As postsecondary costs go up and enrollments go down, it’s becoming ever more imperative for colleges to demonstrate that the education they provide will lead to students’ ultimate aim: getting a job.
One way to do this is, of course, by imparting valuable knowledge and critical thinking skills students will need to succeed in the working world. But, given that this is the understood purpose of every college and university, another way to stand out is by strengthening relationships with organizations that might hire students after graduation.
Doing so can help connect students with prospective employers long before they “need a job,” equip them with real-world work experiences and raise your institution’s profile with both students seeking a competitive career advantage and employers seeking a pipeline of reliable workers. Having this sort of “light at the end of the tunnel” can help boost undergraduate college enrollment.
Increase Emphasis on Real-World Work Experience
One way colleges can help students increase their overall career readiness is through experiential learning. The most traditional route colleges take is facilitating internships with companies and nonprofit organizations, either during the semester or over the summer. However, if your institution only offers traditional internships, it might be time to think more broadly.
For instance, micro internships are short-term professional projects that offer experience, academic credit, and the chance to build professional relationships. Getting such an endeavor off the ground is no small feat, but it also isn’t something that a college needs to undertake alone. Organizations such as Parker Dewey partner with schools to facilitate micro internships between students and companies spanning a variety of industries.
There are also numerous work experience opportunities that go beyond internships. Three noteworthy options are Credegree programs (earning industry-recognized credentials along with a degree), co-ops (alternating academic study with full-time periods of paid work), and work-study placements.
Some organizations, like Riipen, are even taking the idea of work–college integration further by encouraging companies to embed professional projects within college curriculums. By setting up these experiential learning opportunities for students, your college can forge connections with prospective employers and position your institution to students as a stepping stone toward employment.
Raise Your Profile with Prospective Employers
As helpful as it is for students to be connected with internships, work-study placements, and co-ops so they can gain real-world experience during their college years, it is just as helpful for your college to raise their profile with potential employers; year over year, the direct funnel of hardworking students you have created will generate a good brand name for your school as one that produces quality workers. (And, of course, this funnel also gives employers the advantage of “trialing” students before electing to hire them full-time!)
Finally, you can increase your visibility with prospective employers via your institution’s alumni. Former students are in a great position to promote their alma mater as a source of top talent, ultimately influencing which students’ résumés are selected for review and who gets an interview. Depending on their level of seniority, alumni may even influence their company’s decision to recruit new workers directly from your school.
Boosting college enrollment starts with listening to what students need for their life after college. And what do they need most? A job. Therefore, it’s to your school’s advantage to connect and partner with companies and other organizations looking to employ people with college degrees.
These connections will ultimately help students find career success faster, improve the institution’s career placement statistics (and bragging rights!), and bring more students in the door when they can confidently answer, “What’s the value of enrolling here?”
Why Your Graduate Admissions Office Should Be Attending Virtual College Fairs
Graduate enrollment rose in 2020 and 2021, but that doesn’t mean admissions officers can rest on their laurels. With undergraduate admissions falling behind, colleges and universities with graduate programs are relying on those student admissions more than ever.
Unfortunately, while expectations have risen, few graduate admissions offices have seen an influx of new resources. This means that, as a graduate admissions officer, you need to do more with less and work smarter, not harder. One of the best methods to do this is by leveraging virtual college fairs.
Convenience Is Key
Compared with high schoolers applying for undergraduate programs, graduate student prospects are notoriously hard to reach because they’re often working professionals and/or parents with numerous day-to-day responsibilities. As of 2015, about 76 percent of graduate students work at least 30 hours a week, and about 19 percent of all working learners (including undergrads) have children.
Since graduate applicants’ time is so limited, it’s up to graduate enrollment officers to decrease the investigative burden of exploring schools and bring the information to them. A virtual college fair is a great option because it’s convenient for applicants and admissions officers alike, resulting in more productive engagement and recruitment.
Potential applicants can attend virtual college fairs from anywhere, whether that’s the comfort of their home, a coffee shop, or a break room at work. This not only eliminates the logistics of traveling to an in-person event but also makes it easier to fit the event into a hectic schedule. Meanwhile, virtual fairs help time-crunched admission officers by allowing them to participate in multiple fairs without the time-consuming effort or expense of traveling to different schools or communities. It’s a win for everyone involved.
Reaching More Diverse Applicants
Convenience doesn’t just increase the number of overall prospects who can learn about your school; it increases the number of diverse applicants you can engage, as well. International students in particular are far more likely to attend a virtual college fair than to get on a plane to investigate schools. Given that international student admissions have been trending upward for the past decade, participating in virtual college fairs will help you take advantage of this trend and attract these interested students to your school.
Virtual fairs can also help admissions officers reach applicants who have difficulty attending in-person recruitment events, such students with mobility restrictions or visual or auditory disabilities. A virtual fair once again removes the burden of travel and enables these individuals to use whatever tools they need in their home environment. By removing the stress and difficulty of in-person events, virtual fairs are one way colleges can demonstrate that they are able and willing to accommodate all students.
Finally, virtual college fairs are attractive to graduate student applicants because they are an efficient, effective way to learn about multiple schools at once. To maximize the return on student and university participants’ time, GoToCollegeFairs provides a custom-built virtual college fair platform that mimics the in-person experience while adding resources and capabilities that enhance the event for all involved.
When applicants enter the virtual lobby, they can use customized filters to identify participating colleges, presentations, and educational sessions that best align with their interests. Once they hit the exhibition floor, they can bookmark and engage with select colleges in one-on-one or group formats, watch videos, and even apply on the spot. Virtual fairs allow potential applicants to strategize and personalize their experience in a way that is simply not available when investigating schools one by one.
Admissions officers can also benefit from GoToCollegeFairs’ unique virtual fair tools. With College Matchmaking™, for instance, you won’t need to guess who will be the best fit for your institution; the attendees will tell you themselves. When they register for a college fair with GoToCollegeFairs, prospective students select the attributes of the college experience they find desirable, and this data is pushed to the College Matchmaking™ database. As a subscriber, you’ll pay a flat price and receive the names and contact information of students who, through their selections, have declared your institution to be a good fit—providing a far more qualified list of student candidates than the typical demographics guessing game. Virtual college fairs can be a win-win for graduate school applicants and graduate admission officers. Their biggest benefits are convenience and efficiency: applicants can learn about many schools and admission officers can meet more students all at once, in a shorter amount of time and without the need for planes, trains, or automobiles. In an era of increasingly packed schedules, virtual college fairs are a great option for graduate students and admissions officers alike.
Five College Admissions Strategies to Overcome Birth Dearth
During the 2008–2009 economic recession, the already declining birthrate took an even bigger hit. This decline, known as “birth dearth,” has been affecting colleges for years; fewer babies means fewer high school graduates and, ergo, fewer college freshmen. And now that those 2008-2009 babies are approaching the end of their high school careers, the birth dearth is about to have an even more significant impact on college enrollment.
- Set expectations with key players.
College leaders need to be prepared for the upcoming slump in potential applications, particularly the board, trustees, and financial advisors. Actions will need to be taken internally (e.g., cutting certain programs, expanding others) as well as externally (e.g., relying on different recruiting techniques) to mitigate this imminent challenge.
Therefore, it’s important for admissions officers and HR executives to have regular conversations with senior leaders so that everyone is on the same page regarding the details and nuances around enrollment decline. Through these discussions, you can help generate and influence college-wide discussions about finances, curriculum programming, and data mining—all factors that implicate the recruitment process.
- Assess what programs are (and will be) in demand.
Knowing what programs are of most interest to incoming students can help a college better brand itself and reprioritize and reallocate resources to support the programs with the greatest demand. For example, Whitworth University has taken steps to expand their engineering program and add other in-demand undergraduate degrees and graduate programs.
Similarly, the University of Tulsa has shifted its focus to a STEM-heavy curriculum, with increased emphasis on practical and professional training, all of which helps the university promote career readiness of the students it graduates. By identifying and optimizing your university’s strongest and most in-demand programs, you can then focus your marketing materials on these selling points.
- Target recruitment efforts.
The more targeted you can make your college recruitment strategies, the better. One way to improve your targeting is to look at data from high schools of “feeder states”—the states that are most likely to funnel students into your college. Do applicants from particular high schools tend to come in with a specific major or group of majors in mind? What does your institution do best?
If you are a recruiter from a STEM-based college like RIT or MIT, for example, it is likely more worthwhile to focus your efforts on technical high schools than performing arts high schools.
New tools are also available to help you target students better than ever before. For example, College Matchmaking™ offers a flat-priced, student-driven solution that eliminates the need to blindly guess which students will be most interested in your school—a necessary evil when purchasing names through the SAT/ACT.
Here’s how it works: when students register for a virtual or in-person college fair with GoToCollegeFairs, they select the attributes of the college experience they find desirable, and this data is pushed to the College Matchmaking™ database. Colleges who subscribe can then pay a flat price for the names of students who have already declared their institution to be a good fit, providing a hugely more qualified list of student candidates.
- Remove obstacles (even slight ones) from the admissions process.
With the present landscape in flux, now is the time to review your college admissions process and consider progressive reforms. Removing certain obstacles, like standardized testing requirements, or even offering fast-tracked ways to apply—like direct admissions—may encourage more students to apply to your institution.
- Increase support for first-generation college students.
If a student is the first one in their family to apply to college, they may be unsure how to navigate the process. For these students, a little support can go a long way in finding colleges for first-generation students. Show you value them (and stand out from the competition) by hosting first-generation student information seminars and creating a separate webpage with answers to questions they are likely to have. Make sure you continue to provide support once they arrive at your college, as well, to ensure the success of this student population.
Even though high school senior classes are expected to decline in the coming years, these five strategies can help you focus your recruitment efforts and attract qualified applicants. You may not be able to implement them all at once, but even a slight tweak to your admissions process can provide a valuable edge.
Should Your Admissions Office Consider Direct Admissions
With financial challenges, alternative career paths, and birth dearth leading to shrinking freshman classes, colleges must find new ways to increase student recruitment in order to remain solvent. One method that has begun to gain traction in the United States is direct admissions. In this admissions process, the roles of the college and the student are flipped—instead of students researching and then applying for admission to colleges, colleges look through student profiles (gathered either by state organizations or companies like Concourse), and “apply” for students by admitting them.
The benefits of direct admissions are numerous: the process helps with recruiting more diverse applicants, it brings more attention to your college, and in the long run, it may even be cheaper than the traditional admissions process. However, there are reasons it hasn’t caught on in a big way yet—direct admissions does not necessarily guarantee college enrollment, and the process may make it more challenging to recruit the students who best fit what your college has to offer.
There are Other Fish in the Sea
In an era when the advantages of a diverse student body have been made apparent, direct admissions presents a unique opportunity to increase diversity by eliminating some of the bias that exists within the college recruitment process. Underserved or underrepresented students face critical barriers to getting into college, such as acquiring quality letters of recommendation and biased standardized testing [[link to GTCF Standardized Tests blog]]. Offering direct admissions—which eliminates these and nearly all other elements of the application process—opens doors for underrepresented and underserved students.
There is already some evidence of success: When Concourse sent out acceptance emails to students who qualified for direct admission, students of color, first-generation students, and low-income students were three to four times as likely to apply to the admitting institution, and they sent out more applications overall, as well, making it one of the more effective strategies for increasing student enrollment. By admitting underrepresented and underserved students, colleges can reap the benefits of greater diversity in their student population.
More Visibility in Deep Waters
Not only will colleges see more diverse applicants as a result of direct admissions, but they may increase their overall visibility with all potential applicants. The number of postsecondary options in the United States can be overwhelming, and students often opt to apply to the colleges they find most familiar. Direct admissions can help smaller colleges access and compete for talented students by raising their profile and offering their school as a concrete and immediate option compared to the usual apply-and-hope model of college applications.
For instance, Augsburg College officials recently shifted all of their applications to direct admissions and saw a 70% increase in applications from a year ago. They admitted 487 of those students (up from 150 the previous year).
There are a few drawbacks to direct admissions. While it’s assumed that colleges will see more applicants through direct admissions, the new method hasn’t been fully assimilated across the higher education landscape. Right now, students need to know about and proactively enroll in databases like Concourse and SAGE—a hurdle due to the fact that these college recruitment strategies are so new and therefore less likely to be promoted by high school counselors.
Then, assuming that direct admissions becomes commonplace and attracts more students to a given college, how can the institution know it’s reeling in the right ones? Direct admission decisions are based off of more limited information like a student’s GPA, class rank, and transcript; no essays, no letters of recommendation, and no standardized test scores are provided. As a result, admissions officers may have to employ more guesswork to identify the students that are the right fit for their college, at least until more data are collected.
Finally, although direct admissions can get the word out about your college, admission does not guarantee enrollment. While offering direct admission to students gives them a stronger push toward enrolling, there are other, oftentimes bigger factors at play. For instance, students still need to consider the cost of college and what financial package can be made available for them.
One of the arguments that is still up for debate is whether direct admissions will prove cheaper for colleges. Direct admissions has been shown to be exceptionally low-cost; for example, in Idaho, participating institutions require only a student’s school records (which are provided by the state), plus paper and postage for acceptance letters (which could also be sent electronically).
However, for institutions in non-participatory states—which right now is most states—and who want to draw students from across state boundaries, they must engage with direct admissions services, some of which are cheaper than others. For instance, Sage Scholars, which intends to launch a direct admissions service this year, will be free to colleges, whereas Concourse charges colleges through a commercial agreement. Furthermore, most colleges won’t use direct admissions in lieu of traditional admissions, meaning they will need to support both traditional and direct admissions.
Eyes on the Horizon
While direct admissions has had a slow start in the United States, it is picking up momentum. The state of Minnesota, for example, is now offering every high school in the state the chance to participate and has over 50 colleges and universities opting in. Meanwhile, Concourse is facing new market competitors like Sage Scholars, which will increase the reach and popularity of direct admissions.
Even if your school is currently unprepared to adopt this admissions process, it’s a space to watch—because eventually, it may no longer be a matter of “if” you adopt direct admissions, but “when.”
3 Ways to Show Students They Can Afford Your School
By now, it’s a well-known problem: rising college costs have increasingly become a barrier to college enrollment. Since 2003, U.S. News reports that tuition and fees have risen by 134% at private universities and 175% at in-state public universities.
Inflation of course has contributed, but that index has only increased by 65% in the same timeframe, accounting for half (or less) of the jump in college costs. Students are struggling to find out how to pay for college. Therefore, it’s no wonder rising high school seniors are second-guessing the decision to plunk down many thousands of dollars for a four-year degree.
In the face of declining enrollments, colleges are recognizing this problem and taking measures to help students and families as best they can. According to data from the National Association of College and University Business Officers, the average tuition discount rate for first-time undergraduates at private universities hit a record high of 54.5% in 2020.
Grants, fellowships, and scholarships are all vehicles to improve access and affordability, and they are effective. Yet if a student and their family don’t know about these opportunities or understand how they affect the “sticker price,” they may forgo your institution. Therefore, it’s essential that you communicate effectively, efficiently, and often.
Here are three ways to show students how to pay for college and afford it.
1. Help them fully understand the financial aid they’re getting.
Financial aid letters are too often written “from the university” rather than “to the student.” They tend to foreground the message “here is your package, here’s how we calculated it” rather than “this is what your financial aid means, so here’s how you’re going to pay for college.” Few students have the financial literacy necessary to understand the differences between grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans.
By breaking down these financial aid options and explaining what each means for what the student will owe both now and later, you can help ease some of the fear and uncertainty that come with “money talk.” Then, once they see that paying for an education at your institution is feasible, you can get them excited by including a little preview of what’s coming next (e.g., housing selection)!
2. Create more opportunities for them to ask questions.
Every financial aid letter should include contact information for financial aid officers and a message encouraging students and their families to reach out with any questions they have. However, that shouldn’t be the only opportunity they have to ask questions. Hosting financial aid/scholarship “open house” days on your campus is another way to demonstrate that you really want accepted students to understand the implications of their financial aid options. Invite students to come learn more and ask whatever questions they might have, and you’ll reap the added benefit of gaining a reasonable enrollment benchmark; a high percentage of students who attend on-campus financial aid events ultimately choose to attend that university.
3. Customize communications as much as possible.
Communications around financial aid are often written as one-size-fits-all—which, while efficient, is not necessarily the most effective. The amount of support a first-generation college student and their family need to understand a financial aid package is far greater than a student who is the third child of college-education parents to attend college. Furthermore, it can go a long way to acknowledge the student separately from their family, and vice versa.
After all, the decision to attend a given college is typically a joint decision, so acknowledging the agency and even interests of the students separately from their parents or caretakers can make an even more favorable impression. After all, every touchpoint with a prospective student is an opportunity to recruit! Financial aid communications are no exception.
Four Tech Strategies to Beat Birth Dearth and Recruit Students Who Fit
The competition for students in higher education is fierce, and it will get even fiercer due to the birth dearth from the 2008 recession. The sharp decline in births that year has translated to fewer high school students graduating and attending college, leading to challenges for the college recruiter profession.
With an ever-smaller applicant pool, it’s imperative to expand your recruitment efforts to reach more potential students. One way to do this is to leverage burgeoning technology strategies. Here are four that can help you beat the birth dearth and recruit students who will flourish at your university.
- Generate Leads Strategically
Colleges see more applications, higher enrollment numbers, and higher retention rates when they engage students who are the right fit. But how can you determine which students will fit best at your college?
Historically, colleges and universities have relied on purchasing lists of student data, sold at cost per name, from the SAT and ACT to drive their recruitment efforts. However, this data is limited to basic information like test scores, high school, and street address. If only they allowed you to select more granular student attributes to assist with your college recruitment strategies! Or, even better: if they let the students tell you exactly what they want.
This last option is not a pipe dream; College Matchmaking™ has made it a reality. College Matchmaking™ is a flat-priced, student-driven solution that not only provides an alternative to SAT/ACT name-buys but eliminates the accompanying practice of blindly guessing at which student demographics to purchase.
Here’s how it works: both colleges and students complete a matchmaking questionnaire. The system then matches college attributes with students’ interests in five key areas: campus size, campus setting, areas of study, institution type, and geographic region. Instead of simply buying a list of leads based on demographic data, colleges get leads that show the preferences of potential applicants in real-time. Colleges who subscribe can then pay a flat price for the names of students who have already declared their institution to be a good fit, providing a much more qualified list of student candidates.
- Lean into Virtual College Fairs
In addition to generating more promising leads, another part of beating birth dearth requires recruiting underrepresented populations like international students or first-generation college students. These larger applicant pools are not always easily reached with traditional in-person recruiting efforts. In this case, a virtual college fair is the way to go.
Virtual college fairs are often extremely cost-effective, allow you to reach a broader geographic footprint, and generate more leads and greater discoverability of your college. One virtual college fair platform, GoToCollegeFairs, is reporting over 500 student leads on average per college at their virtual college fair experiences.
To help you maximize your return at virtual college fairs, GoToCollegeFairs provides a custom-built virtual college fair platform that mimics the in-person experience, while adding resources and capabilities that are missing from a traditional college fair. When students enter the virtual lobby, they can use customized filters to identify participating colleges, presentations, and education sessions that interest them most.
Once they hit the exhibition floor, they can bookmark and engage with select colleges in one-on-one or group formats, watch videos, and even apply on the spot. And just like the in-person fairs which use the GoToCollegeFairs system, every student’s activity and preferences expressed before, during, and after the virtual fair are tracked and analyzed to support your follow-up recruiting efforts.
- Embrace Mobile Recruitment
To recruit the top candidates and meet college enrollment goals, schools need to engage today’s tech-savvy students on a more personal level across a variety of platforms, particularly via mobile and social media. Going mobile can help you reach out to students worldwide with just a click of a button, highlighting your school’s brand and offerings on a regular basis. But don’t rely on a single touchpoint; consider reaching out to potential students using email, text messaging, and phone calls to keep everyone informed.
A mobile app containing all the information a potential applicant needs to know can also be useful, and many are available. Prospective students can download the app and learn about the upcoming online and in-person recruiting events. The app can then be carried over to support students once they are enrolled to ease the transition to college life and aid in student retention. By embracing mobile, you’re interacting with students where they are: on their phones!
- Use AI in the Recruitment Process
With college recruiting continually expanding, it’s time to automate some of the more traditional practices. One automation tool is an online chatbot equipped with sophisticated natural language processing (NLP) that can help provide answers to prospective students looking through a college’s website. A chatbot’s 24/7 availability provides greater convenience for students and families who are unable to call during business hours and reduces the time spent by staff answering admissions inquiries.
Through machine learning, these chatbots can even adapt to create a personalized and supportive environment as they field students’ questions and concerns. Other tools, such as CRM systems, can help to automate manual administrative tasks, improving speed and accuracy and enabling admissions personnel to spend more time engaging students and parents.
New technologies can seem daunting, but if you’re going to triumph over birth dearth, they’re necessary to expand your modes and methods of recruiting. With these four strategies, you have the potential to maximize your reach in the search for students who will thrive best at your college.
College Entrance Exams: Keep Them or Quit Them?
Since their conception, the SAT and ACT have been required as part of undergraduate college admissions; high schoolers take the tests to prove their level of preparedness with college entrance exams. However, in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a nationwide pause on standardized testing. According to the Common Application, the nonprofit behind the standardized college admissions form of the same name, only 5% of about 850 member universities required scores in 2021–2022, compared to 55% in 2019.
Now that the proverbial dust has settled, university administrations decide: do they reintroduce standardized testing requirements for college applications or put these tests aside for good?
The Equity Argument
One of the biggest arguments for getting rid of standardized tests is that studies have shown them to be biased toward affluent white and Asian-American students, while disadvantaging students who are poor, Black, and Hispanic. According to the College Board, 55% of Asian-American test takers and 45% of white test takers scored a 1200 or higher on the SAT in 2019, whereas only 12% of Hispanic test takers and 9% of Black test takers achieved the same result.
There are many factors that could contribute to such a disparity in scores. Wealth is a particularly notable factor. Family and community wealth influences the quality of schooling that a child receives, with minority students, especially Black students, less likely to be enrolled in schools with advanced and high-quality courses. Likewise, wealthier students—who are, again, less likely to be minority or first-generation students—are better able to afford the test books and prep courses that help ensure a successful score on the exam, as well as multiple attempts at the test itself.
Ultimately, the primary argument against requiring standardized tests for college admission emphasizes that the tests hurt the odds of select populations of students, including students whose first language is not English, whose parents didn’t go to college, who are the children of immigrants or immigrants themselves, and who come from poorer households.
However, getting rid of standardized tests would not get rid of the advantages of wealth and privilege, as these extend to other parts of the college application process, as well. Wealthy families can hire college admissions advisors to help their children craft stellar applications, as well as writing coaches to assist with application essays.
Colleges tend to prioritize applicants from alumni, again giving students from wealthy, privileged backgrounds an advantage. Even a process like asking for letters of recommendation can be fraught with biases, either in gendered differences in the writing of the letters or in differences in access to advantageous connections (i.e., who will write the letter).
Therefore, standardized tests might actually be an equalizer in the face of outsized wealth and privilege advantages. As Priscilla Rodriguez, vice president of the College Board, the organization that develops the SAT, notes: “In contrast [to other parts of the admission process], the SAT is available to all students, free to practice for, and free to take for low-income students.”
Standardized Tests as Tools
Despite their complications, standardized tests are still incredibly important to universities. Universities want to ensure that the students they admit are the ones most likely to make it through to graduation. While many believe that test scores don’t predict a student’s success in college, there are some studies that claim otherwise. Yale University, for instance, found that higher scores on the SAT and ACT predicted better academic success, even when controlling for other factors.
Standardized tests have other benefits, as well. They can act as a broad yardstick to compare students across different states and countries, offering universities an easy way to sort through applicants to find top performers. They also offer a way for universities to identify talented students whose circumstances in high school negatively affected their grades. And if you work at a large university, getting rid of standardized testing can require a complete revamp of the college admissions process—retraining admissions officers, hiring and training more application readers, redoing the overall application, and more. It can even mean rethinking student recruitment strategies.
Historically, colleges and universities have also relied on purchasing lists of student data to supplement other recruiting strategies. These lists are sold at cost per name, many times from the SAT and ACT providers. However, with more schools eliminating standardized test requirements or moving to “test optional,” the efficacy of this practice has dwindled; fewer students today are taking the test, which means fewer names available for colleges.
To circumvent this issue, other services like College Matchmaking™ offer alternatives. With a flat-priced, student-driven solution that not only provides an alternative to SAT/ACT name-buys, this service eliminates the accompanying practice of blindly guessing at which student demographics to purchase.
Instead, when students register for a virtual or in-person college fair with GoToCollegeFairs, they select the attributes of the college experience they find desirable, and the student data is pushed to the College Matchmaking™ database (with student permission, of course). Colleges then subscribe to the list for the names of students who have already declared their institution to be a good fit, providing a hugely more qualified list of student candidates, and since this service is free to students, it falls on the right side of the equity argument.
There is considerably more work to be done before the standardized testing debate can be settled, as conflicting research abounds. Proponents of eliminating standardized testing have argued that doing away with the SAT and ACT will create more diverse campuses. Research on colleges that went “test-optional” years ago shows that students admitted without test scores came from more diverse backgrounds and did about as well in their college classes as peers who did submit test scores.
However, the opposite claim has been made, too. A University of California task force found that eliminating the standardized test requirement would deny automatic entry to 40% of African-American students and more than 25% of low-income and first-generation students who had been admitted.
Current State of Affairs
For now, universities have taken different stances on the usefulness of standardized testing. Even after their 2020 investigation found issues with eliminating the tests, the University of California became one of the biggest and most well-known institutions to stop requiring SAT and ACT tests for admissions, and all eight Ivy League schools have made the tests optional for prospective students. On the other hand, MIT made headlines for its announcement that it will once again start requiring test scores as a part of applications. Some universities are even considering developing their own test to replace the ACT and SAT.
Regardless of which side your university takes on this debate, keep in mind that the goal is to provide equity to students while maintaining a rigorous, robust, and useful application system. Watch this space as more solutions and research come to light—things will no doubt be changing quickly in years to come.
Six Virtual Strategies to Recruit International Students
With a projected 8 million students enrolling in higher education institutions outside of their home country by 2025, the time to solidify an international student recruitment strategy is now. International students bring invaluable cultural diversity and perspectives to campus, enriching the learning experience for all students and preparing them to engage with a diverse future workforce.
Traditionally, these students have been difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to reach. However, with more people tuning into the virtual world, there are more recruitment opportunities than ever before. Here are six virtual strategies you can use
to effectively with recruiting international students.
- Optimize Your Website & Consider Language Barriers
The average website user’s attention span is eight seconds. Therefore, your school’s landing pages need to communicate relevant information in a quick, attractive, and digestible way.
For international students, making the information quickly readable means recognizing and accommodating potential language barriers. Minimize your use of complex language and colloquialisms to make the information as accessible as possible to those for whom English is not a first language. Also consider adding visual elements like infographics and videos to further simplify important information like degrees, tuition fees, and how to apply for financial aid for potential international college students.
- Dedicate a Webpage for International College Students
Going a step further, you can welcome international students specifically by creating a dedicated landing page just for them. Some schools, like the University of Cambridge, have created a hub on their website featuring content, resources, and events specifically geared toward international students.
Organizing these pages can take a variety of forms, but one way to accommodate language differences is to do what the University of Michigan did and use a subdomain for the different language versions of its website. Ultimately, no matter how you present the information, making the extra effort to welcome international students and directly address their unique needs can be the difference between their decision to apply to your school and looking elsewhere.
- Attend Virtual College Fairs
One of the best ways to promote your school to international students is to attend a virtual college fair. Virtual attendance is now the norm for many events, and students are increasingly turning to virtual college fairs to access information about universities that are far from their homes—a perfect choice for international students.
Of course, not all virtual fairs are equal. GoToCollegeFairs provides a custom-built virtual college fair platform that mimics the in-person experience while adding resources and capabilities that are missing from a traditional college fair but are particularly useful for international students.
When students enter the virtual lobby, they can use customized filters to identify participating colleges, presentations, and education sessions that interest them most. Once they hit the exhibition floor, they can bookmark and engage with select colleges in one-on-one or group formats, watch videos, and even apply on the spot.
These engagement features create high usability for international recruiting. And just like the in-person fairs that use the GoToCollegeFairs system, every student’s activity and preference expressed before, during, and after the virtual fair are tracked and analyzed to support your follow-up recruiting efforts.
- Set Up Virtual Campus Tours
Web presence is of utmost importance because international students rarely have the luxury of visiting the campuses of prospective universities—a factor that carries considerable weight in a student’s final decision. However, with a virtual college tour, you can share the feel, look, and culture of campus with these faraway students. Even better: have a variety of current students lead the tour to help international students better envision themselves on your campus.
- Host a Free Online Masterclass
International students make up a large part of the U.S. graduate student cohort—in 2019, they earned half of all master’s and doctorate STEM degrees, totaling 117,000 degrees. To capture the interest of these individuals and persuade them to apply to your institution, offer a free online masterclass. Taught by faculty and easily accessible around the world, these classes help to make your university more discoverable and give prospective students a taste of what they can expect if they enroll.
- Reach Out Through Social Media
Given its wide reach and popularity, social media is a great medium for attracting international college students. Just make sure to create dedicated campaigns that directly target their unique needs and concerns, which will be different from more local applicants.
Additionally, be sure to consider which social media platforms are available and popular in the regions you’re targeting. Students from different countries use different social media sites, so you may need to branch out from Twitter and TikTok to other sites like WeChat and Sina Weibo. If you’re unfamiliar with these platforms, enlisting help from current international students or even alumni can be a good start.
Ultimately, international college students will go to the university with which they cultivate the closest connection. These connections can be difficult to form in the virtual world—but by adopting these strategies, you’re off to a good start.
Four Ways to Increase Diversity in Your Student Recruitment Efforts
University is the place where students can start to think and dream bigger—and a diverse student body can help them accomplish that. A meta-analysis published in Review of Educational Research found that students who interacted with racially and ethnically diverse peers showed significant gains in cognitive skills like critical thinking and problem-solving.
But diversity has come to mean more than just race; it includes differences in sexual orientation and identity, income level, first-generation status, cultural background, and gender. As definitions of diversity in college continue to expand, universities must review and refine their recruitment efforts to include more of these underrepresented populations. Here we outline four strategies to effectively increase diversity in your student recruitment efforts.
- Craft and Refine your Marketing Materials
Creating an authentic message of diversity is critical for universities. One of the biggest mistakes is overrepresenting racial and ethnic diversity in posters, brochures, and other visual recruitment materials; no student wants to feel tricked when they arrive on campus and find a reality that is very different from what they were led to expect. Instead, make sure that your university’s marketing department understands how to appeal to different audiences. Showing that you have in-depth knowledge about diverse populations—their priorities, their needs, and any cultural differences—is a great start.
You can also leverage other resources at your university, like racially, ethnically, and even gender-diverse faculty members, for recruiting events on and off campus. Involving these individuals goes a long way in demonstrating commitment to diversity in both the student population and the faculty who will be instructing them. Then, don’t forget to involve the students themselves! Returning students and alumni can help to represent the diverse voice of your student body and are great resources to involve in your university’s admission committee.
- Go Where the Candidates Are
High schools have many clubs and organizations that can provide inroads for communicating with your target prospective populations. In an engineering or math club, for instance, you might make an extra effort to engage with the girls in the club to recruit them for your university’s male-dominated programs.
Also, consider connecting with high school LGBTQ organizations to more fully understand the needs of that underrepresented population. What are they looking for in a university? What types of support does your university already provide, and what may still be needed? This kind of grassroots marketing will help circulate your university’s reputation through community connections and word of mouth.
In addition, don’t be afraid to leverage the candidates that you’ve already successfully recruited! Reach out to historically Black or Hispanic fraternities and sororities and other student interest groups serving underrepresented student populations. Asking them for their opinions and about their experience at your university will further inform your student diversity recruitment efforts.
- Participate in Virtual College Fairs
Virtual college fairs are a great way to meet a wide variety of students. But a word of warning: inviting students to special diversity recruiting events so they feel a sense of belonging (especially if the campus itself is not very diverse) can result in students feeling misled. Don’t assume that students’ top priority is always the diversity of the campus. Instead, take the time to connect with these prospective students and ask them about their priorities. What are the main deciding factors that are important to them? What resources or support do foresee needing on their college campus?
To help you maximize your return at virtual college fairs, GoToCollegeFairs provides a custom-built virtual college fair platform that mimics the in-person experience, while adding resources and capabilities that are missing from a traditional college fair. These extra features are particularly helpful for students who are looking for a specific fit. When students enter the virtual lobby, they can use customized filters to identify participating colleges, presentations, and education sessions that interest them most.
Once they hit the exhibition floor, they can bookmark and engage with select colleges in one-on-one or group formats, watch videos, and even apply on the spot. And just like the in-person fairs that use the GoToCollegeFairs system, every student’s activity and preferences expressed before, during, and after the virtual fair are tracked and analyzed to support your follow-up recruiting efforts.
- Use Data
Whatever methods of recruitment you are employing, you need to know if they’re working with cultivating a diverse student body. Are the demographics of the student body diversifying? What about the demographics of the audiences you are reaching? If the latter isn’t informing the former, or if it’s not at the rate you desire, there’s a translation problem. Therefore, to evaluate effectiveness, you need data.
The data you collect can be as simple as who is applying from underrepresented populations, who is accepted, and who is enrolling. They can also be qualitative—for instance, asking current underrepresented students what led them to choose your university. Refreshing these data every couple of years will form a benchmark to help you continue to assess and improve your recruitment efforts.
Students will attend the university where they feel their priorities and needs are being met. Consistent engagement with diverse prospective student populations and authentic messaging around your university’s diversity initiatives will promote a vibrant, diverse student body on your campus.