Survey: COVID-19 Upends Data Sources Used in College Recruitment

Shanda Ivory


Survey: COVID-19 Upends Data Sources Used in College Recruitment


Arlington, VA (Oct. 19, 2020) – College fairs have moved online, campus tours have gone virtual, and now a new national survey finds that admission staff at more than half of all four-year colleges and universities expect the coronavirus crisis to affect the flow of data that has long played an integral role in helping institutions fill their freshman classes. 

Nearly 53 percent of respondents to a survey from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) reported that COVID-19 will have a substantial or profound impact on student recruitment for Fall 2021 and beyond. The finding was part of a larger NACAC study examining strategic data analytics in college admission offices. The survey was conducted Aug. 26 through Sept. 25 in collaboration with the customer relationship management company Salesforce.

“Colleges and universities are having to change how they connect with students, and they’re having to do it quickly,” said NACAC CEO, Angel Pérez. “Beginning this admission cycle, we’ll really see how COVID-19 has affected the admission funnel—from top to bottom.”

College admission has always been about building relationships. But with more than 2,000 four-year institutions in the US, recruiting a diverse class also requires colleges to seek out prospective applicants who may be unfamiliar with their institution. To target those students, colleges use data from testing companies, schools, and other organizations whose operations have been affected by the coronavirus. And as a result, the data colleges have traditionally depended on to find right-fit students is no longer available to the same extent.

According to the survey, measures taken to understand and/or mitigate the impact of data availability disruptions include:

  • Increasing sources and parameters for identifying potential applicants;
  • Better utilizing current data; and
  • Working more closely with current data analysis vendors or using additional vendors.

“As college admission offices operate in the absence of face-to-face recruiting and are forced to rely on shifting sources of data, it will be critical that more admission staff become proficient in interpreting data to understand both the promise and the limits of its analysis,” said Angel Pérez.

The nationally representative survey, which included 377 respondents, looked more broadly at the state of data analytics within the college admission profession. Key topics addressed in the report include Strategic Enrollment Management plans, use of vendors, in-house data analytic capabilities, staff training, and more.

Read the full report.


The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), founded in 1937, is an organization of nearly 14,000 professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education. 

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