A response to COVID-19: How enrollment leaders can prepare

Circumstances on college campuses are rapidly changing each day, often every hour. As enrollment officials prepare for a shift in routine operations, leaders at Clark Higher Ed are busy discussing strategic measures that enrollment leaders can implement during this unprecedented season.

Supporting enrollment staff

Many of us have spent the last week focused on COVID-19 and its impact on our family, friends, and the infrastructure of higher education, particularly those tasked with increasing enrollment. Enrollment officials feel many of the pressure points of their institution, even when operations are running smoothly. But during distressing events, when the landscape is changing by the minute, stress and anxiety are magnified. So how do we continue to do the necessary work while also supporting and taking care of each other?

Maintain connection

Moving from daily face-to-face interaction to working remotely can be challenging. To the best of your ability, provide consistent check-ins with your team. Set up regular virtual meetings to encourage your staff/team.

Embrace positivity

Intentionally communicate positivity to your staff/team, particularly when it comes to wins. Whether it is deposits gained, number of contacts made, or stories of how your school and prospective students are rising up and serving their communities, be consistent in delivering this type of communication to your staff/team. The full impact of this is yet to be seen, but remember — we are better together.

Be patient

We are experiencing this for the first time together. Listen to the thoughts, feelings, and worries of your staff/team. Provide understanding and as much guidance as possible in the immediate future.

Be flexible

As things are changing moment to moment, flexibility will be key in enduring this season well. With health and safety a priority, consider staggering office hours for your staff to limit personnel in the office at one time. This could also allow your offices to be open longer.

Whether your institution has moved to telework or if you are still in the office daily, you can maintain connection, embrace positivity, be patient, and discover how flexibility in processes can serve and support your students, families, and enrollment staff.

Planning for continued operations

As more and more institutions are urging employees to work remotely, enrollment officials should plan how they will continue daily operations.

Establish unified messaging

Establish and provide unified statements answering common questions from parents and/or students that staff/team members can clearly communicate. These statements should be agreed upon by the college and then disseminated to your staff members. Enrollment staff are almost always on the frontlines and will be fielding the majority of individual concerns and questions.

Host virtual meetings

As we said before, maintaining connection is vital to supporting your staff, but it’s also vital for providing guidance and accountability. Regular virtual meetings will be essential to encourage team members, as well as track progress. If virtual tools are not available, establish consistent check-in calls with your staff/team members.

Examples of virtual meeting tools:

  • GoToMeeting
  • Zoom
  • Google Hangouts / Meet

Prioritize tasks

Provide assistance to your team regarding their daily/weekly to-dos. Make sure the tasks have clear expectations and clear accountability to your staff/team.


While it’s standard practice to document communication with students, it will be even more vital that proper documentation is recorded. Team members working with data and student communication should have access to the documentation.

Considerations for outreach and engagement

In addition to supporting enrollment staff and planning for continued operations, institutions should consider how to adjust outreach and engagement in order to prevent melt and sustain yield.

Enrollment campaigns

The decision to pause certain campaigns is a regular discussion among enrollment officials and partners. At the moment, daily monitoring of email, digital, and social campaigns will be necessary to determine how to proceed in the coming weeks. Communication with students should not stop. However, determining how marketing efforts are executed will require ongoing evaluation.

Campus visits

Understandably, many colleges and universities have limited or suspended on-campus visitors. Enrollment officials across the country are finding ways to offer virtual campus tours, live-stream events, and remote orientation programs.

Messaging and social media

Positivity can go a long way, but embracing positivity does not mean discounting the concerns of parents and students. Your institution can demonstrate sensitivity by adjusting its messaging. Social posts can highlight how your campus is coming together to be supportive while also communicating important information regarding enrollment. Consider Facebook or Instagram live discussions with families to answer questions and provide information on your institution’s processes and procedures. This is also a great time to showcase how current students are adapting and adjusting by having social media takeovers throughout the week.

Follow-up communication

It’s important to keep consistency in follow-up communication. Keeping with best practices, continue to provide communication within 24 hours to students requesting more information, applying, or depositing.

Since face-to-face interaction will likely continue to decrease in the coming weeks, find ways for enrollment team members to provide virtual tours and answer questions by hosting video chats with students either one-on-one or in group sessions.

Parent engagement will be critical during this time. When communicating about finances, be sure to address the parents in your outreach. Even if no decision has been made about orientation delivery, continue to reach out to deposited students and encourage registration for summer orientation.

Reporting test scores

Consider self-reported test scores and GPA since access to official transcripts and test scores will be limited. Keep in mind that SAT and ACT test dates are being cancelled. Official documentation would be required before your institution’s drop/add deadline to ensure student course schedules and financial aid awards are correct. By allowing students to self-report, admitted students are able to move through the funnel without interruption. The implementation of this process should help minimize a decrease of the application to acceptance yield rate.

Financial Aid

FAFSAs for fall 2020 are completed with 2018 tax year information. This is called “prior-prior year” by the Department of Education. Families can contact the Financial Aid office to inquire about professional judgement to use current year income because of the economic impact from the coronavirus if it has lowered the family’s income.

Despite the overwhelming feelings we may all have, remember, we are truly better together and we will emerge more resilient on the other side. As a partner of higher education institutions, Clark Higher Ed will continue to offer support and guidance in the coming days and weeks.