Columbia Recruits and Welcomes Students Amid COVID-19

Recruiting and Welcoming Students Amid COVID-19
Columbia College Chicago’s Admissions Department shifts gears to keep prospective and incoming students excited about Columbia despite COVID-19


With a pandemic sweeping the globe, May 1 or National Decision Day—the day that high school students are slated to make their final college decision—has shifted or been cancelled all together at some schools. The academic school year has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic at home and abroad. While this unprecedented event has challenged most schools to move to remote instruction, admissions departments have also had to shift gears.

At Columbia, the Admissions team has rearranged their plans to continue to attract prospective students and welcome admitted students amid the ongoing pandemic. “The visit to campus is an enormous factor in any student’s and family’s college decision process. This spring, many of our admitted students have been robbed of that opportunity,” says Derek Brinkley, Assistant Vice President of Undergraduate Admissions at Columbia. 

T.C. Liggins, Interim Assistant Director of Diversity Recruitment Initiatives at Columbia College Chicago, notes that not being able to visit high schools, attend national or regional college fairs and events, or host prospective/admitted student events on campus has been one of the biggest changes.

Schools are also having to change their approach to making incoming students feel welcome. “Typically, around this time of year, we begin to shift our focus to students who have been admitted to the college,” says Liggins. “Unfortunately, we are not able to host in-person events, such as Admitted Students Days, Preview Days, community-based organization events, or our beloved Manifest.”

Liggins notes that they are, however, able to provide students and their supporters with virtual options including information sessions and video chats with Admissions staff, faculty members, and current students. “While we understand that virtual events can never replace the high, creative, and inspiring energy that you get while on campus, we hope that the events still thoroughly answer student questions and provide a sense of who we are as an institution,” Liggins says.

“We’ve also dialed up our efforts on social media to connect students to each other since a key feature of the campus visit is getting to meet the people you’ll be studying with,” adds Brinkley. “It is our hope that, on the other side of this, we’re connecting our students to an experience that could represent some return to normalcy—even if that normal looks different than the one we knew just a few months ago.”

Additional new challenges include COVID-19’s effect on the economy. Admissions staff continues to engage in conversations with admitted students around their current scholarship and financial aid packages, scholarship re-evaluations, and external scholarships.

“Our biggest concern at this point is that we hope the virus has quelled by September so my daughter can start college as planned,” says Shanna Igoe whose daughter Ruby will be starting at Columbia in the fall.

Despite the current pandemic, Ruby Igoe, a high school senior at Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, is excited to attend Columbia. “Besides the fact that Columbia is in a new city full of life and art and I am so excited to be in a new city, I am ready to start the new chapter of my life. I am someone who’s driven and I am ready for a challenge,” says Ruby. “I’ve outgrown high school and I am ready for adventure. Not to mention that I haven’t been to an art school yet. My high school was a very ivy-league driven school and I feel a sense of belonging from Columbia. I can see myself growing there.”


Daisy Franco
Communications Manager