Small class sizes with engaged faculty, internships and study abroad, a stunning campus, delicious and varied food in D-Hall. Potential students and admitted students spend the spring touring the campus in person seeing firsthand what the University of Richmond offers and speaking with current students, faculty, and staff.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 in Virginia, students and families could no longer visit in person. UR, like other schools, had to quickly adapt to recruiting virtually.

“COVID-19 left indelible marks on how we do our work. It forced us to think even deeper about what, how, and why we do what we do, and pushed us to innovate beyond what we thought was possible,” said Gil Villanueva, associate vice president and dean of Admission. “It takes an entire campus community to recruit academically talented and diverse students, and I’m very grateful to work with the best enrollment team in the universe. Witnessing just how the team rallied around what needed to be done, how we supported each other, and what accomplished together was truly heartening and humbling.”

As soon as Admissions learned the campus would work remotely, it began working on how to connect with admitted applicants and their parents, including how to promote Richmond’s compelling value proposition. The admission website began promoting virtual programs and events.

One of the most popular features is the Virtual Take 10 with Richmond. A university faculty or staff member highlights programming, academics, or resources on campus for 10 minutes followed by a 10-minute question-and-answer period.

The Spider Spotlight video series features faculty, staff, and members of the campus community sharing the must-know highlights of their disciplines at Richmond in 10 minutes or less. Topics range from specific academic majors to spiritual life.

Student Ambassadors host virtual Spider Chats with an admitted applicant to highlight the “day in the life” of a Spider student.

The University already offers a virtual tour. Now that tour is paired with virtual information sessions.

During a normal Experience Richmond, admitted students and their guests tour campus and meet and speak with faculty, staff, and current students. This year the events were held virtually and included a live 20-minute fireside chat featuring President Ronald A. Crutcher and hosted by Stephanie Dupaul, vice president for Enrollment Management. Over 300 admitted applicants attended the special virtual open house.

Many of the questions being asked are the typical ones you would expect – focused on academics, student life, financial aid and merit scholarships. This year, though, parents also want to know how UR has supported its community. Villanueva and his team talked about how Richmond remained laser focused on students, maintaining academic and individual support, funding for travel assistance and one-time payments to help offset lost wages. extending various refunds, and even providing loaner laptops with hotspots.

“The University of Richmond provides a superior education experience,” he said, “and that includes having access to faculty, being mentored, and being well resourced.”

If UR is back to campus in the fall, the priority is to the academic mission and the safety of our students and community, which could limit the number of admission events in the fall. “We would want to limit visitors in an effort to promote health and safety,” Villanueva said. “It really makes sense to keep doing the things we learned.”

Admission teams also might be limited in visiting high schools. “We’ll continue to expand the virtual tools we have been developing to help students get to know UR,” he said.

The efforts paid off. Enrollment deposits are on target for the class of 2024, and the incoming first-year Spiders are as academically talented and diverse as previous classes.

“COVID-19 will forever change how enrollment and admission offices identify, recruit, and retain students,” Villanueva said. “What hasn’t changed is the human connection. Students need to know we want them, and we know they will add much to our community.”

 

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