Finding Certainty in the Unknown: College Recruitment in 2020 and Beyond

2020 has certainly been a time where the usual recruitment pathways for domestic students have been turned completely topsy-turvy. The usual progression of high school students taking tests en masse and those results being used as drivers for enrollment pipelines across the country is quickly becoming a distant memory.  

Test-optional is our new normal and we should all be thankful. The 2020 testing cycle has been a complete shamble. And, if we’re being completely honest, this is going to be a progressive boon for higher education. It will cause ripples throughout the entire sphere of education and cause colleges to rethink how they build and nurture their incoming classes. 

Where are we now? Everything has gone digital. Making connections with students through comprehensive digital engagement channels has become a de facto need for admission professionals. And for the foreseeable future, any digital channel that already is in use by high school students will be important for recruitment and promotion purposes. 

So how do you reach students who are more unreachable than before? Well, for starters, the 2020 Naviance Student Survey of almost 10,000 students can provide clarity in these uncertain times.  

While students are learning in a constantly changing context, there are themes in the survey that surfaced in terms of the need for transparency when it comes to degree options, college costs, scholarships and aid, and career opportunities after graduation. Over-indexing on communication for certain topics listed in the survey will be of the utmost importance as students make their way through this new digital landscape. It’s worth noting that cost, always a hot topic for juniors and seniors, is even more top-of-mind in 2020. This makes complete sense as events in higher education as of March has been in a state of flux. 

As you would expect, 9th and 10th graders overwhelmingly indicated that they want to go to college. With many options available to high schoolers upon graduation, college is still the leading choice for their future. 

Additionally, with campus visits going completely virtual, the need for ongoing communication and engagement with prospective students is paramount. 11th grade students indicated in the survey that they would likely attend 10 or more college visits. Institutions will need to find ways to differentiate their visit experience from their peers as live video with plenty of campus imagery and text chat have become fundamental elements of most virtual visit platforms. This will be especially important for students going into their senior year as they will have had few if any opportunities to set foot on the campus of their choosing. The transition from high school to college will require even more support than usual. 

One of the most beneficial aspects of the survey is that it showcases a variety of ways in which institutions can support students during their recruitment journey. Highlighting this is the unsurprising result that a large proportion of 11th grade students have not taken a number of steps towards college and career planning. As with most things in life, waiting until the last minute is generally not the best idea. 

Students should be attending the aforementioned virtual college visits, getting familiar with college entrance requirements, and having as many worthwhile conversations with their high school counselors as they can. That way, when they are in the 12th grade, students will have completed most of the groundwork to maximize the leap to their next educational experience. 

Through the use of digital platforms, like Naviance and Intersect, colleges can provide proactive information and encouragement to students to get them working on their overall college readiness. This provides benefits not only to students who are making substantial life choices, but also to recruiters who are trying to find students who would be good fit for their institution.  

Anyone in higher education who wants to learn more about a holistic recruitment pipeline in conjunction with the views of today’s high school student should download and take an in-depth read of the 2020 Naviance Student Survey


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