How Admission Leaders Assessed Students’ College Search Progress

In evaluating students’ college search and planning process, this year has been unlike any other through the lens of college admission, enrollment, and marketing leaders in light of the pandemic. An immensely increased eye on the cost of education and scholarships and a lack of campus visits were some of the topics discussed in our recent webinar, 2020 Naviance Student Survey, hosted by Director of Integrated Marketing for Intersect, Melissa Meyer.

In October, over 250 higher education leaders gathered as Melissa shared the results from our annual Naviance Student Survey. The survey, which was conducted during the spring, synthesized almost 10,000 responses from Naviance students providing insight into their college search process during these challenging times and how it was impacted by the pandemic. To get the pulse on how higher education professionals feel about students’ progress in the postsecondary planning, several questions were posed to the audience. As you’ll see throughout this blog, there’s plenty of support that’s needed to get students back on track.

Poll question #1: Do you feel students are ahead, on track, or behind this year in their college planning process?


  • Ahead: 0%
  • Behind: 86%
  • On Track: 14%

Takeaway: There’s no surprise that an overwhelming majority of higher education leaders feel that students are behind in their college planning process. As secondary schools moved to remote learning, this limited the opportunities for students to conduct traditional college research activities like meeting with their counselor, taking a standardized test, or visiting colleges. Likewise, in a recent webinar hosted by Naviance, K-12 educators were asked this same question and a majority of respondents (66%) also noted that students are behind in their process.

Poll question #2: Is your institution hosting fewer, more, or the same number of campus visits this year?


  • About the same: 12%
  • Fewer visits: 69%
  • More visits: 19%

Takeaway: Due to coronavirus-related campus closures, many institutions pivoted to virtual college tours or other virtual tactics, suddenly making the opportunity to get a feel for a college’s campus more accessible for students. On the flipside, this increase in opportunities available to students has overwhelmed some and higher education leaders are seeing a lack of engagement. According to the 2020 Naviance Student Survey results, 23% of this year’s seniors plan on visiting 10 or more colleges. It’s important for institutions to get creative in highlighting their unique attributes more so than before given the similarity in virtual recruitment activities across institutions. The K-12 educators mentioned above were asked a similar question related to the number of college visits their school is hosting. Unsurprisingly, their responses mirror that of the higher education audience with 54% saying that they’re hosting fewer colleges. Using tools like RepVisits can help college admission counselors schedule in-person or virtual visits more efficiently. 

Poll question #3: What was the top item you communicated to students during yield this spring?


  • Career Options: 13%
  • Cost of Education: 26%
  • Financial Aid & Scholarships: 35%
  • Location: 11%
  • Majors: 15%

Takeaway: Given the financial impact of the coronavirus on families and the rising costs of tuition, students are more cost-conscious when it comes to deciding where to enroll. In the Naviance Student Survey, students were asked about the most important factors in their college decision. Compared to 2019’s survey results, location, cost of education, and financial aid & scholarships all saw substantial increases. Institutions should continue to work with students and families to effectively communicate the true cost of their education with the scholarships and financial aid available to them.

2020 has been a challenging year for students to plan out their postsecondary path and for admission offices to reach students without traditional recruitment activities. It’s important for both sides of the desk, high schools and higher ed institutions, to provide extra support to students to ensure they have the vital information needed to make an informed decision and make up the gap from this spring. For more insights from the 2020 Naviance Student Survey, watch the on-demand recording.


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