The Simpson College Admissions Office has had to adapt and overcome the many challenges COVID-19 has presented when trying to draw in prospective students.
Luckily, the Simpson College Student Ambassadors have been able to give in-person campus tours since July 13. When Simpson’s campus officially closed down on March 31, all campus visits were converted to a virtual setting.
Director of Admissions Programs Alison Swanson and her colleagues in the admissions office was tasked with creating various programs to still give prospective students a glimpse of what Simpson has to offer, despite not being able to physically visit campus.
“For the longest time, starting in March, we had to switch everything from in-person to virtual, that was a huge thing for our office,” Swanson said. “At that point in time we had junior visit day planned, we had admitted students day planned…so we took each piece and moved it into a series. We wouldn’t have them [students] on a Zoom call for more than a half-hour to an hour. That, again, was a huge transition for our staff.”
Even with in-person visits making their return, the admissions office still extends the option of virtual visits out to prospective students and their families.
“We still offer virtual visits for families that don’t feel comfortable to come on campus, which we’ve seen an increase for our out-of-state students too,” Swanson said. “Those won’t go away for us; they’ve been a great thing to do.”
Swanson and her team have made a number of adjustments to their admission events and campus tours on behalf of the safety of the Simpson community.
“It has all changed for us … safety is our number one priority, not only for our visitors but also for students, faculty and staff,” she said. “On all of our web pages and for all of our events, we have all of the regulations out there. We have to wear masks. We have to social distance. We only allowed two guests to come with each student. We haven’t had any large group events—anything larger than 10 has to get approved through CMT … that’s really different for us.”
Student Ambassadors giving tours must also follow all cleaning protocols in rooms and are sent out with hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes so that they can wipe down door handles and other surfaces while trekking around campus.
Sophomore Sam Porter is among the many Simpson Student Ambassadors that must follow new touring protocols and is pleased with the outcome so far.
“The changes have been really good. Everyone has been following the guidelines, and I think that it has really helped prospective students and their families feel comfortable on campus even in the midst of the pandemic,” Porter said.
Naturally, COVID-19 has had an adverse effect on enrollment numbers for the 2020-2021 school year.
Enrollment for Fall 2020 was 1,268 students, only 295 of those being first-years, Assistant Director of Admissions Dave Williams, and Registrar Jody Ragan shared in an email.
However, Swanson and her colleagues are not discouraged. The return of in-person visits and new developments with the pandemic looks promising in regards to future student enrollment.
“For us, it’s a marathon, not a race … we are busy, we are almost full each day with the number of visits that we can take,” Swanson said. “Everybody here is doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and our cases show that. Having that responsibility of the public coming on to campus is a huge responsibility for the admissions office. We really do keep that in mind, and we want that to be a top priority, so we will continue to limit until we feel comfortable to open those parameters.”
Perhaps one of the more significant driving factors for these lower enrollment numbers is the absence of overnight visits due to new safety protocols.
“One thing that we typically do is host overnight students on campus, we’re not allowed to do that… nor do I think that we would want to offer that at this point again, with safety in mind,” Swanson said. “Those students matriculate pretty high for us; if they’ve come on campus and stay overnight with students, and make that great connection, we have a great shot at getting them to pay their enrollment deposits.”
Although prospective students cannot stay overnight on campus, they’re able to venture through residence halls now as of Sept. 30.
“We just got back to touring residence halls,” Swanson said. “For a while, we weren’t allowed to show the residence halls, so all the tour guides are happy, and families are really appreciative of that.
If you know someone looking to schedule a visit at Simpson, you can direct them to the ‘Explore Simpson College’ page on the Simpson College website.