Visiting dozens of high schools each semester has been a way of life for admissions counselors at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
That is, until coronavirus reared its head.
“When the pandemic hit, we knew we had to pivot and start thinking out of the box on how to handle high school visits virtually,” said UW Oshkosh admissions counselor Andrew Kopitzke. “It was a combined effort between admissions and IT—specifically Brandon Heise and Angie Buelow. They’ve been a huge help.”
In normal years, counselors drove to high schools to do their in-person visits. This year, they’ve pivoted to virtual visits and presentations.
Kopitzke said Collaborate Ultra meetings are going well and lead to a lot of interaction. Students have the opportunity to ask questions and can choose whether or not to be on video. Students are provided an electronic copy of UWO’s new viewbook.
Paul Gedlinske, director of admissions, noted in-person visit options are still offered, but availability is limited as the University tries to keep visitors, staff and student employees as safe as possible.
“The virtual visit options give our prospective students the opportunity to see what UW Oshkosh has to offer them without having to come to campus,” he said.
Mackenzie Swanson, college and career coordinator at La Follette High School in Madison, works to ensure that all students have a plan beyond high school and provides support to help them get there.
La Follette is operating in a virtual format and is hosting only virtual college visits.
“Students are comfortable with this (virtual advising), as it is how they are accessing school,” Swanson said. “Families are also pleased we are continuing visits while in virtual learning.”
The UWO admissions team is doing virtual one-on-one visits, providing virtual self-paced preview materials, holding virtual synchronous preview days and virtual campus tours. There have been individual campus visits in small groups for an admissions presentation/campus tour.
Swanson said many students are continuing plans for next year, though spending more time coming up with a backup plan.
Kopitzke said he sometimes texts with students or uses Cisco Jabber to conduct phone calls.
UWO admissions has developed a landing page with its virtual options. Among them are one-on-one meetings with prospective students and their parents on various platforms. The meetings sometimes include a professor who provides insights into a specific degree program.
Gedlinske said he is thankful to be working with a staff that adjusted quickly to a virtual format.
“Our counselors are constantly looking for ways to improve those virtual options and develop new ones,” he said. “I feel for these students who are having to start this exciting journey virtually, rather than in person, but we are striving to provide them as many opportunities as we can for them to learn about UW Oshkosh.”
Taking the pressure off
Prospective students may submit unofficial high school transcripts, and ACT/SAT scores are optional. Earlier in fall, UWO covered the cost of application over several weeks.