As Yale College application deadlines approach, the admissions office is connecting with more prospective students than ever before through their new virtual outreach programs.
According to Mark Dunn, director of outreach and recruitment and associate director at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, statistics show that more prospective students are engaging with Yale’s outreach programs than they would in a typical year. From April 1 to Sept. 15, 39 percent more students registered for a virtual information session than students who registered for in-person information sessions in the same period in 2019. In addition, three times more users took a virtual tour from April 1 to Aug. 1 than during that same period in 2019. And in 2020, over 47,000 prospective students have registered for joint virtual events featuring Yale, as opposed to around 8,500 prospective students in 2019.
“Although I wish prospective students could visit Yale in person, I am delighted that we could connect with tens of thousands of students safely in their homes this year,” Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan wrote in an email to the News. “I hope the new programming inspires high-achieving students from all backgrounds to include Yale in their college search.”
According to Dunn, when the admissions office realized they would be doing outreach to prospective students online, their first step was to replicate typical in-person programming like information sessions and tours. They did this by promoting virtual tours and creating online information sessions, which take place on Zoom. These sessions stay interactive by including polling questions and allowing participants to submit questions, Dunn said.
During a normal admissions cycle, Yale admissions officers would also travel around the country and conduct joint information sessions with other colleges and universities. The admissions office has replicated that as well through virtual events with other schools that tend to target a specific geographic region. Dunn said that these have been “very successful” — 4.5 times more students registered for a joint event featuring Yale in 2020 than did so in 2019.
“We went into this whole outreach cycle, really very aware of what we didn’t know,” Dunn told the News. “But it has actually been really helpful to have the impetus to say, let’s make a collection of events, and let’s record them and then make that content available to folks.”
Senior Assistant Director of Admissions Corinne Smith has worked on the virtual version of joint events between colleges, which would typically be done in the form of group travel. Smith told the News that virtual outreach has “absolutely” changed the demographics of prospective students that Yale is able to reach. She said that the virtual space allows them to target certain geographic locations or demographic groups that they would not be able to while physically traveling.
One example is the Quest for College group travel program, meant for “high-achieving, low-income students” who might be a good fit for the QuestBridge program. Smith said that the group travel was planned before COVID-19, with the expectation that two weeklong trips would reach around 1,000 students total. Instead, the office conducted four virtual programs and garnered 1,000 attendees in the first event alone.
Virtual outreach has also allowed the admissions office to run specific programs geared toward counselors at schools with “high need” populations, in hopes of removing some barriers to entry for first-generation, low-income students, Dunn said.
“The virtual world allows us to reach students in areas that we may not travel to in a given year or even in five years,” Smith wrote in an email to the News. “It opens the doors for students—particularly for those who may not have the time or funds to visit campus or who might not be in primary or secondary markets where our group trips typically visit.”
For example, Smith noted that this year the office has been able to reach prospective students from Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, all of which are not typically visited in person by admissions officers.
In an effort to reach more students virtually, the admissions office has also revamped their social media presence. They have specifically increased the use of Instagram stories, using photos and videos of campus as well as a “day in the life” series as a means to replicate the in-person touring experience.
Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions Christopher Bowman, who is the staff lead on all admissions social media accounts, told the News that the admissions office has always tried to use social media to “meet students in their spaces” by providing accessible and informal content. This year, however, they have ramped up their social media presence significantly — going from posting “day in the life” content once every two weeks to now posting nearly every weekday.
“Since we can’t [have prospective students on campus in person,] our thought was, well, how can we sort of recreate a Yale experience through social media?” Bowman said. “Our big project this fall has been these story series on our accounts to showcase different parts of the experience that we feel visitors would have gotten had they come to campus.”
The deadline to submit the early action application to Yale College is Nov. 1.
Amelia Davidson | firstname.lastname@example.org