Compared to previous years, admission numbers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have barely been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but the admission process has undergone numerous changes as a result.
Abby Freeman, director of admissions, said UNL’s Office of Admissions staff transitioned to a remote working environment during the middle of March, quickly going from having staff on campus to needing to adapt to a virtual environment.
Freeman said Admitted Student Day was originally scheduled to be in-person on April 6 but was changed to a first-ever virtual day on April 5, where more than 900 students participated in the virtual environment.
In response to COVID-19, the Office of Admissions created the Help, Not Hype virtual series in April, which takes place Tuesday nights at 7 p.m., according to Freeman.
The series includes different virtual sessions students can register for that focus on specific topics that may be relevant to incoming students or current seniors in high school, according to Freeman. These sessions include tips on being a successful out-of-state student and preparing for arrival on campus.
Freeman said the series is all about giving incoming students a chance to know what life will be like on campus without physically being there.
Currently, the Office of Admissions is working on developing a schedule for the series to continue in the fall, according to Freeman.
“From an admissions operation standpoint, it’s thinking about, ‘how do we creatively recreate the feelings of when people come on campus,’” Freeman said. “It’s thinking of unique ways to get students engaged.”
Matthew Ellis, executive director of Academic Services and Enrollment Management, said around June each year, UNL has the majority of the expected number of incoming freshmen and transfer students. Around late summer, some students change their minds and transfer to UNL, but the same number of students also change their minds and decide to go elsewhere, according to Ellis.
“Historically, there’s a lot of stability around this time,” Ellis said. “This is around the time we’d be approaching a stable moment, but we’re approaching it later than in years past.”
Freeman said applying for admissions has always been electronic, but in terms of financial aid, adaptations had to be made.
The Office of Admissions increased messaging to parents, so they were aware of the resources available at the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, like the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, according to Ellis. In March, Congress enacted the CARES Act, which provides support and resources for many citizens and organizations, including education.
UNL requires a $250 enrollment deposit for all new freshmen, transfer and international students, and students enrolling in the Intensive English Program. The enrollment deposit finalizes students’ admission and goes directly toward the students’ first expenses at UNL, like orientation programs.
Ellis said there has been a 1% increase of the first-year incoming population paying their year-to-date enrollment deposits, which he said was driven by an increase of both students from Nebraska and domestic out-of-state students.
For transfer students, there has been about a 4% increase in Nebraska transfer deposits and domestic out-of-state deposits, according to Ellis.
The Nebraska Promise program covers undergraduate student’s tuition for Nebraska residents with a family income of $60,000 or less at any University of Nebraska campus. Ellis said the program is one of the reasons for the increase in first-year and transfer enrollment deposits, and said there was a late surge of applications after the program was announced.
Although Ellis said admissions numbers may change in the two months left before classes resume, he said he feels optimistic about where UNL is at.
“We’re very pleased where the university sits, in regards to everything that occurred throughout the spring, that no one has really run preparation scenarios for a pandemic,” Ellis said.