The University of Iowa is adapting how it will attract and assist prospective students as prospective and newly admitted Hawkeyes prepare to make their college decisions while the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus upends campus life.
Because the UI has moved to a virtual-learning format and asked students to move out of residence halls, its Admissions Office is adjusting its methods in showing high-school and transfer students what the university has to offer, UI Admissions Director Kirk Kluver said.
Kluver said the Admissions Office was fortunate to have held three admitted-student program days before it was required to cancel all on-campus events indefinitely.
“It’s a very unusual March” he said. “Typically, this is a time where we would be hosting multiple events on campus, visiting high schools and attending college fairs throughout Iowa and the rest of the country. None of that is happening now.”
Though the pandemic has not reached its peak in the U.S., surveys show some prospective college students are reconsidering their plans for postsecondary education because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Art and Science Group, a higher-education consulting firm, conducted a national survey of 478 prospective college students and reported recently that one in six high-school seniors who previously expected to attend a four-year college full time think they will choose a different path come the fall because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
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Kluver said the Admissions Office was well prepared to make a shift of prospective-student events on campus to an online format because of its ability to share other opportunities with prospective students’ families after several events were canceled.
Another concern for high-school and transfer students already admitted to the UI is the annual orientation programs hosted on campus in the summer. UI Orientation Services Director Tina Arthur said there are 27 orientations throughout the year on campus, the majority of which take place between May and August.
The UI is not yet making an official decision about whether or not orientation will be in-person or online this summer, Arthur added, so this season is full of questions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No decisions have been made at this point, so we’re kind of planning for both an in-person orientation as well as what those programs would look like online,” she said. “It takes a long time to do the event planning that we do for an in-person orientation… So, if the decision comes to move orientation online, we don’t have a lot of time to figure out what that looks like.”
Regardless of any potential time restrictions, Arthur said she was confident in the ability of her team and student orientation leaders to make the necessary changes and meet the needs of future Hawkeyes in the coming months.
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In-person experiences are incredibly important to students, however, UI freshman Quinn Kamberos said. As a nonresident student from Colorado, Kamberos said the tour allowed her to envision herself on the UI campus before even applying to the university.
“[The tour] didn’t really impact my decision, [but] it was incredibly helpful to have some knowledge of the campus before I got there in the fall, instead of jumping in completely blind,” Kamberos said. “Coming from out of state, I’d never even thought of Iowa, so going on the tour made it an easier transition.”
Kluver said the UI has seen progress in a campus-wide initiative to create a virtual tour over the past few years, but the program is not ready yet. There are, however, opportunities for students to watch campus tour videos online, he added.
Virtual options continue to expand, he said. The Admissions Office is offering its Iowa Overview program for students who have not applied and a Next Step Iowa program for admitted students.
“Virtual programs are hosted through Zoom with multiple admission staff members and current students involved in presenting and answering questions from students that are submitted through a chat mechanism,” he said. “These online presentations are similar to those campus visitors would participate in if they were visiting campus.”
Kluver said the Admissions Office is looking to expand programs and connect one-on-one with future Hawkeyes by creating a webinar-based program to connect students with individual departments on campus.
He said the next step would be to create small, online admitted-student communities based on common interest or geographic proximity. His office is also trying to ensure prospective students have the full campus experience — even if they can’t physically be at the UI, Kluver added.
“As we wait for more guidance from the institution, we are very eager to, within our ability, have current students engage with the initiatives we’re doing online,” he said. “We really think the current student voice is an important one for our prospective students to hear.”