Observations from Fall Travel

It is the first fall travel season that has been somewhat normal in a couple of years. Or was it? Since my team is wrapping up their fall travel season soon, I asked them to reflect on their experiences. We have a mix of seasoned counselors and new college graduates on our staff, so it has been interesting to see their various experiences when they roll in each Friday. While some of these observations have been happening over time, we have noticed that some are more prevalent now than ever. How does your fall travel compare?

  • Students aren’t sure what they are looking for in a school or what they want to study. This doesn’t seem like a big surprise, right? However, it seems to be paralyzing to some students this year. They don’t even know where to start.
  • Parents are very involved in the process and doing things for the student. Ah, helicopter parenting at its finest! We know parents have been filling out applications in the past, but it seems to be on a whole new level.
  • Students are moving slower in the application process this year and are generally overwhelmed with the thought of college. We have spent the last couple of months trying new strategies for outreach to meet students where they are.
  • There’s always a group of highly motivated students. Even though some students are uncertain about the next steps, you can always count on a group of go-getters to be on top of everything. Thank goodness!
  • Students are more open to learning about schools they have never heard of. Hogwarts? No, Wartburg. (Like we’ve never heard that one before!)
  • College fairs were better this year than last year, but still not as good as they were pre-pandemic. It seems that fewer schools are busing in students, and more schools are having their own fairs. Evening fairs were not as well attended either.
  • Students seem less interested or available to meet with admission counselors at the high school. I feel like we’ve been moving in this direction for a while. Students are taking college courses while in high school and getting practical work experience as a part of their curriculum. Others have already been on campus and feel they don’t need to connect.
  • Some students think they need to decide on a school before applying. How can we all be more transparent and helpful in communicating application options to students?
  • Our school counselor friends are working with more students with mental health challenges than ever. School counselors are juggling so much. How can we assist them with college search resources and take some of their load off? (Please tell us; we all want to help!)
Niche just released research conducted with over 20,000 students in their Class of 2023 Fall Senior Survey. 97% of the student responses reported fears about the college search process. It is disheartening to think that so many are nervous about the application process, financial aid, and choosing the best college for them when we all have an admission staff eager to help. As we enter the middle of the admission cycle, I encourage you to think about new ways to reach students, whether it is through their school counselors, parents, virtual events, or simply buying a student a cup of coffee. Students need us now more than ever! Best wishes as you continue to work through this complicated recruitment cycle!
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