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Admissions in the time of COVID-19

How does a University attract the next class of students in a global pandemic? By focusing on connection, communication and staying the course.

By Cory Phare

April 9, 2020

Blue photo collage, words Relying on student enrollment and success is critical to ensure that MSU Denver is able to continue its mission of offering a world-class education accessible to as many community members as possible.

And just as adaptability is at the heart of the University experience, so is admitting the next class of Roadrunners with a focus on connection and communication.

“In two weeks, we’ve had to create the things we’ve talked about that were previously on the back burner,” said Vaughn Toland, executive director of Admissions and Outreach in MSU Denver’s Office of Admissions. “It’s a changing landscape, where we have to move fast and work on ideas as we go live with them.”

That’s involved the launch of the Focus Forward website, designed as a landing pad for new students to navigate the application process and ensure connection in the midst of a pandemic.

In addition to student- and situation-specific email messaging, calling campaigns for summer and fall admissions are supplemented by outreach from Roadrunner Ambassadors to provide student-to-student connections.

And by focusing on the key element of community-rooted educational value, the University is meeting students where they are – even if that’s primarily online.

“When you’re not able to come together physically, you have to find other ways to engage,” said Garrett Spradlin, assistant director of Admissions for Visitor Services and Recruitment Communications. “There’s a lot of capabilities to find new ways to develop one-on-one connections to the University. We’re asking, ‘How do you create community among incoming students when you’re not physically together?’”

Part of that question involves newly launched virtual visits, virtual student panels with the Crew in Blue and virtual admission-counselor meetings.

A newly launched Ask Admissions Facebook page serves as a gateway for future students and families to learn about the University and have questions answered by Admissions staff; it also plays host to newly admitted student groups to interact with other admittees and counselors.

Facebook Live and Instagram Live sessions with student staff are also in development.

Ultimately, it’s all part of developing what Spradlin referred to as a “recruiter mindset,” essentially the reality that every member of the University community serves as a point of connection for a potential future Roadrunner. He asks for anyone who encounters a potential student to connect them with the Office of Admissions to ensure that they’re on the path to enrollment and success.

That’s because now, more than ever, it’s important to recognize the value of being a Roadrunner – a process that starts long before students set foot in (or log into) a classroom.

“Recruitment doesn’t stop amid a pandemic; there’s no pause button,” said Spradlin. “In six months, we’ll be back to some kind of normal – we want to make sure our services are there and ready to help students in whatever that reality looks like.”

Topics: Enrollment, Student Affairs

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