For a high school student interested in going to college, it may be harder than normal to try to figure out where they are going to spend the next four years of your life due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With many of the normal recruiting methods, such as in school visits and department specific tours not being possible, the Office of Admissions at the University of Indianapolis has altered its approach during the pandemic in order to make the choosing process easier on potential Greyhounds, according to University President Robert Manuel.
“We changed a lot of our recruitment events to have messaging that’s specific to what the students need and their families need to know,” Manuel said. “We have figured out how to have a lot of virtual meetings in the fall term at a time when high schools aren’t accepting traditional visits. We’ve been making the changes so that we’re able to continue the conversation about recruitment and admissions, even though we can’t do it in traditional ways [such as] being in the high schools with the students directly.”
According to Manuel, he has been impressed to see the ways Admissions and the Office of Financial Aid have been able to overcome the challenges and limitations the current pandemic brings. He said that despite having to use new mediums, they have still been able to replicate the traditional experience with students interested in UIndy but with extra precautions.
On UIndy’s website, students interested in coming to UIndy still have the opportunity to schedule visits and sign up for group visits while also having the option to watch a virtual campus tour.
UIndy is having its highest number of inquiries ever with 79,000 students inquiring about the university and its various programs for the following fall semester, according to Manuel. He said that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Admissions Office is making campus open to potential Greyhounds. Manuel said that UIndy has had every spot filled for every tour they have offered.
“We have had almost every spot filled for the individual, socially distanced [and] masked tours that we’ve been putting in place. And so people are still coming to campus, they are still looking around, trying to make their decision about whether this is a place that they’d like to spend the next four years,” Manuel said. “And we have changed significantly the way we market and manage and relate to and improve the students that want to come. So I’m optimistic that we’re going to have a good year.”
According to Vice President for Enrollment Services Ron Wilks, one of the bigger issues UIndy was seeing with students interested in the university was test scores and what they had available. He said that due to the pandemic, a lot of students were unable to get the test scores that UIndy normally requires so the university decided to waive the test score requirements for some students.
“We chose not to penalize the students [and] to really help those students through that difficulty,” Wilks said. “I think we had about 20 some students that enrolled [that way]… So we were able to serve a population that’s really struggling and that has continued, so fortunately we have continued to suspend that because I mean it’s really impacted students across the country. There’s over 1 million fewer test takers this year than last year.”
In the future, Wilks said that UIndy is expecting a drop in high school students looking to go to college. He said that this is due to the 2008 recession and the drop of births during that year and now that group of students are going to be in line to graduate high school.
“All colleges are going to be in this fierce competition for a shrinking pool of students,” Wilks said. “And so part of it is again, putting yourself in a position to be competitive. Like I said, using technology so [that] they can be smarter with what you do. Using a more aggressive [and] smart recruitment tactic that’s built on relationship building with the right people. You’re spending your time with the right students who are interested [in UIndy], creating unique experiences on our campus.”
Looking towards the future, Manuel said that the university is not expecting any decrease in enrollment until 2026, when the projected amount of high school graduates may change. However, he said he is confident that the various programs, such as graduate programs, adult learner programs and part time students that the university offers, may help mitigate any decreases.
“So because of that diversity, we’ll be able to accommodate lots of different populations coming through,” Manuel said. “And we may not experience the downturn as heavily as people who don’t have such diversity in their programming.”