Office of Admission: Connecting Creatively to Adapt to New Reality

August 12, 2020
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As the number of Covid-19 cases continue to rise in the US and around the globe, institutions of higher education have had to drastically change how they conduct classes, recruit new students, and support their staff and faculty.

Soka’s Office of Admission is adapting to the new reality by leveraging technology to connect with prospective students, parents, and anyone else who wants to learn more about Soka. “The two main challenges,” said Andrew Woolsey, Dean of Enrollment Services, “are finding ways to reach people in order to promote Soka University, and counseling students through the application process.”

Admission counselors across the country are having to adjust to not being able to travel to visit high schools and community-based organizations (CBOs) during this admissions cycle. The basic goal hasn’t changed, but now they have to ask how do they use technology to connect creatively?

Experience Soka is normally a three-day, two-night event designed to give admitted students a first-hand experience with campus life, classes, students, and faculty. In Spring 2020, Soka was unable to bring students to campus, but still wanted to give them a sense of what the Soka community is like. Instead of merely building a program that mimicked what Experience Soka had been in the past, the Admission team first surveyed admitted students about their needs and interests. The Admission staff learned that they already knew plenty about the institution and its academic offerings. What they wanted most was the opportunity to connect with peers and alumni. So the staff coordinated a series of webinar sessions called, “Soka Stories – An Admitted Student Experience,” which were hosted by current students from different concentrations. Alumni also participated in the online sessions to share their post-grad experience, whether in a career or pursuing higher education.

Moving forward, Soka will be providing even more online resources and webinar series to those interested in learning more about the university. Soon, a dynamic virtual tour of the campus will be available, featuring 360° views and images enabling visitors to see what the inside of classrooms and residence halls look like.

The Office of Admission will also attend virtual college fairs and continue communicating with high school counselors and CBOs domestically and internationally. Soka has always offered information sessions and one-on-one video appointments, so the focus now is on creating more opportunities for connection.

“What we need now more than ever is a growth mindset of hope,” Woolsey said. “Soka is a community that is adaptable and able to persevere through adversity. Coming together is the most important thing that will help us get through this and move forward. The situation is not ideal by any stretch, yet as we strive for excellence, I am very hopeful because I know in my heart there are a lot of great people–students, staff, faculty, administration, and alumni–at our institution. Everyone is helping and trying to make this new reality and world a better place.”

—by Nagisa Smalheiser ’21