The following guidance is intended to inform planning for the disruption of the Admissions recruitment and enrollment process as a result of COVID-19. Schools are encouraged to modify the guidance provided from the national office as necessary to ensure that it is appropriate and relevant to their current needs. Schools across the country are experiencing the effects of COVID-19 differently, some cities have sheltered in place while other cities continue to operate normally. Nevertheless, all 37 Cristo Rey Network schools remain closed, but the Admissions process must continue. The financial viability of the schools is directly correlated to enrollment numbers. Admissions teams must leverage internal resources, creativity and best practices to respond to this unexpected challenge to student recruitment.
Check your website! Is it current and clear how to get in touch with admissions?
Amp up your social media presence #cristoreyproud
Shift upcoming interviews and info-sessions to virtual formats
Keep your admitted students engaged; they are likely out of school now too, and it’s a great time to reach out and make sure they feel part of the Cristo Rey community
Get creative about your application – trouble accessing transcripts, standardized testing, or application fees? Time to work with your leadership team to see where you can compromise.
Student Recruitment & Resources
It is critical that schools maintain their websites updated with pertinent admissions information, including a published calendar of the recruitment cycle. Students and families are now more likely to check the website often. Updated information will avoid further confusion.
In consideration for how vulnerable the recruitment process has become, we recommend that schools centralize an Admissions banner on the landing homepage that easily redirects students and families to the Admissions section where students can find applications, timelines, etc. Please see Cristo Rey Philadelphia and Cristo Rey Richmond’s websites for examples.
Another website feature to leverage is the pop-up window that reminds viewers that applications are still open, please see Cristo Rey Jesuit for an example.
Add a Frequently Asked Questions section to the Admissions section.
If you have “student experience” or relevant videos, embed them into the Admissions section.
These examples demonstrate how schools should be intentional in leveraging their websites for a transparent, accessible and seamless process to applicants.
Recruitment Adaptation and flexibility
Schools should develop recruitment strategies that expedite the process and removes bureaucracy, if they haven’t already. Schools should continue to set deadlines to provide applicants with structure but flexibility with recommendation letters (consider phone “reference checks” instead), interviews, testing, and other relevant parts of the process is encouraged. Schools should use their discretion and judge on a case-by-case basis what is appropriate for an applicant.
The following are additional marketing efforts utilized by Cristo Rey schools in light of COVID-19.
Because of social distancing protocol, Admissions teams should cancel in-person information sessions, if they haven’t already. Virtual information presentations are highly encouraged and offer students and families another opportunity to engage with the school and have their questions answered. Bi-monthly virtual presentations, at a minimum, is an effective target; weekly presentations are recommended. It has been great to see on Workplace that many schools already moved to this format. Below are some useful tools and practices as you continue engaging virtually.
Zoom is the best tool for virtual group presentations – it allows presenters to interact with the group. Zoom is also temporarily free for schools.
Ensure 3 staff are present during your virtual presentation to troubleshoot: the presenter, someone to monitor group chat, and someone to monitor technology issues.
Schools should create and publish the calendar of virtual presentations on their websites and social media, with corresponding sign-up links. Offer a variety of times and days to families to be respectful of their schedules (afternoons, evenings, weekends, etc.). (A fun presentation could be a virtual tour of the school. Also, consider a presentation specific to admitted students and families.)
Offer the virtual presentations in other languages.
We recommend creating an Eventbrite for every virtual information presentation in order for students and families to get reminders about the specific date they are interested in. Create a specific Zoom link for each Eventbrite and be sure to embed the Zoom link in the Eventbrite. Click here for more information about how to create an effective Eventbrite for virtual presentations.
Once the virtual information session calendar and Eventbrite registration links are created, Staff should reach out to current applicants, feeder schools, middle school counselors, high school partners and other relevant groups with invitations.
Record the presentations and post them on your website and social media accounts afterward.
Send email and text reminders to students and families in advance for your presentations. You can utilize Google Voice for texts.
Please see the tools section below for more information on Zoom and Google Voice.
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are excellent networks to employ. Social media can be a very useful tool for marketing to students, specifically Gen Z, as they are actively engaged on social networks. Potential students are more active on Instagram, while parents are more active on Facebook. Improved student and family engagement via social media can help keep them aware of the full range of resources students and families have access to, provide timing information, and offer another creative avenue to provide information. Click here and here for two great recent examples from our schools that are personalized.
Some best practices
Share unique photos and videos that capture important information (e.g. application deadlines). It is hard to stress this point enough, with videos and photos driving significantly more engagement on social media than text and links alone. For videos, have someone from your team speak directly to potential families and students. These work well when promoting something specific, such as a virtual info. session.
Share everywhere. Post to every social media account your school utilizes.
Utilize *pinned posts* to highlight important information (E.g. the updated recruitment calendar with virtual presentations).
“Like” every Cristo Rey school’s Facebook account to get inspired by their posts.
Create Facebook events for virtual events and presentations.
Target your content as much as possible through Facebook advertising to ensure your message is getting in front of the right audience. This can be helpful for application awareness.
The Admissions Process
Schools should create a virtual application for students and families to access and submit. If schools choose to not transition applications online, they should offer assistance to students and families to ensure applications are submitted. Cristo Rey San Diego, for example, is filing out the application for students and families over the phone and will follow up for their signature at an appropriate time. If schools chose to move their applications online and would like support, they should contact the national office for more information. Our technology team is happy to provide technical assistance where needed. Please contact Alberto Morales for more information.
The interview is a critical piece of information needed to decide whether a student is ready for a Cristo Rey education and should be kept part of the process. In-person interviews with students and families should be cancelled and transitioned to virtual interviews. To the best of your abilities, follow the plan of action in place before COVID-19 and recruit your internal teams to support the interview process. Teams should be flexible and not provide additional stress to students and families without the proper technology at home. Phone interviews should be utilized as an alternative to video interviews. Staff, to the best of their abilities, should attempt to interview all applicants and utilize their discretion when deciding whether to interview a specific applicant.
In the case that a family has experienced recent job loss because of COVID-19 and the income on their tax returns/W-2s no longer reflects the reality of the family’s income, schools should collect available documentation. That includes most recently available tax returns and W-2s, documentation of any and all current income (including cash income), and any possible documentation of the job loss (e.g. a signed letter from the family, or if unavailable, minimally documentation from the school President indicating that the family’s income is different from that on the most recent tax documentation). In practice, families should be admitted on the basis of their current income, and thoroughly documenting your evidence of income when it differs from available tax documentation should be the goal of your verification program.
Considering the financial hardship experienced by many, Admissions staff should speak to their finance office and consider lifting all application fees for the remainder of the cycle.
Schools that require entrance exams should explore alternatives or are encouraged to cancel them and consider the other pieces of academic information sufficient.
Admitted Students & Re-Assurance
Communication with admitted students and families
Maintaining continuous and personalized engagement with admitted students and families is necessary and should not stop. Students and families need nurturing attention—more now than before—to stay involved with the process. They also need questions answered and staff should not wait for them to call. For student recruitment strategies to continue working, it is critical that teams not relax once a student has been admitted. Proactive communication ensures that they understand the steps needed to register and prepare for a Cristo Rey education. These milestones are equally important as the initial stages of the recruitment process. Consider text, email, phone, and/or Zoom. There are a variety of tools available to activate engagement.
It is uncertain how long COVID-19 will last. To ensure the incoming class is set up for success, schools should survey each student’s technology needs should contingency plans need to be activated. This will allow school leadership teams to plan accordingly if summer programming needs to transition virtually. Utilize your discretion to determine when it is appropriate to survey incoming students, and, if possible, embed the question into existing materials.