COVID-19 Impact on Prospective Students’ College Search

Incoming freshmen and prospective students are having to learn about the University of Central Oklahoma’s campus life virtually after novel coronavirus forced campus closures nationwide. 

UCO admissions administrators are scheduling virtual meetings with incoming students, following the announcement that the campus would remain closed through May 31.  

“We are utilizing Microsoft Teams to be able to set up appointments with prospective students, as well as make admissions decisions,” said John Stephens, director of Undergraduate Admissions. 

The university has been hosting virtual campus events every day on its website for students interested in learning about UCO and life on campus. These online events have been successful so far in their efforts to recruit incoming students digitally, according to Stephens.

Carnegie Dartlet, a higher education marketing firm, surveyed nearly 5,000 high school seniors through the CollegeXpress student database, asking prospective students how the pandemic has impacted their college search.  

The survey suggested more than half of the students who participated said they intend to make campus visits and tours this fall for the first time when colleges are expected to open. Forty-six percent of respondents said they were either “somewhat likely to,” “highly likely to” or “absolutely would” make a decision on a college without ever physically visiting the campus, according to the survey.

Stephens said there might be an effect on admissions for international and potential students from out-of-state because of safety concerns and travel restrictions. However, there are still many out-of-state students who plan to attend UCO in the fall.  

“We are looking forward to walking these students through their concerns and ensuring them that UCO is doing everything in our power to keep the students safe and continue an excellent instruction while they are here,” Stephens said. 

According to the survey, incoming first-year students are concerned with how current events will impact their ability to afford housing and finance their education. 

“For every single college I’m relying on campus housing,” said one survey respondent in an open response. “I need to know if it is available or not before I make my admissions decision on May 1 because they are all out-of-state and too far away to commute.” 

UCO will continue to book rooms in preparation for incoming first-year students and make necessary adjustments as the fall semester approaches, according to Chelsea Ratterman, marketing coordinator for Campus Enterprises. 

At this time, UCO administration and housing are still discussing the possibility of issuing credits to students for housing and dining if the public health risk doesn’t diminish by August.

“We are still working through all of the repercussions of the pandemic on our spring operations, including the issuance of credits for unused housing and dining to residents,” Ratterman said. “Conversations regarding the fall semester are at both the housing and university administration level and do include the topic of credits in various scenarios that may arise going forward.”

As of now, admissions officials are not concerned with losing potential students due to coronavirus-related circumstances in the fall semester and UCO continues its plans to reopen campus for fall classes.

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