With the closing of most college campuses across the country, the COVID-19 outbreak has taken away crucial elements of the college selection process such as campus tours and admitted student events, leaving both prospective students and colleges struggling with a completely virtual admissions process.
For Loyola, all spring programming targeted at potential students has been shifted to virtual events, including a virtual Admitted Students Day complete with recorded class sessions to give prospective students a feel for the Loyola community, according to Nathan Ament, Loyola’s chief enrollment officer.
Ament said Loyola has also begun participating in virtual college fairs since the campus shut down, but not being able to welcome potential students to campus has been difficult.
“It is definitely a shame that our admitted students will not be able to experience our beautiful campus in person before making their decision— fortunately, we were able to hold our first Admitted Students Day before the shutdown,” Ament said.
The university is emphasizing digital advertising targeted at prospective students, according to Ament.
Following the coronavirus disruption, Loyola was “one of the first institutions in the region” to extend the May 1 commitment deadline for prospective students, Ament said.
Admitted students now have until June 1 to commit to Loyola for the fall semester, which Ament hopes will help families to consider all variables “in the face of the rapidly changing circumstances nationwide.”
The university also hopes the commitment extension will help make up for the dip in the number of students who have committed to Loyola for the fall.
“We are running slightly behind last year on the number of enrollment deposits submitted for the fall at this point in time,” Ament said. “However, since we extended our deposit deadline from May 1 to June 1, we were expecting student responses to slow as admitted students and their families adjust to the effects of the COVID-19 disruption.”
As of April 13, 278 students had submitted enrollment deposits for the fall semester out of 5,943 applications the admissions office had received, Ament said.
Kaitlin Thrun is one of those 278.
Thrun is a senior from Kansas City, Missouri, and she has committed to joining the class of 2024 as a psychology major. Thrun was able to visit campus during the first admitted students day, and while she had already committed to Loyola prior to visiting, she said not being able to visit at all would have made her second-guess her choice in university.
“I think I would have been slightly hesitant had I not visited the campus. I think I might have reconsidered where I was going to go,” Thrun said.
For Thrun, the shift to online learning at her high school has only made her more excited about joining the Wolf Pack in the fall.
Enrollment numbers aren’t the only place admissions offices are working to combat COVID-19 difficulties. Loyola’s next-door neighbor Tulane University has adjusted its requirements for next year’s student applications.
Current high school juniors who will be applying to Tulane in the fall of 2021 will not be required to submit ACT or SAT scores. Students who had taken the ACT or SAT prior to the COVID-19 cancellations will get to choose whether or not they want to submit a test score.
This one-year change in policy at Tulane is in response to test cancellations caused by COVID-19.
“We understand that high school juniors are feeling additional stress around the college admission process,” Tulane President Mike Fitts said in a press release. “Most of these students have had their academic, personal and social lives disrupted in ways no one ever imagined. Going test-optional is one way to respond to the needs of our prospective students.”
Ament said Loyola is considering a similar policy for next year’s applicants and he expects an official announcement to be made soon.
Despite the complications to the admissions process COVID-19 has caused, Ament said he remains positive about students comfortably enrolling in the fall 2020 class.
“We continue to see all our prospective students engaging with us online and over text, phone and email,” Ament said. “Since we have always focused on relationship recruiting, we feel our prospective students have already established connections with our recruitment staff prior to the COVID-19 disruption and have appreciated the care and support we are providing during these difficult times.”
But Thrun feels that many of her biggest impressions from admitted students’ days can’t be replicated virtually and have to be experienced by prospective students first-hand.
“My biggest takeaway from visiting campus was the sense of community. I could tell the staff genuinely cared about the students,” Thrun said. “I don’t think I would have been able to get the same experience from a virtual tour. The memories I made at admitted students’ day are some I will remember for the rest of my life.”