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How Colleges & Universities Are Overcoming Pandemic Obstacles to Reach Students

To say that the coronavirus pandemic has shaken up how today’s colleges and universities operate would be an understatement. Colleges and universities, in particular, have been challenged in many ways, from how they recruit new students to how they hold classes. 

But agile educational institutions have overcome these pandemic-induced barriers by getting creative and using unique strategies to keep things runnings smoothly. From virtual classes and events, novel recruiting methods, and creative competitions to keep the excitement high, here are a handful of ways in which colleges and universities are resonating with students.

Offering More Online Learning Alternatives

If there’s one thing that the pandemic has taught today’s colleges and universities, it’s that in-person classrooms are not always required. Sure, there’s something to be said about engaging in person between professors and students. But in many cases, quality learning dynamics can be had online as well.

Many agile institutions have shifted toward digital alternatives for their classes. Especially effective for small classes and graduate-level courses, leveraging more online learning alternatives has enabled universities to maintain degree offerings while allowing students to participate in classes from the comfort of their own homes. 

This trend hasn’t slowed down, either. In fact, many institutions have shifted entirely to online degree programs. While not meant for all types of students and academic pursuits, this adaptation has provided a welcomed alternative to make earning a college education more accessible.

Taking College Fairs and Expos to Virtual Platforms

With traditionally in-person events like college career fairs, new student orientation, and open-campus university visits not quite as accessible as they used to be, making these networking events virtual has provided schools with a viable alternative. With many new and innovative digital platforms that offer easy interaction, it's become a go-to solution for colleges and universities to offer prospective students digital versions of these experiences. 

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) is a role model for colleges by offering digital college fairs. In the greater part of 2020 and 2021 when the pandemic was at an all-time peak, NACAC put together a series of virtual college fairs to allow students, parents, educators, and institutions from all over the world to come together and network and collaborate. Students and their families could gather behind their computer screens to participate in virtual event platforms where NACAC offered networking opportunities, educational workshops, and college and career fair activities unfold. This proven model remains to be an effective alternative for certain situations where in-person college fairs and expos may be too costly or logistically inefficient.

Use Tangible College Recruiting Giveaways

Although digital communication tools like email, social media, and online groups have been the primary way for schools to reach students, some universities are leveraging the timeless approach of direct mailers. Interestingly, mail has stood the test of time in offering an impactful way to engage prospective students and grab their attention, especially for recruiting. 

But unlike traditional direct mail pieces like postcards and envelope messages, creative college admissions teams are elevating their strategies by using dimensional mail pieces that are 3D and tangible. Think little books but instead of pages, it’s a small package with a gift inside. These unique college recruiting giveaways, pioneered by a company called BookWear, are highly effective at grabbing students’ attention and they don’t go unnoticed. And because they're engaging, the message in the mail gets read and remembered, and the gift gets used, worn, and talked about. In a world that’s gone almost entirely digital, this creative swag for college students work.

Host Virtual Student Takeovers

Some of the most creative and fascinating ideas have stemmed from how colleges and universities use social media to connect with students. The leaders behind certain academic organizations and schools have been forced to think outside the box to encourage student involvement and participation, but sometimes that’s not always easy when in-person options are limited.

One creative idea that schools are utilizing is allowing students to share their experiences and engage with other students (or prospective new students) through social media takeovers. For example, some major universities have leveraged their social accounts on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Snapchat to allow real students to take over and share their unique stories. They can also offer Q&A sessions, live discussions, and talk about their very own experiences. Social media takeovers deliver an engaging novel platform for students to connect authentically and learn from each other.

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