For admissions departments, reaching enrollment goals is already a challenge in a typical school year. On top of competing against other universities to recruit incoming students, 2020-21 added extensive hurdles with a global pandemic. Inside Higher Ed reported, “College and university enrollment nationwide fell by 651,774 students — a decline of more than 3 percent — from fall 2019 to fall 2020, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.”
With some students deciding to defer their enrollment or take a gap year as an alternative to a “traditional college experience,” Saint Louis University – Madrid Campus (SLU-Madrid) had even more complexity to overcome. According to Cat Gaa, SLU-Madrid’s Admissions Communications Coordinator, SLU-Madrid’s most powerful yielding tool – a campus visit – was not an option for most prospective students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For a university that recruits students globally and relies on campus visits to “try before you buy,” SLU-Madrid’s admissions team had to determine how they were going to bring their vibrant campus life and peer-to-peer connections to prospective students virtually and persuade them to join their incoming class. They also had other aspects to consider, such as gaining buy-in from parents and family members who were hesitant about their student traveling and living abroad during the ongoing pandemic. They also had a business requirement for counselors to manage communication with admitted students and their families in an authenticated community to avoid inaccurate information sharing from unofficial social media groups.