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5 Reasons It Pays Off to Make Your Spring Open Houses Accessible

College enrollment rates have dropped by 13%, meaning that the competition to attract potential students and retain them throughout admissions is now at an all-time high. Making a good first impression is critical when recruiting.

It’s almost spring open house season, often the first opportunity that recruiters have to secure prospective students’ interest and their parents’ support. 99% of college leaders consider open houses as one of the most effective tools for student recruitment and marketing, but the considerations are different now with COVID restrictions still at play.

Ensuring these events are accessible is often overlooked during the planning process, but is arguably even more important now that many institutions are holding their open houses virtually.

Institutional leaders need not only consider accommodations and engaging virtual experiences for enrolled students. They must incorporate greater accessibility into the recruitment process, as it can significantly impact a student’s decision to apply. Taking into account the 7.3 million students with disabilities, and the need to make virtual experiences more engaging to everyone, admissions professionals and event planners who want to stay competitive must prioritize access as they craft their open house events.

Here’s why:

1. It makes the experience more inclusive to everyone.

Are you taking the steps to support prospective students with disabilities, including those who are Deaf or hard of hearing? Are you creating an experience that allows them to effectively participate in your open houses? It’s no longer just about providing physical access for campus tours, but about making these online events feel inclusive to prospective students with varying needs.

Schools like Indiana University are making their virtual open houses more accessible by captioning their campus tour videos. They’ve also designed an accessible campus tour to provide students who are Blind or have low vision with the opportunity to get to know their campus virtually. Others are captioning live open house sessions and Q&As being hosted on Zoom and the like to ensure everyone can follow along.

When prospective students and their families feel included from the get-go and see your commitments to accessible environments, they’re more likely to consider your school as a place they can thrive.

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2. You’re likely to attract more students.

Virtual and hybrid open houses are helping recruitment leaders reach greater pools of students, not to mention international students, who are often unable to attend or afford to travel to open houses in-person.

Offering more virtual ways to engage remotely and make these experiences accessible can help you attract more students.

Recruitment leaders are now receiving more international applications, with the number of applicants increasing by 51% last fall. These prospective students and family members tuning in with them can often greatly benefit from access to tools like captioning to provide an additional visual aid to best follow along with important information being shared. Captioning and transcription tools like AutomaticSync’s will help them, as well as all who are watching remotely to better understand and retain the information being shared.

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3. It can help secure family support for enrollment.

Parents and close family members often play a key part in a student’s decision to study.

“Students often look to their parents for advice and for confirmation that they’re making the right decisions,” Paul Kramer, Director of Student Experience, reported to Collegis Education.

Recruiters who consider and implement accessibility best practices into their open houses can also help to engage family members more effectively. Stevenson University is one school offering a comprehensive welcome page for prospective students and their families, with resources like an introductory video, a schedule of live sessions and pre-recorded videos to help parents better understand the experiences their student will have when attending. Adding elements like captioning to these videos can help to engage these diverse viewers with equity.

4. Your school’s website will benefit from it.

Making your open houses more accessible can also improve your school’s website searchability and help you meet important accessibility guidelines like WCAG 2. Standards like these are being adopted by many schools and can help guide recruiters on their admissions website accessibility.

Recruiters should consider the longevity and afterlife of the open houses they’re hosting. Sharing clips on their websites so students who aren’t able to attend a live session can watch them on-demand is especially helpful. Then, taking it one step further to caption this content and provide word-for-word transcripts of what was shared not only make these videos accessible; it makes them searchable and easier to navigate. Plus, having video transcripts on your site will also help Google and other search engines to crawl them and increase your site’s SEO, allowing this content to rank higher and reach more students.

5. It can improve your school’s brand.

Inaccessible communications don’t only cause students with disabilities to feel disconnected, they can result in bad press. Greater attention and focus is being placed on campuses and virtual environments that are inclusive and promote equity. Failing to do so, won’t only be off putting to prospective students, it can have more drastic effects on your university’s brand.

With 64% of individuals more likely to take action when they perceive an experience to be inclusive, incorporating accessibility best practices into your open houses is more likely to result in action or enrollments and showcase your schools’ commitment to diversity as a core brand value.

6. You’ll meet students’ modern viewing expectations.

Younger generations like Gen Z and Millenials are now enrolling in colleges at higher rates than other age groups. Having grown up with streaming services like Netflix, these generations are now expecting features like captioning to be included as they engage with your videos on-demand or attend virtual events being streamed live.

Adding captions to your open house events will help you better engage students consuming open house content, just as they do on any other platform today from TV to social media. Plus, many opt to watch without the sound on due to a variety of factors, so tools like AutomaticSync’s accurate captions can help them participate when sound isn’t an option.

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Access is easy to implement

Planning an open house is a serious undertaking with many components. Setting your events up (whether in-person, virtual or hybrid) to attract the greatest pool of prospective students makes the time, effort and budget put into these events worthwhile.

Implementing the ideas above for more accessible experiences and materials is also incredibly easy with so many integrations into platforms like Zoom and YouTube available to you.

AutomaticSync can serve as an essential partner for your open houses this spring. Our captioning and transcription solutions are being used by University of Arizona and smaller colleges like Chemeketa Community College to meet the access needs of their students and their families for both recorded and live video and event experiences. For more ideas about how to keep prospective students engaged throughout the admission process, reach out.

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