The Necessity of Virtual Admissions
In 2019, when prospective students applied for admission, no one had ever heard of COVID-19. Campus tours, overnight visits, and onsite orientations were a normal part of the college application and enrollment process.
But in spring 2020, as virtual learning became a necessity at colleges and universities everywhere, so did virtual admissions. The question for admissions departments now is why and how to go virtual as a long-term solution—not just for campus preparedness.
Increase access and equity on campus
With enrolled students adjusting to universal online learning, nearly half a million prospective students took virtual campus tours in April 2020. Virtual tours aren’t a new thing for higher ed, but this year, they’re having an equalizing effect.
In past years, students with greater resources were able to visit their schools of choice regardless of distance. Students who couldn’t afford to travel got local visits, virtual tours, or nothing. This matters because many schools use demonstrated interest as a criteria for admission, and they rely on campus visits as a key indicator.
In a recent survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, only 32% of institutions said demonstrated interest had no bearing on their decision to admit first-time freshmen. The other 68% said they gave preference to students who did more than simply apply (such as visit campus or meet with an admissions counselor).
So how do you give students of all backgrounds and abilities more ways to demonstrate interest and make a connection with your institution?
Create a connected online experience
Giving students the option for on-campus or online admission increases access and equity for everyone. Beyond virtual tours, admissions departments can take the following steps to make the entire process virtual—but no less personal:
Enable students to self-schedule appointments and register for information sessions online.
When you make it easier for students to connect, they’re more likely to reach out. With campus scheduling software, entire departments can create shared calendars for office hours. Students can see the availability of individual counselors on your website, set up appointments at their convenience, and receive a confirmation email with the date, time, and location (in-office or online). This ensures that more prospective students get not only the support they need to apply but also a competitive edge among schools that measure interest.
Offer 1:1 online counseling and virtual orientation for groups.
Going virtual doesn’t have to mean sacrificing face-to-face engagement. An interactive student services platform provides tools for high-quality video meetings with universal design features such as closed captioning and support for text-to-speech and screen readers. In addition to increasing accessibility—and maintaining a human connection—these tools also help ensure your interactions with students are FERPA and HIPAA compliant. In a rush to implement virtual solutions as part of their coronavirus response plans, many schools opted for free video conferencing apps like Zoom or Skype. The problem: neither platform complies with FERPA or HIPAA, which puts student data security and privacy at risk.
Use a virtual lobby to manage online drop-in meetings.
To simulate the experience of an on-campus admissions office (minus the long lines), you can post times for open office hours on your online contact card and allow students to drop in virtually. With a virtual lobby integrated with your scheduling software and student services platform, you can see how many students are waiting and how long they’ve been waiting. Every counselor in your group can pull students from your shared lobby into a virtual meeting or start a private chat.
Provide digital forms and online application support.
With Common App already streamlining the online application process, it’s critical that all documents and application forms specific to your institution are digitized and accessible online. The most robust student services platforms have a built-in document library or integration with Google Drive where you can collaborate with students in real time to provide online application support and collect digital signatures.
Respond faster with instant messaging.
Connecting with prospective students effectively means providing the anytime, anywhere access they expect. With instant messaging, students can reach out from their smartphones and you can quickly respond. You can also embed your online contact card on any website (or within your LMS) to indicate whether you’re online or offline and give students the option to virtually “knock on your door” when you’re available or send an email when you’re away.
Get interactive tools for virtual admissions
ConexED is an interactive platform for virtual student services and instruction. In addition to helping you connect with prospective students in all the ways described above, it integrates with enterprise campus systems for data analytics and reporting. It also streamlines processes so admissions departments can serve more students in less time. Submit the form below to request a demo.