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Survey: How the Pandemic Impacted Student Enrollment Choices

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More than 40% of college students in a recent survey said their decision to attend their current institution was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. To better understand their experiences enrolling in higher education, enterprise technology and services provider Anthology polled 1,207 current students ages 22 and older at colleges and universities across the United States.

Of those students affected by the pandemic, 44% said they opted to attend a school closer to home. Thirty-seven percent needed to lower the cost of their education, and 29% looked for more online programs. Many were more career focused: 28% took different courses or a certificate program in preparation for employment, and 26% wanted to get a more secure or safer job after graduating.

The survey also asked how students identified what institution to attend and how they interacted with that college or university prior to enrolling. Students' awareness of their institution was often based on a personal connection:

  • Location in the student's area (cited by 39% of respondents);
  • Knowing someone who attended or is attending (31%); or
  • A friend or family recommendation (29%).

Roughly a quarter of students (27%) learned about their college via web search.

Students reported taking a number of actions prior to enrolling in their chosen institution. Those included:

  • Visiting the website (cited by 57% of respondents);
  • Reviewing available programs (51%);
  • Reviewing costs of attendance (47%);
  • Visiting the campus (39%)
  • Speaking with an adviser (37%)
  • Talking to friends and family (31%);
  • Receiving e-mail communications (29%);
  • Speaking with a faculty member (25%);
  • Checking out the college's social media (21%); and
  • Interacting with a current student (19%).

When asked how they wished to communicate with institutions during the admissions process, the vast majority of students (nearly 80%) preferred receiving e-mail. Nearly half of respondents also selected text messaging as a preferred method of communication, and fewer than one in four wanted to receive information via phone call. Here, there was some variation in preferences by type of student, the survey report noted, with "first-generation students indicating a higher preference for text messaging, while among nontraditional students, the percentage selecting phone communications was higher than for any other group."

Based on the results of the survey, Anthology offered several pieces of advice for institutions, including:

  • Expand opportunities for alumni to assist with recruitment given the impact of friend and family recommendations;
  • Identify the preferred communication method of applicants and offer multi- or omni-channel communications;
  • Provide information about courses to take during the admissions process, as well as information on how programs prepare students for success; and
  • Continue to be mindful of the pandemic and the impact it has had on students' choice of institutions and degree programs.

The full report is available on the Anthology site (registration required).

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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