7 Creative Ideas for Virtual College Admissions Events

Mar 23, 2021 - Cat DiStasio

As university admissions departments continue to fight for attention amid declining application numbers, hosting virtual admissions events is no longer an option. It’s absolutely necessary to host prospective students in online events to connect on an individual level, learn about their plans, and help them envision their options at your institution. And, much like employers have learned about virtual recruiting, successful university admissions events need to differentiate your institution from your competition, to hook students, and to provide lots of opportunities to build relationships based on trust and transparency.

It’s not enough to host different kinds of events as your competition. You’ll also want to mix up your virtual event offerings to attract more prospects, keep participants engaged throughout the event, and keep them coming back for future events. Here’s a look at seven creative virtual university admissions events to consider adding to your strategy this year.

Information sessions

Virtual university admissions information sessions might essentially be the online version of your typical in-person info sessions, but that doesn’t mean you just have students sitting around watching a talking head for an hour. The goal of this type of event is to teach prospective students about life at your university, with an overview of academics and student life. On a virtual platform, you can use multiple types of technology to paint that picture. Use video (both recorded and live broadcast) and storytelling strategies along with Q&A sessions to create a dynamic, interesting event that tells students everything they need to know about your institution.

Chat with current students

For many prospective students, hearing from those who currently attend your institution is the lynchpin in their decision making. And you know why. Your current students can be your best cheerleaders and prospective students may be more likely to trust current students over university staff because they view them as their peers.

Host virtual events where student panels lead guided Q&A sessions about academic experience and student life. These can be tailored for specific academic programs, subgroups of students, or a more general event. You can also use these events at different stages in the decision process, with early events open to the general public and more narrow events by invitation only.

Chat with alumni

Many prospective students are already thinking about what will happen after graduation, and they might want to hear from people who have already finished their college journey and moved on to start their careers. Hosting virtual chats with alumni is a great way to facilitate those conversations. This works best for program-specific events, especially for niche or highly specialized programs.

To offer prospective students the best resources, be sure to include recent grads as well as those further along in their career journey. This helps students envision themselves at those stages, and ask any questions they have about the experience, challenges, and rewards.

Coffee with the Dean

Another way to connect with prospective students through virtual admissions events is to spotlight each department with an informal event. Feature the dean of that department as the key presenter in a live video broadcast. Add a Q&A session at the end to encourage engagement and enhance the overall experience.

Virtual campus tours

Even for those who plan to attend classes remotely, a campus tour can go a long way toward helping prospective students make their decision about where to apply. Fortunately, virtual campus tours are an easy way to satisfy that curiosity. While virtual tours have spiked in popularity amid the pandemic, they’ll continue to be an essential part of university admissions strategies, as they help prospects check out the campus without the time and expense of travel, making it accessible for students regardless of location or economic status.

Virtual campus tours can be pre-recorded or conducted live, with or without an interactive component. Be sure to include all parts of campus that students might utilize, from dorms and fitness centers, to classrooms and common areas, as well as the surrounding neighborhood/city.

Highlight extracurriculars

Teachers and guidance counselors often stress the importance of extracurriculars for high school students in terms of ‘looking good’ on a college application. The fact is, extracurricular activities from sports to student government are a key element of individual identity for many students of all ages. As a result, many prospective college students will factor extracurricular offerings into their decision on where to apply.

Use virtual events to highlight the extracurriculars your institution offers. You can host a specific event for each popular activity, or a broad event that provides a survey of student options. These events can be focused on sports programs, student activist groups, student government or newspaper, as well as other clubs composed of students on or off campus.

Employment opportunities

For students who need to work while attending classes, understanding the employment opportunities near campus can be an important factor in their decision. And that’s a lot of students—81% of part-time college students work, along with 43% of full-time students.

To help prospective students understand their employment opportunities, consider fusing your virtual admissions events with campus recruiting and even invite employers to attend and meet candidates. These events are especially beneficial when hosted leading up to application deadlines, and again over the summer to help students prepare for the upcoming semester.

Boosting engagement and slowing melt

Hosting a variety of creative university admissions events gives you more opportunities to connect with prospective students, to engage in conversation, to build trust, and to solidify their plans to attend your school. As you plan out your virtual event strategy, consider which types of events are best suited to each stage of the admissions journey. Tailor your events based on what you already know about your ideal applicants, as well as feedback you collect about events along the way. And, throughout all your virtual events, show up with authenticity and pay close attention to the participant experience.

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