Q: Now that we are in the midst of yield season, what tone should we be taking in our communications right now? We’ve gotten advice to proceed with a business-as-usual approach, but is this really the right approach?

 

As of April 7th, 42 states across the country had issued stay-at-home orders, causing significant disruptions in the lives of college-bound high school seniors –a growing number of whom will not be returning to school at all. Our COVID-19 Senior Impact Research confirms that students are most are concerned with the immediate impact of this virus on their lives right now. They are feeling disconnected from friends, social events, and the normal life of high school. They are likely experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety than usual. They have lost the important rituals of high school life including participation in athletics, proms, and commencement ceremonies. 

College choice has its place among these rituals of senior year of high school; this is a loss, too, but as our data shows, not at the top of their minds.

We believe that institutions should appropriately acknowledge the loss that students are feeling as they go through this difficult time. Colleges should also, however, consider this loss within the context of all of the other things that students are going through. By this we mean that colleges should take care not to place their needs above those of students. They should balance their messages to be supportive and offer additional support, but stick to the core messages that will yield the right students for their institutions.

There are also longer-term impacts of COVID-19 that many students may not be aware of yet. As of early April, our research shows that about one third of prospective student families had already experienced some kind of financial loss. This number will only grow, along with the number of families directly impacted by the illness itself. These realities will impact willingness to travel far from home, decisions about delays in college enrollment, and changes in school choice. 

We believe the best approach is to acknowledge students loss, offer support, be creative about virtual opportunities to engage students who may no longer want to visit in person, and stay the course on your key messages. Download our report, Effects of COVID-19 on High School Students & College Choice, for more information about student perspectives. Keep in mind that things are changing very quickly; we are conducting continual research to stay on top of these changes.

Kim Reid

Eduventures Principal Analyst at ACT | NRCCUA
Contact

More from the Wake-Up Call…
Six Transfer Student Types for Better Student Engagement

Six Transfer Student Types for Better Student Engagement

Transfer students have long been treated as an afterthought, but the perfect storm has now made landfall. This fall, freshman enrollment at community colleges declined by 23%, shrinking the typical transfer prospect pool significantly. Eduventures also found that one...

The Year of the Stealth Applicant: How to Reach Unreachable Students

The Year of the Stealth Applicant: How to Reach Unreachable Students

In a normal year, most high school juniors would be receiving daily entreaties in the mail from colleges to “find their destiny.” But this year, for many students, it’s crickets. The source of the river of traditional undergraduate marketing has, to some extent, dried...

How Student Mindsets are Shifting in a Pandemic Recruitment Cycle

How Student Mindsets are Shifting in a Pandemic Recruitment Cycle

The college enrollment landscape is unsettled this year and so too are long-held student decision frameworks. A recent Inside Higher Ed article revealed that a 1% increase in student use of the Common App is creating a 10% increase in application volume for Common App...