For an industry that relies on face-to-face interactions and high-traffic events like college fairs and campus visits, higher education professionals are seeing some obstacles when it comes to adapting to the pandemic. So how has COVID-19 impacted the college recruitment process? And in what way can it be adapted to this new, temporary way of reaching the core audience of degree-seeking students?

Here are three areas of importance to consider engaging.

One-to-One Communication

One thing that doesn't need to drastically change is your communication. Consider social distancing as an obstacle that merely shifts your local and regional recruitment communication strategies into the way you handle out-of-state and international recruitment communication. The most important thing—make yourself available on their time.

This means offering the ability to ask questions and get updates via text, via messaging platforms, via email and via video chat. As more people become accustomed to consistently communicating via platforms like Zoom and Teams, video chat has become so customary that your student recruits might even prefer it to traveling to campus for a face-to-face visit.

And this level of one-to-one communication doesn't need to be restricted to individual conversations—make it a one-to-20 conversation and invite a target high schools junior class to a Zoom call to talk through their questions about your university. Your recruitment tours around the region can be less expensive and time-consuming but still have reach and impact.

Virtual College Fairs

Speaking of group discussions, the return of the physical college fair is probably a ways away still, so engaging in virtual events is key to your recruitment strategy. Besides the fact that it makes you more available to potential students on their time and at their comfort level, it can help you compete alongside other universities in the area, apples to apples. Connect with national organizations that are hosting events across the country, as well as work with your state's department of education to determine whether a virtual college fair might be on the table.

And if you come up short, there's no harm in hosting one of your very own.

Imagine the experience of giving students a weekend of opportunities to meet with professors in various degree programs, admissions counselors, financial aid reps and many more useful contacts at your institution all from the comfort of home and at the click of a button. A well organized virtual event with an engaging and visible set of calls to action might be just the ticket to qualify some student leads and find out much more about what interests them for future one-to-one communication.

Adjusted Criteria

With high school students worldwide disrupted at the tail end of their school years, standardized testing was delayed or canceled all together for many. As such, many colleges and universities are foregoing an ACT/SAT requirement for their admissions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. So how should you adjust your criteria to still recruit the most passionate, brightest students you can?

Dig deeper and ask more questions.

Though a final transcript of a potential recruit may look a bit different thanks to school districts' varying levels of grading and semester completion, you may need to rely more on sophomore- and freshman-year grades than you perhaps have in the past. Additionally, in the absence of consistent standardized test scores, you may need to adjust admissions essays and how you assess them to get a better sense of students' interests, passions, strengths, writing ability, comprehension and other areas. Take a long, hard look at the criteria on which you can still assess potential recruits and enhance it to offer even more insight into how a student truly ticks—start to get a picture of the hard-working, inspired adult they stand to become four years down the road.

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