Angel Pérez, head of the top college admissions association, got an email in the fall after his group sponsored its first-ever online fair, which the pandemic made virtual by necessity. A student thanked Pérez, writing that they’d been exposed to institutions they wouldn’t have otherwise. It was an “aha!” moment for Pérez, CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. To him, it was evident that although many hallmarks of the college recruitment cycle had been absent for months, the options arising in their place were generally more accessible.
A slew of primarily digital recruitment tactics has emerged from the turbulence of the health crisis, shaking a college enrollment landscape that was already evolving. Colleges were anticipating a drop-off in high school graduates. And under pressure from the Justice Department, NACAC in 2019 loosened its recruitment guidelines, weakening the significance of historical admissions deadlines and giving institutions license to poaching students past those dates. Enrollment professionals expect long-term recruitment plans will fuse new digital tools with the mainstays.
They are quick to note, though, that nothing will replace the personal touch of a student connecting with a professor on tour or falling in love with the campus. And while social media can enable them to cast a wider net, the digital divide persisted and was exacerbated by the pandemic. Institutions also must understand the nuances of platforms like Twitter and video-sharing service TikTok to get the results they want.