Drive-through college admissions bring a personal touch to a virtual year

by Jeremy

It’s harder than ever for colleges to fill their incoming classes, but some schools are meeting that challenge with creativity. In this monthly column, called The Pipeline, we’ll spotlight innovative tactics colleges use to cut through the noise and reach prospective students throughout the recruitment and enrollment process.

Students and staff attend a drive-through admissions event held by Ohio Dominican University

Instant-decision events at high schools were a popular, feel-good part of some colleges’ recruiting playbook before the pandemic. Though coronavirus restrictions put the kibosh on many of those affairs, colleges are finding new ways to drum up excitement. In Columbus, Ohio, Dominican University is one of at least a few schools taking the instant-decision idea back to campus with drive-through events that let prospective students learn on the spot whether they are admitted.

“We tried to meet students where they were,” said Alecia Dennis, the university’s undergraduate admissions director. Ohio Dominican already had success with a drive-in event for new students this past fall. So on a Monday in early March, it welcomed summer and fall 2021 applicants to the parking lot behind its student center to see if they cut.

A balloon archway marked the start of the process. Drivers would be directed to one of several stations that matched where they were in the admissions process. Admissions staff approached applicants who stayed in their cars at each station. QR codes directed students to web pages to submit their applications, upload their admissions materials and provide financial aid information. The codes helped make sure they were “as touchless as possible,” Dennis said. Meanwhile, a self-serve hot chocolate station provided an antidote to the late-winter wind and chill.  Prospective students met with admissions staff during a drive-through admissions event at Ohio Dominican University in March.

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