12% of [students] who have already made deposits no longer plan to attend a four-year college full-time.”
The reasons for these decisions varies from student to student, but includes:
- A desire to be closer to home.
- Disrupted financial situations.
- Concerns about the possibility of another digital-only semester.
- Finding a cheaper alternative to their first-choice school.
- Taking a gap year to help financially support their families.
The financial complications of COVID-19 are particularly true of low-income and first-generation students. The long-term plans for professors, administrators, students, and families have been abruptly changed because of the pandemic. And many higher education institutions — including Boston University, Brown University, the University of Massachusetts system, MIT, and Harvard University — are preparing for an upcoming semester that will start dramatically different than the one prior.
Numerous higher education institutions are rethinking strategic plans and adjusting admissions policies to better accommodate students. This includes easing admission policies and extending deadlines due to the coronavirus. Higher education institutions are also:
- Waiving application fees and allowing students to put less than a full deposit down.
- Reducing enrollment deposits.
- Extending scholarship deadlines.
- Giving students the option to include or not include their SAT or ACT scores on applications.
- Waiving housing deposits.
Predictive data suggests that the economy will still be negatively impacted during the fall semester, which makes it imperative that higher education reach out to both incoming and current students at a time that they need help the most. As colleges and universities consider how and when to reopen to students for the upcoming semester, higher education experts are providing their insights on the best practices to rely on for a successful transition. And the role that admissions and student services plays in that success is critical.
Make current students and parents feel valued.
A majority of current college students are scattered across the country at home as they wait for news about what comes next in their education. The parents of these students are also waiting to see what comes next. Will their students be able to move back to campus? Or will they live another semester at home? What are the possible financial implications of another semester of online coursework? It’s important that students and parents are communicated with consistently and clearly about what is happening on campus, and how each student’s college education will still provide high quality and value.
Generate connections with the incoming class.
At a time when potential students cannot visit campus, admissions is forced to innovate and use technology to create connections between incoming freshmen and a campus that they hope to physically join one day. Think about how to leverage alumni, faculty and staff to reach students in new ways to share the passion that would normally be evident on a campus visit. Could you hold a digital pep rally? Simulate a game day experience? Create video testimonials from past students? It’s time to get creative.
Create new campus traditions.
In the same way, how can the feeling of campus traditions be brought virtually to current students? Most graduation ceremonies have gone virtual. But many other campus moments have been lost to COVID-19 this year. So, what campus activities can become virtual meetups? How can the music and art departments create a virtual event that brings students together? With students at home, campuses can ask students to share their stories or activities that have helped them get through this difficult time. Many campuses have shared video messages from leadership to keep students informed, but what other ways can leadership leverage video to keep students engaged in campus life? Campuses will have to rethink traditions and how to ensure that students stay connected to campus, and to each other.
Ensure continuity in services and support.
In his article published by NASPA, nationally-known student affairs leader and former VP of Student Affairs at Duke University Larry Moneta shares his perspective on the COVID-19 crisis. As uncertainty remains about what the upcoming semester will look like, campus staff must remain nimble to adapt to the situation at hand. As such, Moneta recommends “exploring every opportunity to offer online versions of anything students may need.” This includes opportunities for campus clinics to leverage virtual care through telehealth, in addition to other areas like admissions, career advising and teaching exploring online options and programs.
TimelyMD is focused on supporting the health and well-being of colleges and universities, and that includes both the physical and mental health of students. We are monitoring COVID-19 as we continue to support the health and well-being of students across the country. You can learn more about our commitment to transforming healthcare in higher education here.