How Are Graduate Enrollment Teams Responding to COVID-19?

As news about the impacts of COVID-19 change daily, how are graduate enrollment management teams responding? Here are some ways recruitment, application processes and other procedures are changing across the United States.

Virtual Connection

Colleges and universities are connecting with prospective students in creative and meaningful ways. A recent college student survey underscores the importance of communicating relevant information during this time. Here are some ways institutions are connecting virtually, as well as some of our recommendations based on discussions with enrollment professionals:

  1. Real-time Chat: Use a live chat widget to respond to questions and concerns.
  2. Online Information Sessions: These more formalized webinar sessions can mix content that has been pre-recorded while also including content presented live.
  3. Video Calls: Video calls are great for information sharing. These can be used for meetings with individual prospective students, or even in committee format for applicant interviews.
  4. Virtual Campus Tours: If you have a virtual tour that was prepared by a professional, great! If not, arm yourself with your smart phone and record video of the various locations on campus you would typically highlight as part of your tour. Be sure to follow all state and local guidelines as it relates to physical distance and “safe-at-home” mandates.
  5. Standard Email and Phone: Email and voice calls are tried and true outreach methods. Prospective students rate email as the preferred way to convey information and updates. Phone calls should be reactive at this time, or used only in the communication of a critical update. In other words, now may be a good time to shelve your call campaign and look for an alternative method to communicate that message. Of course, as standard practice, return all calls as quickly as possible.
  6. Dynamic Content and Marketing Automation: Technology, like Capture’s marketing automation software, can track 100 percent of all visits to an institution’s website. These visits trigger content to display to prospective students based on their location, web behavior and interests. This has allowed some institutions to message directly during this time in an automated way, while also identifying stealth interest.
Applicant Process

People are still applying, though the application rate has decreased comparatively. There are issues procuring all required application materials at this time. Here are the ways some institutions are responding:

  1. Extending Deadlines: One of the more universal remedies is the extension of application and deposit deadlines. In some cases, deposits are being waived and are replaced with a formal “intent-to-enroll” form via email or a student portal.
  2. Waiving or Refunding Application Fees: Applicants who are delaying plans to attend graduate school are asking and receiving refunds for associated application fees. Additionally, some institutions/programs are suspending application fees during this time.
  3. Waiving or Temporarily Suspending Graduate Entrance Exam Requirements: Graduate entrance exams are being waived to accommodate the inability of prospective students to take the exam. Educational Testing Service has opened online test-taking for GRE and TOEFL. Meanwhile, the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) is providing an online proctored GMAT option. The Law School Admission Council (LSAT) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (MCAT) have issued statements about testing.
  4. Conditional Admission Based on Self-Reported Data: Some institutions have instated conditional admission based on self-reported data for some programs. Admission policy must be clear that reported data that does not align with official credentials (once received) is grounds for dismissal. While there seems to be more risk associated with this policy, institutions that have provided for admission based on self-reported data as part of their standard admission process have not reported increased instances of inaccurate or fraudulent reporting.

Let’s continue to find, create and experiment with innovations to response to the COVID-19 crisis. Let’s share what as we learn … and respond together.

By Jack Klett, Director of Graduate and Post-Traditional Initiatives, Capture Higher Ed