Truman State University’s Admissions Office has cancelled its student visit day events because of the COVID-19 pandemic and is instead offering more virtual and postal communication for prospective students in addition to changing specific application deadlines.
The Admissions Office called students who were registered to visit campus the week of March 16-20 to let them know there was not going to be in-person visits. Director of Admissions Tara Hart then worked with a videographer to create a virtual visit for students the following week, which consisted of a live 30-minute admissions presentation on Youtube.
Hart said an admissions staff member facilitated a live Q&A along with a student who also answered audience questions. She said all staff members were appropriately distanced during the presentation. Another addition for students was a new interactive five minute virtual video. Hart said an admissions counselor would show the student different buildings on campus in an enthusiastic manner. At the end of the video, the admissions counselor prompted the student to explore Truman through a virtual tour.
Hart said there were still two more showcase days planned for this semester and with all events being canceled on campus it was essential for admissions to come up with a plan quickly. She said including more virtual communication was particularly important for the week of March 16-20 as it was meant to have 175 students and guests each day from Monday to Thursday touring Truman.
Hart said a second admitted student event was going to take place on Friday with over 300 students and parents. She said students who weren’t able to come to the admitted student event on Friday were sent packets with a t-shirt and a handwritten note as a way to make them still feel connected to Truman.
Apart from sending out more mail to students, Hart said her admissions team will be starting a campaign where they send out postcards to over 900 students in Missouri who have been admitted to Truman. Hart said a webinar was also developed through the Customer Relationship Management system, which is a record of student interactions that helps admissions track and improve the way they communicate with prospective students. She said the webinar presentations are set up to be online three times a day from Monday to Friday for students to access. During these webinars students have the option to talk to or get in contact with Truman students, faculty and admissions counselors. After the webinar visit, Hart said admissions follows up with the student and gives them extra materials and information.
Hart said cultivating a bigger online presence has been beneficial for admissions because it’s helped them realize that there’s a variety of creative ways to approach and engage with students.
“Honestly, I think this has really helped admissions learn that we can go beyond print material. We can go beyond face-to-face,” Hart said. “There are some other things that we can do now immediately or in the future that can be really helpful for Truman.”
Hart said the Admissions Office is aware there are some students who might not have access to technology at home, so it has to continue to do not only email campaigns but also calling campaigns.
Tyanna Lange, vice president for enrollment management and marketing, said the Admissions Office is now more flexible and understanding about issues that students might face with fulfilling application deadlines. She said the ACT in April was canceled because of COVID-19, however, admissions extended the ACT deadline through July so students can increase their TruMerit Scholarship chances.
Transfer students who were considering Truman were notified about transcript exceptions. Lange said if those students couldn’t get an official transcript because their home registrar or institution’s office was closed or in lockdown, then admissions would make initial admission decisions based on an unofficial transcript. The official transcript would then have to be sent to admissions at a later time, Lange said.
There is also the possibility that students might want to stay closer to home, Lange said, so admissions is reaching out to students who might not have applied to Truman but have decided to go out of state and might now be second guessing that choice.
Changes like ACT requirements and transcript extensions might seem small, Lange said, but they have been done to help alleviate student concerns.
“It’s a minor tweak which allows us to help students who are full of anxiety and stress about the current situation,” Lange said. “Just makes it a little bit smoother and easier for them to consider transferring to Truman.”
Before the virus, Lange said Truman was down in student applications from 2019. She said admissions had more admits than 2019 which meant that students were quicker in submitting all the materials needed for an admission decision to be made. COVID-19 has slowed down the application process, Lange said, but it has not deterred admissions from building necessary relationships to convince students that Truman is the right place for them.
Hart said high school seniors and their parents are affected beyond just losing graduation, campus tours or having their college applications put on hold.
“Should students go away or should they stay close to home?” Hart said. “This has not only altered the students but has their family members questioning, ‘How can I keep them healthy? How can I keep them safe, beyond them just going away to college and starting as an adult?’”
Lange said the Admissions Office is following social distancing by having half of its staff in the office every other day with the rest working from home. She said Zoom and phone call meetings are being conducted. Any employee who has requested to work from home for health and safety reasons has been allowed, Lange said. Additionally, Hart said her ambassador adviser has made a survey that she sends out every Thursday that allows student ambassadors to let the Admissions Office know the status of their health or if there are any scholarship or institutional students who would like to work if they are in Kirksville. A handful of student workers have agreed to work but haven’t been fully incorporated back into the office because there are no visitors coming to campus. Hart said if there are projects that students can work on, however, then they will be transitioned back to the office.
Lange said while the COVID-19 pandemic is a terrible situation, it has shown how resourceful and caring the Truman community can be.
“From my perspective, a situation like this very much highlights the amazing people that we have here and their willingness to step in and help, even when it’s not necessarily an area that they would do,” Lange said. “Like volunteering for whatever you kind of need. So I’ve been seeing that over and over throughout this entire time. I think all of those things will lead to better teamwork across the board and better relationships for the University across faculty, staff and students.”