Higher Education Recruitment Changes in Response to COVID-19

COVID-19 has had no shortage of effects on nearly all industries around the world, and higher education is no exception. While current college students have had their routines upended and are now taking classes from home, prospective college students have also been affected as they are not able to visit campuses or have a truly authentic feel for the usual atmosphere of a college.

So how does college recruitment work during such an uncertain and unusual time?

“Almost everything has changed in terms of our recruitment plans,” says Rachel DuBois, director of undergraduate recruitment at the Whitman School. “Except for some planned email and mail communications.”

As the vast majority of students had to commit by May 1, commonly known as “Decision Day,” late March into April are typically busy months in which students flock to campuses across the country to form final opinions about the places where they may be spending the next four years of their lives.

At Whitman, during the time between the end of March and end of April, about 800 potential students come to visit, often with their families, bringing the total number of visitors to approximately 2,000 people. However, now campuses everywhere have essentially closed, with students at home and professors teaching their courses from home as well.

Prospective and admitted students, who are also likely home from school, have had to cancel their visits and gather any last information about the schools remotely. Because of this, some colleges and universities have decided to push “Decision Day” to June 1. 

“It affected a lot because there’s so much uncertainty right now. I had planned to go visit the two schools I was in between, but I couldn’t for one because of COVID-19,” explains Zoe Paidas, a current high school senior in Maryland who plans to study business. “Now I’m most likely going to commit to my state school because it’s more familiar and I got to visit.”

DuBois has 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 video conferences. She shares, “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.”

“There’s always online virtual tours, which I’ve done, but it’s not the same,” says Paidas. “It’s not the same effect as being on the campus, seeing the people there, feeling the culture of the area and the city surrounding it.”

DuBois hopes that the plethora of resources Syracuse University and Whitman specifically have provided will encourage students to continue to learn about campus and all of the great opportunities students have here.

“I know it must be difficult to make a decision, especially if someone has never visited Syracuse University before, but I encourage students to explore all of the online resources that admissions and Whitman have provided,” she says. “This includes videos, social media content, virtual tours, virtual information sessions and much more.” 

Talking to prospective and admitted students and their families is something that DuBois loves about her job, and she has made it a priority to maintain those direct communications even though campus visits aren’t a possibility right now. DuBois explains that she is making sure that potential new students and their families know that she can still be available to them through phone calls or video chats.

Even beyond just herself, DuBois is working to ensure that anyone interested can talk to members of the Whitman community, the way they would if they toured the school. She explains, “I’ve been connecting students with faculty and current students, as well to help them learn more.”

As for advice for students who may be struggling with making a decision, reaching out is the best way to go, DuBois explains. “Don’t be afraid to contact someone in admissions, financial aid, myself or others if you have questions!”

If you have questions about admissions at the Whitman School, please contact Rachel DuBois at rdubois@syr.edu.

Mallory Carlson
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