If you attended a college fair in high school, then you'll remember a gymnasium or auditorium filled with colleges handing out information about themselves. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this system has changed drastically.
Although most colleges and high schools are using Zoom to get in contact with future college students, Director of Undergraduate Admissions Todd Burrell said he was worried about some families being tired of Zoom.
“All we want to do is create a connection with students, but there are some concerns there,” Burrell said. “Will their parents and them be Zoomed out? What if they don’t want to go online and see another college on Zoom? If you go to a traditional college fair, you can cover it all in about an hour, but it’s more of a process on Zoom. We just have to hope they'll be willing to get through it."
One of the biggest changes, according to Burrell, has been college visits, which were majorly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Over the summer, we had to do only one campus tour a day, with nine total [guests] visiting. There would be three students, and they could each bring two guests. We had to limit people because we wanted to space people out in the presentation rooms according to social distancing,” Burrell said. “We had ambassadors guiding them, wearing masks, so we were limiting groups to ten total. This semester, we’ve started doing three a day, [with] one in the morning, then late morning and then afternoon.”
Zoom has also been how Burrell’s team has gotten information out to high school guidance counselors, which is also different than usual. Burrell said these events, like other college fairs, took far longer than they would have in-person.
“We belong to the Illinois Association of College Admissions Council and the Missouri Association of College Admissions Council. Those groups bring together high school guidance counselors and college admissions people. In some cases, that’s how they decide which colleges show up at their college fair,” Burrell said. “In the past few weeks, some of our team participated in a Zoom college fair for counselors. The counselors get on, and they can pick a breakout room where different college admissions teams provide them with information about their respective schools. The whole thing took about two days, so that way it's not just one four hour Zoom.”
Director of University Marketing Nathan Brewer has been working with Burrell’s team, and Brewer said his team has been improvising well throughout the pandemic.
“We typically plan our advertising on an annual basis. There’s always changes, but we obviously didn’t expect this. Internally, our own resources to create a new commercial can take us several months, even without pandemic problems,” Brewer said. “It’s hard to turn on a dime, especially for ads that require more time and energy.”
Brewer said his team has focused on shifting social media content toward discussing how SIUE is working despite the pandemic.
A good example of these posts is an SIUE Facebook post about how SIUE has been working with local Girl Scout troops.
“As COVID-19 has prevented many traditional, face-to-face summer camp activities from taking place, SIUE Center for STEM Research, Education & Outreach got creative with the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois to offer young girls an engaging virtual STEM camp,” the post said.
Once the pandemic is over, Brewer said there will be changes that everyone will have to deal with in advertising, and in the world at large.
“Somebody told me today that we talk about the post-9/11 world, and that there will be a pre- and post-pandemic look on the world. It will linger, but I think that’s good. Todd and his team in Admissions have kept moving on despite it, and we’ve all learned how to operate better,” Brewer said. “I think and hope that there will be other things that go back to normal, like Springboard [to Success, an outreach program for new freshmen], which I think is important for new students on campus.”
For more information, check the SIUE Admissions website.