Roanoke College officials change recruitment process amid coronavirus concerns


ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – The coronavirus pandemic is having a major impact on many elements of life, including college admissions.

“We’ve had to change dramatically how we recruit students,” says Dr. Brenda Poggendorf, Vice President of Enrollment at Roanoke College.

Like many colleges and universities, Roanoke College is often recognized for its personal one-on-one interactions with students. With the spread of the novel coronavirus, faculty members are not able to do that.

School officials say the college has been closely monitoring the pandemic since it began in China. Once it reached the United States, that’s when discussions kicked into high gear.

“It [the virus] came so quickly. We had to have those conversations in short-order,” says Dr. Poggendorf.

With the help of a special committee and previously-drafted emergency plans, the institution implemented new procedures to protect the health and safety of the students and faculty.

On March 12, Roanoke College suspended all in-person classes in response to COVID-19.

Despite the increase of confirmed cases throughout the Commonwealth, school officials say they still have to bring in a new class for Fall 2020.

Dr. Poggendorf says during these troubling times, students are more uncertain than usual when making college-based decisions.

“What has happened is that families and students are dealing with much greater uncertainty than they typically do in looking at college. There’s usually a certain amount of uncertainty, but more so than ever,” says Dr. Poggendorf.

Nevertheless, the institution is seeing an above-normal average of applicants this year. School officials say they have received 5,000 applicants from prospective students for their incoming freshman class.

Roanoke College is also giving students more time to make the right decisions for them and their families.

Some of the new recruitment methods include virtual tours and daily webinars, which have proven to be quite popular. From learning about the college to speaking with alumni members, prospective students and parents from around the country are able to ask questions through an online platform.

The institution has also moved their May 1 deposit deadline to June 1, allowing extra time for students who make be rethinking their college plans. Schools officials are also being more flexible by accepting unofficial grades, transcripts, and recommendations- solely for admission purposes.

While some colleges are removing testing requirements for the upcoming semester, Roanoke College has been test-optional since last year.

Dr. Poggendorf says while prospective students are taking the time to research their colleges, parents can still play a key role in their student’s higher education, especially when it comes to finances.

“In many cases, we know that families financial situations are changing. The FASFAs (Federal Student Aid) they filed for next Fall’s aid is based on 2018 income. That may not be an accurate picture anymore for many families. And so, they need to be in touch with the financial aid office, whether it’s Roanoke or some other college they may be attending,” says Dr. Poggendorf.

Despite increasing concerns of COVID-19, students are still excited to come back to campus.

“The “Resident’s Life” webinar that happened last Friday had 160 students signed up for it. Most of them are at the 20-30 student level. This had 160, and it was a great, interactive discussion, but that tells me that students want to be back on campus. That’s what they’re looking for,” says Dr. Poggendorf.

As of now, Roanoke College still plans to have in-person classes starting Fall 2020. Schools officials say there are contingency plans in place, just in case restrictions change.

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