Sure, the Super Bowl just passed, but if you’re like most admissions pros, you’re longing for our own big game: Admitted Students Day.

For most of us, ASD has always been the most critical day of the yield season. During those magical few hours, we’d welcome thousands of admitted students and their families on campus to razzle dazzle them and help them feel like they are truly a part of the campus community. Then—like clockwork—the deposits would start rolling in!

Though we’re optimistic about someday returning to those good old days, for now, things are different. Thanks to all the pandemic-related safety precautions, most of us cannot host a mass gathering anytime soon. Instead, we have to find multiple creative ways to help students make the same deep connections to your school and achieve the same enrollment results in a mostly virtual environment. To help you get started, here are several out-of-the box ideas that may help you get students excited to enroll at your institution.

1. Safer, Small Events

Two students with face masks

In the last year, admissions officers have learned how to develop incredibly successful virtual events—from visits, to info sessions, and more. However, Spark451’s original research shows that as many as 60% of students won’t make a decision to enroll without stepping foot on campus in person. So, if your local regulations allow, it would be wise to look for ways to complement those virtual events with smaller, in-person events so you can give certain students an in-person encounter in a relatively safe environment. For example, you may consider inviting 15 or 20 students to meet with select faculty members based on their academic interests, or create unique opportunities for students to connect with current students or hear from campus leadership. Think of it as an a la carte approach to ASD, and let families decide.

2. Seek Insights and Address Concerns in Real-Time

Photo of student completing an Accepted Student Survey on a laptop

Even if you can’t be with students in person as much as you’d like, they still need to know that you’re always there to address their concerns. However, the distance can make it challenging to identify those concerns. Enter: the survey. This simple tool will allow you to quickly gather insights about which topics and issues are most interesting for individual students so you and your team can deliver personalized follow-up in a meaningful way.

We’d recommend sending one survey to admitted students, and another one to their parents, because each audience will likely have slightly different concerns. Based on the feedback, you might want to help a prospective student get in touch with a current student for more info about day-to-day life on campus, and you might find it makes the most sense to connect a parent with an advisor from the financial aid office.

You might even choose to survey guidance counselors as well, as a way of putting out feelers to see if they have students who could be a good fit for your institution.

3. Ramp Up Your Virtual Financial Aid Support

Photo of student completing FAFSA application on an tablet

As you probably recall, the financial aid office was almost always the last group to shut down on Admitted Students Day. Their sessions were always packed, and they had lines of people waiting to connect with them after each one. If there’s one thing we can always count on, it’s that parents need help navigating the acronym-heavy world of FAFSA, CSS, EFC, ISR, and more.

In these uncertain times, it’s even more critical to help families understand the bottom line. Make sure to schedule a steady stream of virtual financial aid info sessions, Q&A sessions, and one-on-one meeting opportunities. Also, think about adding more easy-access resources to your website, such as informative videos and downloadable guides, so parents and students can access them whenever a question comes to mind.

4. Be Ever-Present

Photo of student using a chat bot service

With so many parents juggling working from home, childcare, remote school, and more, it’s worth going above and beyond to make sure you’re there for them whenever they’re ready for you. Often, this will be outside of your regular business hours.

Since night and weekend events have never been more important, it may be worthwhile to get creative with how you schedule your team’s work time. For example, perhaps you can give your admissions counselors the option to take a day off in the middle of the week in exchange for running a live chat feature for admitted students in late evening hours. (When I say late, I mean like 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.—when parents finally get some time to think and those questions start bubbling up.) Thinking outside the box can help ensure you meet parents where they are, while also preventing burnout on your team.

5. Create a One-Stop-Shop Online

Photo of student using a personalized Microsite on a laptop

Even with the most creative scheduling tactics, it’s going to be hard to truly be there for prospective students 24/7, so it’s important to make sure that they can easily access critical resources online.

Create a one-stop-shop with everything they’ll need to know to enroll. Depending on your resources, you can either do this with a personalized microsite or by simply devoting a section of your school’s website. At the very least, be sure to include basic items like a checklist of next steps (enrollment deposit, FAFSA, orientation registration, housing and health forms, etc).

To deepen student engagement, take it a few steps further. Include residence hall room dimensions so students can start planning their packing lists. Add some content on dining hall favorites (“Don’t miss chicken parm Thursdays!”) so they can start picturing themselves on campus. Start developing team spirit by adding some game-day essentials, like the lyrics to your team’s fight song and victory song. You could even connect with your IT department to set up live cams across campus so students can get a true sense of campus life in the spring. The options are endless.

6. Boost Digital Engagement Opportunities

Photo of student scrolling through Spark451 Instagram posts

Social media is always a great way to reach students where they are. In addition to running paid campaigns designed to boost engagement among your admitted student pool, you should also make an extra effort to post organic content that will encourage them to pay attention. Try asking your admissions counselors or tour guides to share some anecdotes or interesting campus shots to liven up your posts.

Pay special attention to platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. All three make it possible to share interesting animated content that students can comfortably explore in a non-invasive manner, as the posts won’t necessarily require a specific call to action. Think of these posts as a way to enhance overall brand awareness of your institution in a positive, controlled way.

7. Swag with a Purpose

Photo of Spark451 branded mug, notebook, bottles, and more

Who doesn’t love a freebie? Since you’re no longer spending money on large campus events, spring recruitment travel, and other traditional yield expenses, consider repurposing some of that budget to develop some promo items that can help foster stronger connections to your school. For example, a celebratory yard sign can be a great way to help make a student and their family feel special, and it gives them a fun way to share their big college decision news with their friends and neighbors!

Final Thoughts

It’s important to remember that all of these efforts are best complemented by a strong admitted yield communications program, with targeted messaging designed to strengthen affinity and nurture students through the process from acceptance to enrollment.

I hope these suggestions have helped to spark some creative ideas of your own. If you need additional help planning out the rest of your yield season, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My colleagues and I are always here to help you determine the best tactics for your institution. We’re rooting for you!