Monday, April 12

Admissions pushes through pandemic to bring in new students

Next year’s freshman class is on track to surpass the numbers of the freshman who came to Trevecca in 2020.

“Based on what I am seeing, it looks like the pandemic may have affected us more in the fall of 2020, than it is going to affect us in the fall of 2021,” said Melinda Miller, executive director of traditional admissions.

Trevecca admissions officials say they have admitted 985 freshmen as of Monday, Feb. 22, while at the same time last year they had admitted 765 freshmen. They attribute this increase of admitted students to their test optional policy adopted for the fall of 2021.

This fall, 350 freshmen and 66 transfers enrolled at Trevecca. That’s about 61 fewer than the 392 freshmen and 85 transfer students in the fall of 2019, the year before Covid-19. For the coming fall, officials are hoping to bump this year’s number by 20 and enroll around 375 freshmen and 80 transfers. They say they are on track to do that.

Holly Whitby, vice president of enrollment and marketing, said the admissions office has had to shift the most to get students enrolled at Trevecca. Because of Covid precautions Trevecca has not been able to attend college fairs or visit high schools and community colleges, all of which are strategies the admissions office has relied on in the past to attract potential students.

Trevecca is not requiring an ACT or SAT score for admission this year. Pre-pandemic there were 1,070 schools around the country that were test optional. Now 1,686 universities  have decided to do testing-optional admission since the pandmeic has made it difficult for high school students to take the test. 

Prospective students attend Experience Trevecca Day with their families. Photo courtesy of Trevecca marketing.

In order to begin rebuilding the freshmen class, admissions officials said they have had to get creative.

“All bets are off with Covid-19,” Miller said. “We have had to change and get creative with a lot of the ways we are recruiting this year.”

Optional standardized testing for incoming students was one of the ways Miller said Trevecca is attempting to adapt. This decision was made because many students across the United States did not have access to the tests.

“About 64 percent of our new students were from the state of Tennessee last fall, so the fact that many schools in the state of Tennessee did not have standardized testing because of the pandemic, we had to be test optional,” Miller said.

Miller also said no decisions have been made to extend optional testing beyond fall 2021.

“The creativity, honestly, is more of using what we have and using it better,” said Emily Waddell, an admissions counselor for Trevecca.

Before restrictions, Whitby said Trevecca representatives were attending 75 to 100 college fairs a year. This year there have been no fairs to attend, and the university has not been able to get into a single high school to talk to students since last February.

“I mean, high school visits, those would take place weekly during a normal recruitment year,” she said.

The admissions office was also closed last year from March to May, meaning three months of campus tours and face-to-face visit opportunities were lost. Miller said the admissions office reopened in June for on campus visits with social distancing guidelines in place.

“We have had record breaking numbers of campus visits over the last few months, despite Covid-19,” said Miller.

About 300 families have toured the Trevecca campus between September and December of 2020 for regular campus visits, or during scheduled preview days. Miller said this record number of campus visits was not a massive influx compared to previous years, and that the guests were required to follow social distancing guidelines as instructed by the university.

Whitby said that the marketing and admissions teams have to focus on strategies that bring students to Trevecca, because the school cannot go to the students in ways they have in the past.

“One thing that is good about Trevecca is that if we can get students on our campus to visit, they usually fall in love with us,” she said. “It is just getting them to our campus that we have to be really intentional about with Covid.”

In an attempt to attract students to Trevecca and make the admissions process easier for them, Whitby said that the university is providing more incentives for campus visits, as well as making it easier to apply to the university during their visit.

“We did this thing with one high school where we gave their seniors a coupon for a free shake at Sonic,” she said. “We [included] a message that was ‘it has been a hard year; you deserve a shake.’”

Waddell said the admissions team is trying to be intentional with their interactions in other areas, too.

“We’ve always had gifts we give students,” said Waddell. “But I think we have been more intentional in sending them to students as an ‘we know you’re going through some hard stuff, but we are here and we care,’ because we can’t always physically be there.”

This problem is not limited to Trevecca. Whitby said Covid has disrupted the way almost every college admissions office has recruited for years.

“It has been interesting trying to figure out new ways to reach potential students but going through it has reinforced my belief that Trevecca has an amazing recruitment team and marketing team,” she said.

Waddell said it is important for admissions counselors to recognize that it is not only the universities who are in a different spot this year, the students are as well. 

“Their senior year hasn’t been normal, they are excited, but it’s also like, ‘Am I even going to get to go to class?’” Waddell said. “So I think just having grace and seeing them as people, who are also going through a freaking global pandemic.”

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