In the college search process, students expect virtual engagement opportunities now more than ever. Your future class of 2026 will be counting on this and they still may not feel comfortable with, or be able to afford, traveling to your campus. We may be eager to meet with students face to face during fall recruitment events. Yet, we need to provide our prospective students and applicants with opportunities to both supplement these experiences with virtual content and feel immersed in and engaged with your institution’s brand and culture.
How can you propel your prospective students to not just passively watch your virtual content, but to become captivated by your institution without even stepping on campus? To help you think outside of the box, here are five strategies to incorporate into your virtual engagement this fall.
Engage current students in the planning and execution process
Just like your prospective student pool, and unlike many of your admissions staff, your current students identify as Generation Z. Your current students know first hand what topics are trending and how to best incorporate these trends into the virtual world. Over the past yield season, our team hosted thousands of virtual events and witnessed outstanding engagement and eagerness during current student-led panels. In 2019, CollegeXpress and Carnegie Dartlet uncovered that over a third of highschool juniors and seniors long for more connections to and insight from enrolled students during their college search. In addition, a recent Niche survey highlights that your future class of 2026 feels that current students are just as important to hear from as admissions counselors, and more so than faculty and leadership. So, trust Gen Z’s instincts and, as I’ve shared before, empower your student body to inspire what events are to come.
Organize breaks in between sessions
Your prospective students spend all day interacting with technology. They enjoy being on their screens! When Gen Z starts to zone out after a long day, they aren’t stepping away from their phones to go outside, they defer to scrolling through social media and video streams.
Before your audience gets a chance to switch your screen for theirs, recapture their attention with unique opportunities. As Nicole Villacres-Reyes highlighted during her podcast with Scoir, this could be as simple as a quick recentering activity during the first few minutes of your session, asking them to close their eyes and take a deep breath. If you want to get even more creative, think about bringing in some of your most popular student organizations to lead an activity. Maybe give your foodie club the opportunity to host a microwave meal class, or your art club the time to run a quick tutorial on how to draw your campus mascot.
Highlight upcoming topics during transition periods
Another technique to refocus your audience’s attention as you transition from one session to the next is to add in a quick plug regarding upcoming sessions. Highlighting popular upcoming topics will not only generate excitement amongst your audience but may even spark an interest in sessions that your students’ did not initially have on their radar. This type of spotlighting also reinforces the sense of community your campus provides. If your campus partners and programs voice enthusiasm for each other’s sessions, your audience will gain the feeling that your campus community has their best interests in mind and is a welcoming space where they belong.
Out with presentation files and in with personal narratives
PowerPoints are boring. High school students already spend their days staring at the same formated presentations in the classroom. They did not come to your campus session to see another templated speech. They want to hear from you and listen to the stories you have to tell, painting a picture of what their life could look like if they chose to join your student body. So throw out the repetitive file format, and begin telling your story instead. Bring in exciting visuals and screen share to tell your narrative, not bullets and buzzwords.
Provide a detailed agenda in advance
Between high school classes, extracurricular activities, jobs, and family needs, students have to work to actively find time in their busy schedules to attend your events. Gen Z seeks honesty and transparency, and part of that transparency is knowing what to expect out of your virtual series well in advance. To feel confident in their choice to skip a practice or find shift coverage at their job, they want to know there is a return on their time investment. By providing your audience with an agenda in advance of your event, they are able to make informed decisions on which sessions they want to attend. Take it a step further by letting them know how they can access content on demand, in case they have to miss a session. When you entrust your audience with your event schedule in advance, you foster a sense of honesty and credibility and spark anticipation.