College Recruitment During COVID-19: How National Louis University is finding creative ways to connect with prospective students

New students at NLU’s Undergraduate College Orientation, August 2019

By: Rebecca McDermott

For high school seniors across the nation, their final semester has unraveled in a way they could have never imagined. The milestones that mark their transition from teenager to young adult have one by one been taken away. No prom, no college visits, no graduation ceremony.

For colleges and universities, recruiting their incoming class is going to look and feel different. Approaching this recruitment season with grace, patience, and empathy is essential, and National Louis University (NLU) is leading their efforts with these values embedded into each decision.

A recent national survey reports that one in six high school seniors who were expected to attend a four year college in the fall may change their plans. Additionally, three in five seniors are rethinking their first choice college.

Students who had previously committed to a university are now weighing if their college option still makes sense during the COVID-19 pandemic. As millions of Americans continue to file for unemployment, the financial situation for families across the country is dramatically shifting. Students who are healthy and able are taking jobs where they can to support their household, or are paying more attention to their immediate financial needs.

Being closer to home and taking out fewer student loans may start to emerge as important factors for students finalizing their college decision. National Louis University’s Undergraduate College has always been committed to keeping tuition affordable. Students who qualify for the full MAP and Pell Grants after filing FAFSA have a $0 out of pocket cost for tuition. The need for a college option that students can pay for without taking out student loans will likely be more in demand than ever.

Finding an option that provides high value at an affordable cost will also prove imperative. NLU’s focus on career development and professional experience offers an opportunity for students to achieve that high value without taking out student loans.

Campus visits and admitted student days are typically large recruitment events that help seniors get a better feel for a school and make their final decision. With students unable to visit campus, National Louis University has found creative ways to connect with students and help them feel comfortable with their enrollment process.

Virtual information sessions, drop-in hours, and virtual Admit Days will be lively, engaging substitutes for campus visits. These events are opportunities to chat with different NLU departments live and have questions answered immediately. Engaging with students conversationally at these events and being patient with questions and uncertainties around technical issues are essential for assuaging the anxieties many prospective students are feeling at this time.

While live virtual events can be helpful for students, there are many who do not have consistent internet access at home. Students who are balancing work with school and taking care of their family may find themselves too busy or overwhelmed to login for a live event. This is where NLU’s YouTube playlist and social media have also proven essential for connecting with high school seniors.

NLU’s New Student Enrollment Playlist on YouTube features videos that walk students through their enrollment milestones step-by-step. Students can start with a pre-recorded information session, watch a walkthrough of the online application, and be guided on how to access their award letter and submit their tuition deposit. Several videos are available in both English and Spanish to reach more students and their families and help them feel comfortable completing steps to enroll at NLU from home.

On social media accounts, NLU has shared several student testimonial videos to help show prospective students why others chose NLU as their college selection. Instagram and TikTok have allowed a unique connection between students and their college options. Students can engage actively with NLU through Instagram story trivia quizzes and Q & A sessions. They also have the opportunity to watch short campus tours on Instagram TV.

Obviously, this is not the spring semester any student imagined for themselves. It is tough to focus on the future when circumstances change daily. However, many students are still planning to continue their education. These high school seniors were born in the wake of 9/11 and are graduating high school during a global pandemic. These resilient students can and will persevere.

National Louis University is going the extra mile to make sure students feel ready and empowered to take the next step into their future and enroll for college. Students showing the fortitude to continue their education in the face of today’s unprecedented situation remind us that this incoming class will be more than strong enough to meet the challenge.