When the COVID-19 pandemic broke, Woodbury University’s admissions team had to quickly transition to remote interactions with current and prospective students. While this may have presented unprecedented challenges, the team rallied and created new meaningful ways to connect with students on an ongoing basis. We caught up with Sabrina Taylor, Associate Vice President of Admissions, to learn more about how the team pivoted to meet the challenges of today’s ‘new norm.’
We had to pivot very quickly once the full impact of COVID-19 was revealed. We canceled over 500 scheduled events within a few weeks of the outbreak and immediately started brainstorming on alternative ways to connect with prospective students, families, and high school and community college counselors. We had to cancel our daily campus tours, our large bus trips, high school fairs, community college fairs, and classroom presentations which was disheartening for our team.
Zoom is our new best friend! We immediately started exploring online platforms that allowed us to re-connect with our incoming class and future prospective students. Each admissions counselor now virtually meets with students and families either over Zoom or via phone. All of our canceled in-person events were turned into online virtual events. We also ramped up the use of our text messaging system; over 25,000 texts have been sent/received since March!
We completely rethought our campus tour and are now offering daily student-guided virtual campus tours. Families really appreciate hearing from current students as they virtually walk them through the campus.
Since incoming students usually want to talk to current students, we focused on finding other ways to encourage them to connect. We created a new “Ask a WU Student” page on our website where you can find bios of our current student tour guides and send them a text directly if you have questions about our programs or student life.
Building community is always an important goal for admissions; we launched a brand new landing page for our incoming class which highlights ways for them to virtually meet with each other over the summer. In particular, our Instagram page for the incoming class has done very well; students send us their photos and a short bio which we then post. It’s been great watching them ask each other questions and get to know each other. You can still feel the excitement they have for starting college in the fall, even if it’s not quite how they anticipated it would be.
We have had a positive response from incoming students. Understandably, many of them were disappointed in not being able to come to campus for tours and orientation, but our attendance and engagement rates for our virtual events are comparable to our normal in-person events.
We find that people have shorter attention spans and that we need to present information in a different way. It’s forced us to condense a lot of information into easy to understand, short one-pagers or brief presentation decks. We are planning to start rolling out short five-minute videos on Admissions related topics soon.
It’s hard for families to not be able to visit campus; getting a “feel” for a school is very important when it comes to making a decision, so I would encourage incoming students to take advantage of all of the virtual events that schools are hosting. Video can help; spend time on Youtube and Vimeo researching your college. I think most importantly, always search out opportunities to interact with current students.
Last Updated on August 3rd, 2020