Recruitment Teams Adapt to Pandemic Restrictions
So how does college recruitment work during such an uncertain and unusual time?
While there’s been plenty of talk about the impact of COVID-19 on current students at Syracuse University and the Whitman School, there was another key group that certainly felt the brunt of restrictions resulting from the pandemic: prospective students.
Almost everything changed in terms of our recruitment plans.”
Director of undergraduate recruitment at the Whitman School.
“Almost everything changed in terms of our recruitment plans,” says Rachel DuBois, director of undergraduate recruitment at the Whitman School.
Late March and into April are typically busy months as students flock to campuses across the country to make final decisions about where they wanted to spend the next four years. At the Whitman School, between the end of March and end of April, about 800 potential students typically come to visit, often with their families, bringing the total number of visitors to approximately 2,000 people. However, like campuses across the country, the University essentially closed to visitors. Still, the majority of students had to commit for the fall 2020 semester by May 1, commonly known as “Decision Day,” putting many in a tough spot.
DuBois had to change nearly everything about how Whitman communicates with its admitted and prospective students, from creating GroupMe chats where they can ask questions, to producing virtual video presentations.
She says, “We have moved from hosting sessions on-campus each day to hosting online sessions each day to engage students and parents. Additionally, we have done more email and mailed communications, as well as informal chat groups.”
As for the full-time MBA and on-campus master’s programs, the Whitman Enrollment Management Team has made some changes to its admissions cycle in response to COVID-19. A fifth round of applications was added for May 15, and an extension was also added for applications to be submitted by June 15. In addition, the Duolingo English Test was added as an alternate option for the IELTS/TOEFL exam. There were also dedicated virtual meeting rooms available to speak with candidates who have questions.
We wanted candidates to still be able to apply and pursue graduate education this fall.”
Executive director of graduate admissions and student recruitment
“We wanted candidates to still be able to apply and pursue graduate education this fall,” says Christopher Wszalek, executive director of graduate admissions and student recruitment. “We also promoted the financial aid that is available to qualified candidates, as nearly all our students are eligible for scholarships.”
Syracuse University offered assistance to all of its graduating seniors who were admitted to a graduate degree program starting in fall 2020. The 2020 Forever Orange Scholarship program offered a 50% tuition scholarship, and the Whitman School waived the GMAT/GRE for Syracuse seniors who applied for a master’s degree. In addition, Whitman master’s students who graduated in May were eligible for the 50% tuition scholarship, if they enrolled in a second master’s degree starting this fall.
“We offered application fee waivers that students requested by submitting a simple form on the Whitman website,” says Wszalek. “Once the May 15 deadline passed, we continued to accept and review applications on a rolling basis, but students were encouraged to apply as soon as possible to ensure they were in the application system.”
Kicking off fall recruitment for the undergraduate class of 2025, the Whitman Admissions Team has continued to promote virtual visits and engage with students via email. Prospective students have also been invited to major panels geared specifically towards learning more about the various programs offered. For graduate students, the Whitman Enrollment Management Team has shifted on-campus visits to virtual opportunities (graduate fairs, webinars, National Black MBA Association events and more) with partners such as MBATour. A social media campaign was also launched to promote graduate programs in high demand.
Articulation agreements were also completed with SUNY Morrisville and Hartwick College, with additional schools in process. These partnerships between the Whitman School and other local colleges will help graduates transfer seamlessly into Whitman’s graduate programs.
While many changes were made, one thing stayed the same. Both DuBois and Wszalek agree that during these different recruitment times, engaging with prospective students — one way or another — is vital to helping them make the best decisions for their future.