Active dialogue is critical to improve enrollment for under-resourced students
As enrollment leaders work in this challenging time to yield the class of 2020, we believe that forging deeper relationships with counselors at CBOs and high schools is crucial to helping colleges and universities net successful results in the short term and for future enrollment cycles.
COVID-19 has created significant uncertainty and challenges for everyone. Surveys have shown that students from all backgrounds are having concerns about their plans for the fall—but that students with the most limited resources, those that are first generation, low-income, and underrepresented, are the most uncertain.
College Greenlight’s mission since 2012 has been to support underrepresented students. We maintain year-round relationships with CBOs and high schools, hosting virtual professional development webinars and workshops for counselors across the country, our most recent of which had nearly 900 live attendees. With input from our CBO partner community we’ve put together recommendations for colleges to drive towards success while recruiting the class of 2020 — as well as future classes.
Yielding the Class of 2020
1. Provide tailored virtual experiences to aid admitted students’ decision-making process.
Robust virtual tours allowing students to explore campus from home and opportunities to engage with and ask questions of admissions and financial aid officers are vital. Institutions offering additional programming speaking to the unique needs of underserved students will have greater success in yielding them.
Tufts University, a longtime College Greenlight partner, is offering several targeted virtual opportunities, including sessions with its FIRST Resource Center. Notably, virtual programs for admitted students feature current students on the Tufts Diversity Admissions Council, all of whom are students of color and many of whom identify as first-generation, low-income.
2. Communicate offline & online. Don’t assume students have connectivity.
Students from under resourced communities (including rural students) might not have access to all technologies needed to attend virtual admitted student events.
Peggy Jenkins, the Founding Director of Palouse Pathways, and Co-Founder/Co-Moderator of the NACAC Rural and Small Town Special Interest Group, writes, “There are areas without connectivity and many students were sent home from high school without computers. Some districts and organizations mobilized quickly to address the problem, but I would want colleges to know that they can’t address all students by simply posting things online.”
3. Mentor admitted students using current undergraduates with similar backgrounds.
Student inboxes are getting very crowded. Standing out requires more individualization.
To combat the inbox fatigue, Rebecca Wasserman, Chief Program Officer at Matriculate, is taking a personalized route. “At Matriculate, we are connecting our high school seniors with current undergraduates who attend schools where they have been admitted to personally speak to the experience of being on campus.”
Alternatively, Chloe Blaise, Senior Manager of College Access at SEO Scholars, suggests that, “Colleges should host virtual college tours and ‘Ask Me Anything’s’ with a diverse array of students across ethnic, income, gender, and geographic backgrounds.”
4. Invite counselors to attend your virtual admitted student events.
A huge benefit of online programming is that attendance capacity is not as constrained as for in-person events. Consider inviting student advocates to attend admitted student programming so that they’re fully aware of the unique opportunities available at your institution, as well as your admitted student processes.
5. Seek CBOs & counselors assistance to get admitted students to take important actions.
Colleges should look to counselors as partners in the work of getting students to day one.
According to Emmanuel Moses, Associate Director of College Guidance and Transition with The Opportunity Network, “Colleges and universities that are prioritizing communicating with CBO partners are making the work of supporting our students much easier. This allows us to be another point of reference which is especially important right now as students attention might, understandably, be elsewhere.”
6. Be prepared to make accommodations for students financially.
Financial flexibility is especially crucial at this time. More than 10 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in March alone, and Peggy Jenkins of Palouse Pathways, reminds colleges to be extra aware of the fact that “it would be almost impossible for families to commit to the cost of college without assurances about their jobs in the future.”
Chloe Blaise from SEO Scholars recommends that colleges “increase capacity in financial aid offices so that financial award packages for students can be reevaluated quickly given the new economic reality.” Whether or not you can increase staff members, simple actions such as identifying key contacts in the admissions and financial aid offices gives students a clear understanding of who they can communicate with for support.
One of the most immediate actions that a number of colleges have taken is extending the deposit deadline to June 1st or later. Recent surveys have shown that students, especially those from underserved communities, might need additional time to make a college decision.
The same students that had the most limited resources pre-pandemic are the same ones that are most impacted now. Open a line of communication with CBOs and other student access and success organizations so that underrepresented students don’t get left behind because of COVID-19.