09 June 2020
How will COVID-19 change the way we speak to students?

We’ve all seen the headlines that show higher education is going through a massive shift. 

Between budget freezes, furloughing of staff members and general uncertainty over when (or even if) students will be able to return to campus, it can feel a bit like we are all standing on the train tracks, just watching the train come towards us. 

As recruitment season approaches, it is important for all of us in the Higher Ed sector to sit down and really think about the ways that we will talk to our future students about university life, and higher education in general. 

Anticipate New Questions

Generation Z is a group of smart and savvy individuals, who have always had access to massive amounts of information. 

As professionals, we will need to be able to answer questions about our university’s response to COVID 19, but that’s just the beginning. We also need to consider how we will answer questions about lost time in school and ways in which we will be changing application processes to accommodate students who are living through this crisis. 

Perhaps consider making this a new section in your staff meetings, where you take the time to discuss the questions that recruiters and tour guides are getting from students. Use these questions to inform the strategy that you use in your communications and in your conversations with higher management. Responding effectively could make the difference between losing a prospect’s interest and keeping them engaged.

Acknowledge the new world we live in

Students are anxious, their parents and caregivers are anxious, we are anxious. 

The nature of a crisis like COVID-19 leaves little space for confidence in the future. The “simple things” that make up the basis of conversations around higher education like lectures, food on campus and student activities will all require some kind of overhaul when students return to campus. 

University representatives need to be conscious of these anxieties and changes as they talk to prospective students. We also need to realize that traditional outreach methods may no longer be possible. Who knows what will happen with high school visits in your local area, let alone fall travel. 

But it doesn’t have to all be doom and gloom! If we are honest with ourselves, we can (and should) acknowledge that changes to recruitment need to be made – and these changes will have a long-term positive impact. Imagine the students that can be reached with the digital strategies we have learned during COVID-19. 

Be nimble 

Especially in the constantly changing landscape of state, federal and university mandates, it can be hard to keep up to date. As an office, it will be important for HE professionals at each institution to find a way that makes the most sense for all of you to stay on the same page. 

Perhaps consider adopting some techniques from Generation Z and create a WhatsApp group for your office that is for official updates on policy changes and information around how your institution is going to respond to the situations that arise during this time. 

Find ways to more efficiently get information to your student ambassadors, so that they are up to date too. 

Care for yourself

In the best of times, the work within an admissions office requires high levels of emotional labor. 

All signs point toward the fact that the need for that labor will only get higher as the next year progresses. It will be of the utmost importance for admissions folk to take time to decompress. 

Learn how to speak kindly to yourself and remember that you are doing the best you can. Give yourself space to breathe. 

We will get through this and the innovation that will come from these times has the potential to change higher education for the better – making it more accessible and far-reaching, and giving us the tools to support every student on their journey to college. 

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