An Admitted Students Day Alternative in Light of the Coronavirus
With the increasing spread of the Coronavirus nationwide, colleges and universities are balancing the demands of a competitive admissions landscape and yield season with the safety and well-being of their prospective students and families and that of their own campus community.
That leaves institutions with a very big question…
Do we cancel our spring events?
The CCA team has strategized the following to consider as institutions evaluate their upcoming admissions events, specifically their admitted student day(s).
In place of the traditional on-campus event, offer a live, online event.
Important to note, however: In all communications regarding your online event, make it clear to admitted students and their families that should they wish, they are welcome to come to campus for a personal experience at a time convenient for them. You don’t want to miss any opportunities for personal connection.
Choose Your Platform
The advantage of streaming live on FB is the built-in audience. If you have an Admitted Student Facebook Group (which we highly recommend regardless!), stream your event there so it still feels private and special. And be sure to invite those admitted students who are not yet part of the group to join before the event.
One advantage of YouTube Live over FB live is that because YouTube is owned by Google, video content is indexed and tends to rank high. (FB Live video content does not get indexed).
Understand that it will not be possible to replicate everything about your in-person event. So think about the content that would be most appropriate for your audience in this medium.
Organize the Event
Break out the event in a manageable way—perhaps creating multiple live streaming sessions, keeping in mind that not all admitted students/families will attend each one. Let them choose what they want to attend. Since the content will be recorded, it can be made available for them to view at their convenience (more below on that).
Include content areas that you’ve learned are most important to admitted students, based on your institution, at these events. Faculty and student participation should be strongly considered. These may include:
- WELCOME SESSION (Consider having your president speak for approximately 10 minutes. And remind him or her to keep the energy level up! Just as they would as if it were in person.)
- BREAKOUT SESSIONS (Approximately 30 min): Affordability (financial aid, scholarships, etc.); Academics (broken out by key areas of interest); Your First-Year Experience; Residence Life; Student Life/Wellness; Career Prep/Internship Opportunities/Employer Connections; Outcomes (consider an alumni panel)
Encourage your admissions team to take the lead and recruit the following:
- Moderator(s) for each session. This should be a person(s) who is/are comfortable on camera and skilled at leading discussion and fielding questions as they arise live during the event. (Another great thing about going live on Facebook: comments are posted in real-time, and we bet you’ll even get more questions than if it were in person!)
- Current students: your very best brand ambassadors. Ensure you have a diverse group of students (gender, ethnicity, discipline area, domestic/international, etc).
- Faculty/staff (for the breakout sessions)
- Alumni/employers (for the outcomes panel)
Marketing the Event
Begin by alerting (via email) all registered attendees and your admit pool that the event will no longer be on-campus, but instead, online. To the extent possible, call and/or text every registered attendee as well.
If you are using media to promote an on-campus event, update the creative and landing page, as appropriate. Also be sure to update all the information about the event on your website. Use your homepage hero spot to make the details of the event very clear, and of course, use all of your social media channels to get the word out.
Create a print piece/invitation that highlights the new event details (signing into the online event, the platform, etc.), including an agenda for the day. Let them know about the incentives that will be available throughout the sessions. (More on that below!)
- Since you won’t have the advantage of being in-person, don’t limit yourself to being in a static environment for every session. When it lends itself (e.g. residence life/student life), move through campus showing different facilities and backdrops.
- Consider weaving incentives into the various sessions. (e.g. Every registered attendee, for each session, is automatically entered into a raffle for a swag giveaway. And perhaps let everyone know before the event some specific times of day when you’ll be giving away swag to random commenters—to make sure they tune in.
- Remember that depositing is still the primary goal for admitted students. Provide ample opportunity (after each session) and again, incentive. For example, indicate that every student who deposits that day will receive an incentive of your choice.
- Create a landing page for the event—one that can be accessed through any paid media, social promotion, website, or email marketing. This page would include the event agenda, fun tips on how to view the live event (grab some popcorn!), and a link to sign up for the online event and/or a customized personal visit. After the live event, this same landing page would host the recorded sessions for admitted students to view as they wish.
- Think about the live and online sessions you’ve attended: talking heads can get pretty monotonous, very fast. Make it as fun and engaging as possible: call out names of attendees as they comment (“Thanks for joining us, Katie S.!”); use props or signs to keep it interesting; answer questions as they come in, and have fun with it. Remind your presenters that they should be just as entertaining as if everyone were there on campus.
Good luck, and let us know if we can help!