As high school seniors around the country have to prepare for canceled school, proms and standardized tests due to COVID-19, they may encounter extra stress and challenges with their final pick for which college to attend.
The Bradley University office of undergraduate admissions has rolled out plans to help out rising college freshmen make the big decision by improving virtual online tours and extending the enrollment commitment deadline from May 1 until June 1 for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Tom Richmond, assistant vice president for enrollment management, said extending the deadline could give more time to students unsure about Bradley and to families financially impacted by the pandemic.
“We believe this is the right thing to do to allow students to make decisions with information which may be difficult to get during the pandemic,” Richmond said.
The office had originally planned to restart visits on April 13, but the decision to suspend all daily on-campus visits and visit programs came on March 19, a day after Bradley announced it would move all classes for the remaining semester to an online format.
Richmond said he hopes the campus can be opened to prospective students in May, but a decision will be made given the severity of the pandemic.
In the absence of physical campus tours, there will be a focus on virtual tours by organizing the current content online into one page and adding new videos to the experience. The page is planned to be set up in the coming weeks.
“You would have the primary features of a visit day available virtually,” Richmond said. “They’re not equal, but it’s a good substitute.”
Richmond said the virtual tours may enhance the pre-campus visit, therefore strengthening future on-campus visits. The office will also launch the Bradley Bound Blog, where Bradley students can write about different aspects of the university, post videos and answer questions.
While many of the office’s student admission representatives (STARs) will not be giving tours, they can also work remotely and take calls from students. The new virtual tours will allow prospective students to contact a Bradley student if they wish–possibly one with a similar field of interest.
“[That’s] a reverse of what it used to be,” Richmond said. “We used to have phone calling hours or we would try and call [the prospective student] … If they’re wanting it why don’t we let them request it?”
Students who also have not sent in test scores or transcripts were emailed on March 23 and offered the option of sending unofficial test scores, transcripts or other required documents for the time being. Those students would then have to supply official versions before their orientation session.
Though the office of admissions has employees working remotely from home and those working on-campus are practicing social distancing, Richmond said some aspects of the job are still the same.
“One of the things we’re realizing is that our work from the office of admissions has been working with people far away all along,” Richmond said. “So the primary impact is simply on-campus visiting, and much of the regular work we do will be able to go on.”
He said many of the decisions made are subject to change but taking the stress off prospective students during their college-picking process will be consistent throughout Bradley’s decision-making process.
Ultimately, Richmond said this period of time will allow for new innovation in recruiting.
“The silver lining is that we’re going to find ways to serve students that we haven’t thought of before, and that’s going to probably become the new norm,” Richmond said. “I think it would be wonderful if people’s virtual visit experience informed their physical visit experience.”