In our recent student survey, we asked “What has you most concerned about your college journey?” Many of the students’ open-ended responses reinforced the uncertainty associated with college selection, acceptance without college visits, and the impact of COVID-19 on scholarship and financial aid decisions. Here are some sample responses:
“I might not be able to meet the deadline for a deposit and I could lose my spot and scholarship. All because to make a deposit, I need to choose where I want to go, but unfortunately due to COVID-19 I am unable to visit colleges therefore unable to make a decision.”
“I'm worried that I won't be able to accurately tell if the school is a good "fit" since all of my tours have been cancelled. College visits have been the best way for me to tell if I will be happy at a school; so it is frustrating that I can't see them anymore. Some schools don't even have virtual tours; so it is really hard to tell if I can see myself going somewhere.”
“I'm very concerned with financial aid. The stock market and the economy as a whole has taken a huge hit and my parents have lost a lot of their savings, even their retirement fund. So for me, I'm most concerned about having the money to attend college.”
“Just how much the coronavirus will affect my first semester of college? Will it still happen? Will all the orientations and welcome weeks and freshman experiences still happen for me?”
“Trying to convince my parents to let me go out of state.”
Fear of the unknown is by far the dominant factor in the college decisioning process. Personalized outreach and timely communication on acceptance and financial aid will be critical to improve yield for this fall’s class.
Be poised to build the Class of 2021 on a shorter timeline.
Underclassmen research activity is a trend that we all need to closely monitor. I think we’re seeing a pull back from the historical college search and readiness timeline. Many students are adjusting to the new reality of online learning environments at home and to the fluctuating enrollment structure due to ACT/SAT test date cancellations and the absence of high school college counseling. We’re expecting this trend to reverse in the future, but it’s going to mean compressed timelines in the student college search journey. Between ACT/SAT test cancellations and the postponement of high school travel and prospective student visits, colleges should be prepared to adapt student prospecting options to source prospects and inquiries from new, digital-first sources and optimize communication flows, marketing techniques, and channels to drive the Class of 2021 process in a shorter timeline.
Digital marketing will also be critical to our success as we pivot fast to execute a shorter enrollment process. Open responses shared in our recent student survey unveil few surprises on how students are staying busy right now. They are online to learn, research, socialize and be entertained.
Being prepared to host virtual educational college fairs, tours, and even video counseling will help collapse steps in the traditional enrollment funnel. Connecting students with on-campus student mentors and posting video reviews may not be perfect substitutes for in-person meetings, but these are credible alternatives that scale as you court juniors into their senior year.
Student college preferences chiefly unchanged.
The next student behavior that we’re tracking is how COVID-19 may be changing the student population’s preference behavior towards attending public vs private institutions and in-state vs out-of-state. Specifically, we looked at whether the schools that students are engaging with and inquiring to connect with are shifting.
Here are the top 10 institutions by student interest, across the Cappex platform (not filtered by geo, age, or any other factor).