Miami University is expecting this fall’s first-year class to be smaller than usual as a result of the novel coronavirus, said Director of Admissions Bethany Perkins.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order caused all on-campus visits, admissions department meetings and Make It Miami events to be canceled through the end of the semester.
“We were already predicting a smaller class for this upcoming fall,” Perkins said in an email to The Miami Student. “Last year's incoming class was really large. Confirmations have slowed significantly compared to last year, similar to many other institutions, and that is in large part due to the uncertainty they face right now.”
Perkins noted that on-campus visits were the “single most influential factor in a student’s decision.” She has been working with her department to ease the pressure that prospective students face now that on-campus visits are unavailable.
“We have extended our confirmation deadline to June 1 to give students and families more time to make their decision, but of course, that means all modeling or yearly comparisons no longer apply,” Perkins wrote.
Perkins’ team is trying many new strategies, including one-on-one appointments, individual phone calls, tailored emails and financial conversations with students and families in an effort to replace large group visits, such as Make It Miami. Five of the Make It Miami events, which typically host 700-800 prospective students, had to be canceled due to the pandemic.
Although on-campus experiences are canceled, the admissions office is still working with some student tour guides. These tour guides are working to connect with students and participate in student panels, Perkins wrote.
But not all tour guides are engaged in such efforts. Abby Stephenson, a sophomore tour guide, has not worked for admissions since returning to her Ohio home.
“I signed up to help with virtual chats where we might be asked to answer specific questions from prospective students,” Stephenson said. However, she notes that she has “personally not been contacted for a virtual chat yet.”
However, Stephenson mentioned other efforts admissions is taking to reach out to students.
“Admissions is offering a lot of really cool ways to get the Miami experience from the comfort of our own homes,” Stephenson said, pointing to the videos of campus tours and virtual discussion platforms.
As part of this effort, incoming students have received more correspondence since the beginning of the pandemic. Jackson Granger, a high school senior from Louisville, Kentucky, had already committed to Miami before in-person instruction was canceled. Despite already committing, communication from the university increased.
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“I have noticed that there are more emails [since the cancellations],” Granger said.
Although he wasn’t formally planning to return to campus for another event, he said he was sure he would have made trips to campus in the future.
Although Perkins and her team are planning to return to campus over the summer and expand pre-semester programs to host more students who weren’t able to visit campus, she said she’s looking to carry some of the new online strategies forward into future admissions work.
“We have leveraged technology like never before to connect with students and families as their time allows, including Live Chat on admission web pages, virtual video conferences, information sessions and tours, Perkins wrote, “and many of these opportunities can be carried forward on some scale into the future.”