Reflecting on a Virtual Fall Recruitment Season…So Far

This time last year, those who regularly travel to recruitment territories were likely out on the road, hopping from hotel to hotel, catching up on emails in coffee shops, and constructing the perfect college fair table layout. This year, most are likely not experiencing the same type of fall travel season. Personally, I love that my role as an admission counselor allows me to travel, and attend large recruitment events on campus. Adjusting to a recruitment cycle with a lack of those activities has certainly been a change. However, there are pros and cons to the new, virtual recruitment cycle we are all likely experiencing this fall.  

To start, there’s much to miss about the traditional travel season of the past as we all adjust to this new normal. Perhaps it’s the buzz of a busy college fair, networking with high school counselors, and chatting with prospective students and their families face-to-face. Or, maybe it’s making new travel friends, the counselors and admission professionals that we see on the highway, in passing during high school visits and at college fairs. In general, I think it’s safe to say well all miss the human connection and relationship building opportunities that are so vital to our profession.

While virtual meetings are convenient, they can also be draining. While a long week on the road was certainly exhausting, Zoom fatigue is real, too! While you may be dealing with this personally, remember that students are, too, and that may impact their ability and willingness to connect virtually.

It’s easy to miss even the little, and perhaps mundane things about travel, such as hopping from hotel to hotel, long drives accompanied by podcasts and perfectly-curated Spotify playlists, perfecting the art of packing over and over again, and driving around small towns where everyone waves and smiles. Personally, I miss long drives across the Iowa, watching the fall harvest progress, and occasionally watching the sunset as I drive to an evening college fair.

However, this new normal isn’t all bad, and I’m a huge believer in the fact that there is always a silver lining. With many high school visits and college fairs taking place virtually, it’s easy to schedule more in one day with Zoom, Google meets, or other virtual platforms. Gone are the days of mapping out travel time between schools, making sure to leave extra time for traffic, and worrying about parking in the correct lot at your destination. Additionally, it’s great to be able to visit schools in different parts of one’s territory in the same day, a feat not possible previously.

It’s convenient to have digital materials so readily accessible. For example, sending a follow-up email with links to applications and informational YouTube videos is easier and faster than ever, whereas before, we were lugging around boxes of viewbooks and worrying we would run out if a college fair required more than expected.

It’s great to see how we’ve all adapted, and found ways to make virtual high school visits and information sessions more efficient. Some favorite tips I’ve heard are to curate the most used links, and documents for easy distribution. I do this, for example, for follow-up emails to students, so I can easily pull the information best fit for that student. Also, always have a backup plan if Zoom, Google Meets, etc., does crash mid-meeting. Finally, creating a comfortable, yet structured work environment is key. I couldn’t do it without my standing desk, and color-coded calendar!

There’s still many ways to connect, and build relationships. In fact, connecting may be easier now than ever. Virtual sessions with students are a great way not only to share information, but also to meet safely.  And, the virtual environment is opening up opportunities to students who may not have been able to make it to campus otherwise.  

While this fall recruitment season is anything but normal, there’s still many things to be positive about. At the end of the day, whether you are an admission professional or not, you are still helping students in a positive way, no matter the method of communication. This pandemic will end, and soon, we’ll be able to hug our travel friends again, and chat face-to-face with interested students over our college fair table. Until then, reassure your students that you are here to help them in this uncertain time, and try to find the positives amidst all of this uncertainty.

*Thank you to the two fellow admission professionals who helped me brainstorm the pros and cons of this new normal for this article.

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