Truman State University has made various changes to its admissions process in the wake of COVID-19, including new conduct for in-person visits, virtual tours and online showcases for the fall 2020 semester.
On top of the University’s new mask requirements and social distancing guidelines, other precautions have been made to ensure safety for visitors who tour the University, such as providing tours to one family at a time and restricting students from touring more than one residence hall per visit.
“It’s a little bit more formal of a process,” Lilly Bower, a student ambassador and visit host for the Admissions Office, said. “Now when students arrive we need to check them in, they have to look over the information we have on them to confirm but now there is also a contract tracing form that they need to fill out, and then take them into more of a presentation style room where things are more spaced out.”
Despite the precautions, prospective students have still been visiting the University’s campus to learn what it’s like to attend Truman, albeit at a lower rate than past semesters. The major change this semester has been fewer visits per day, creating a challenge for admissions staff like Shari Fieser, assistant director of events and campus visits.
With COVID-19 restricting visits from March to July, the University has seen an increase in visits for August and September. Fieser said the Admissions Office sees about 40-50 visits per week, a full schedule for on-campus tours and an increase compared to previous years’ visits around this time. Even though visiting students are still given the chance to visit campus grounds, the decrease in visits per day has been noticeable.
“Before we allowed five or six families to come and attend campus, but now we are limiting Tuesday through Thursdays to only allow one family and then on Friday we only allow two,” senior Sara LaChance, a student ambassador and visit host said.
In addition to fewer in-person visit times and safety guidelines, student ambassadors who conduct tours have received additional training. LaChance said some of the changes in teaching new ambassadors includes knowing how to discuss COVID on campus and what Truman is doing to keep campus safe.
While Fieser said many prospective students might not attend Truman this year because of COVID-19 concerns, the Admissions Office is providing additional accommodations for students who plan to defer attending until next year. One such accommodation includes the option for incoming students to retain scholarships after spending a semester or year at a college closer to home.
In addition to in-person tours, the Admissions Office has begun offering virtual visits for prospective students. The online alternative is offered once on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and twice on Monday and Friday. Fieser said she believes these new tours are part of the way the Admissions Office is seeking to improve the virtual experience.
“We have an admissions counselor give a presentation, and then we have now incorporated a student panel portion,” Fieser said. “What I would like to do in the future is have some nice photos of campus to see what it would be like walking around campus or, a more ambitious idea, have a hotspot where they can actually go around and see campus.”
The University also hosted its first Virtual Showcase Sept. 19, replacing the in-person showcase held in previous semesters. The showcase allowed prospective students to digitally meet with professors, staff and students in a more interactive fashion.
“For the students, the virtual showcase starts out with an admission talk first to introduce the event, and then are able to talk and connect with faculty and the programs that they are interested in,” Admission Counselor Kathryn Dressman said.
The digital showcase works to emulate the in-person experience, going over topics like financial aid, study abroad opportunities, the admissions process and pre-professional programs, according to the showcase schedule.
While the event has been considered a success, Dressman and the rest of the Admissions Office staff said they are open to making adjustments to the program.
“We found that we had attendees drop off near the afternoon where we had student panels that were really good, and we want to make sure that those events would be earlier so there might be some rescheduling,” Dressman said. “Also, since students might not want to be in front of the computers for so long we want to also shorten the event while keeping the same amount of information.”
The next virtual showcase dates for the fall semester are tentatively scheduled for Oct. 10 and Nov. 7.
Even after the pandemic passes, Fieser said she suspects some changes will be here to stay, making student visits more accommodating.
“It’s funny because we had never done virtual options before and I anticipate that they are never going away, just because it’s been really cool to connect with people all over the country and even international students,” Fieser said. “Their admissions process is different but learning about student life and residence life is similar.”