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Dickinson College Recruitment Efforts Go Virtual, Remain Personal

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As colleges around the world move to online classes and close their campuses to visitors, Dickinson’s admissions team maintains personalized approach

by Lauren Davidson 

A personalized experience is one of the hallmarks of a Dickinson education—in the classroom, in the community and beyond. And that personalization starts before you’re even part of the community. Dickinson’s Office of Admissions is charged with finding, recruiting and enrolling every talented Dickinsonian, and it’s a job each member of the admissions team takes to heart. 

As COVID-19 spread across the world, colleges and universities had to make dramatic changes to how they operate, and the task of admissions offices became exponentially more difficult. As it became clear that certain traditional programming would no longer be possible—everything from travel to high schools and receptions around the world for admitted students to the traditional campus tour and information session—the admissions staff began planning and implementing contingency plans. 

Thanks to quick planning the week prior, on March 16, a robust virtual-visit website was launched. It not only includes extensive digital resources like thematic photo galleries, a video playlist, links to social media platforms and a YouVisit virtual tour, but it also offers the first of many new ways for prospective and admitted students to connect with the campus. Virtual Q&As, hosted through Zoom, took the place of on-campus information sessions, and students can select from a traditional experience with a regional counselor or a number of tailored options, including discussions with members of the Center for Advising, Internships & Lifelong Career Development, coaches and faculty members. Students admitted to or enrolled in the class of 2024 can also request to be connected with a faculty member in their area of academic interest.  

“What hasn’t been challenging is getting our faculty and students on board with having lots of virtual chats,” notes Angie Fernandez Barone '90, director of admissions communications. “The campus community is pulling together in wonderful ways to help prospective students!” 

Critical Connections

And while communication with all prospective students, including high-school sophomores and juniors who are in the midst of their college searches, is important, connecting with admitted students is critical at this time, as they have lost the ability to visit schools to which they have been admitted to help them make their final college decisions. Dickinson’s admissions team is committed to individual outreach to each and every admitted student and working on ways they can still enroll even if their senior year has been disrupted. In addition, admissions is working with admitted students regarding extensions to the May 1 enrollment deadline. 

“On Monday, I met in person—at distance of at least six feet—with one of our last visitors to campus,” says Greg Moyer '06, assistant vice president of admissions recruitment. “She was an admitted student from Chicago who was so excited about Dickinson and the prospect of attending college next year. We work for more than a year and a half for moments just like those, and for us and so many of our admitted families around the world, those moments are being snatched away during this challenging time. We will now work equally hard to highlight our world-class education virtually.” 

Admissions staff members are also monitoring and responding to posts on the Class of 2024 Facebook group and the Class of 2024 Parents and Guardians Facebook group, which serve as spaces for these future classmates and their families to get to know each other, learn about the community and pose important questions.

Remaining Nimble and Personal

While things are changing daily, the Dickinson admissions team is continuing to explore every possible way to continue its work—finding, recruiting and enrolling the next generation of Dickinson scholars and leaders. They are doing it from home, through technology and, when in person, from a safe distance.

“We are so excited to connect with students, parents and counselors,” Barone notes. “We’re on email (constantly!) and using tools like Google Voice so we’re able to field calls while working remotely.” 

And thanks to four regionally based counselors who are experienced with working remotely, the admissions team is better equipped to support each other and has shared tips and best practices during this workspace transition.

“We are here for you,” says Cathy McDonald Davenport '87, dean of admissions and vice president for enrollment management. “It may not be sitting together and talking in admissions, but it will be online, over the phone, over email. We will do what we can to ease the nervousness and uncertainty as best we can. Dickinson is a resilient community, and we will do what it takes to provide guidance and assistance to prospective and admitted Dickinsonians.” 

“Families can expect that Dickinson will continue to deliver the world-class education that is needed to solve complex, 21st-century problems,” adds Moyer. “They can expect that our process will remain personal and individualized. If nothing else, moments like this demonstrate why families should consider a liberal-arts education. We are nimble, collaborative, thoughtful, personal and decisive.” 

Tune into the March episode of Dickinson's award-winning podcast, The Good, for a feature on "Decision Release Day" for the class of 2024. The episode also includes a message from President Ensign on the college's response to COVID-19.

Read more stories about how members of the Dickinson community near and far have responded to emerging needs and challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Published March 20, 2020