MU shifts recruitment efforts during COVID-19 outbreak

As Missouri adopts stay-at-home orders, MU makes major changes to recruitment.
Looking at how different MU colleges like the School of Journalism are changing their recruitment efforts. Emily Mann

Due to COVID-19, MU recently adapted its approach to recruitment of prospective students for the fall 2020 semester to accommodate public health concerns.

In a recent survey of 487 high school seniors, the Arts & Science Group found that 17% of students surveyed changed their educational plans because of COVID-19 and 35% of those who changed their plans will take a gap year due to these concerns. These changes in recruitment are to keep engagement up with prospective students in hopes they will attend MU next semester while not risking the health of these students.

Chuck May, executive director of student recruitment and admissions, outlined methods the university as a whole will be adopting to recruit prospective students remotely while still keeping interactions personal.

“We have moved our daily admissions presentations online so students can watch it and ask questions live every day,” May said. “We are [also] offering daily one-on-one meetings with an admissions representative every half hour throughout the day … offering Zoom meetings with staff and faculty from the different schools and colleges for families to meet … [and] offering current MU student panels for prospective students to ask questions about student life and attending Mizzou.”

Although these are good alternatives, May said that they are in no way comparable to normal recruitment.

“Virtual sessions are the best option we have to meet with families,” May said. “[However,] they in no way can compare to what a family experiences when they are on Mizzou’s campus.”

The Missouri School of Journalism, among other schools at MU, considered adjustments to keep engaged with prospective students.

Senior communications coordinator Robin Nichols is one of the faculty members who plans out engagement efforts for the School of Journalism. Nichols said the school is still adapting to the current situation but through remote outreach hopes to show prospective students the school is still here to help.

“We’ve got a lot of plans that we are working to put into action, wanting to make sure that we’re putting out a professional product but still answering people’s questions,” Nichols said.

Nichols made clear that one of the approaches the school will be taking is reducing efforts in email correspondence to ensure they will be acknowledged by prospective students.

“We’re being cautious [by] not sending a lot of email communication,” Nichols said. “We want to make sure that any communication we send out is opened, and that it is effective in the way that we intend it to be.”

One of the means of communications the school has been considering is handwritten cards to add a personal touch.

“A lot of staff have volunteered to write [handwritten notes] to prospective students just to let them know that we’re really looking forward to seeing them in the fall,” Nichols said.

The school ramped up efforts to make more “day in the life” videos of current students in the journalism school.

“We recently added some videos to [the School of Journalism’s website] of each of the J-School’s agencies, just to give prospective students a little bit of a taste of the day in the life at KOMU or a student at MOJO or a student that works at Vox,” Nichols said.

Nichols also showed that the journalism student ambassadors have been a great help in keeping up these remote efforts.

“Our journalism ambassadors have really overwhelmingly said, ‘Yes, we want to help, let us know how we can help,’” Nichols said. “The reason they are ambassadors is because they’re very passionate about the journalism school and in attracting future journalism school students.”

Journalism ambassador Ashley Cox reaffirmed the purpose of the communication efforts the school is looking into.

“We’re trying to find a suitable alternative to giving them that personal feel, while also calming any worries that they have, especially for the ones who are planning to come on campus this fall,” Cox said.

Cox, going through a similar situation, feels for the anxiety prospective students may be feeling during this time.

“I'm actually waiting to hear back on some law schools and figure out where I’m attending this fall, so I’m kind of in the same boat as a lot of these high school students,” Cox said. “I’m trying to think of it from my own perspective, ‘what do I need to make my own decision?’ and to give that to potential students to help them make theirs.”

Because these are unprecedented efforts made by the school, Cox noted how “fluid” these new methods will be while still implementing them.

“We’re in a very unknown territory, so it’s going to be kind of a trial and error process,” Cox said. “We’ll definitely be taking feedback from students who we do get to talk to to figure out what they actually need to help make this decision and what makes them more comfortable.”

Edited by Alex Fulton | afulton@themaneater.com

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