How One University is [Successfully] Communicating to Prospective Applicants in the COVID-19 Era

Spivey Consulting Observation.

Schools are going to need to try to get ahead of these obvious questions/concerns of next cycle applicants in their marketing strategies and at the same time be preparing for how they will assess students “differently” due to these many factors.  We're sure many schools are already doing this, but this Vanderbilt undergraduate recruitment email really struck us as helpful because it pinpoints some of the questions students are having and basically says – we get it and here’s what we are doing! (full disclosure: Vanderbilt is my alma mater but this was picked up by a different SCG Consultant and we have no relationship with Vanderbilt)

Subject: Message from the Director

Vanderbilt University (turn images on to view)

Dear ______,

As the world adjusts to a new, but temporary, way of living through social distancing, please know that Vanderbilt is in this together with you. We understand that your high school experience this year is much different than expected. Whatever new challenges you may be facing in your college admissions process, know that you are not alone — Vanderbilt stands ready to assist you.

Though you may well be dealing with myriad other concerns right now, when it comes to your future application process, Vanderbilt wants you to know the following:

1) We remain committed to a holistic admissions evaluation process that places high value on the context from which you apply. We understand — even now — that your transcripts will look different than what you might have imagined; that your exam record will be different than you planned; and that you may seek recommendations from different teachers than you would have liked. Know that we understand, and we are prepared to evaluate your files with this new reality in mind.

2) We know your involvements will look different. Your extracurricular activities will have changed for 2020. Maybe this was the semester you hoped to make varsity baseball, land the lead in the spring musical, or be elected to class office. Maybe this was the semester you planned to pick up a part-time job or volunteer at the local animal shelter; maybe 2020 was the summer you were going to attend that amazing camp, get a cool internship, or take a trip abroad with your class. Social distancing protocols have changed reality for all of us. Please know we’ll evaluate your application with this in mind, too.

And know, too, that

3) We remain committed to providing meaningful ways for you to learn about Vanderbilt.While nothing can replace the benefit of actually visiting Nashville and seeing our campus, in-person visits can’t happen right now. So be sure to take full advantage of all of our online visit opportunities, from our admissions blog to our virtual tour to our newly launched online information sessions with live chat. And remember — demonstrations of interest like visiting campus have never been part of our application evaluation process. Attend these online sessions if you are interested in learning more.

I hope you will consider connecting with your Vanderbilt admissions officer via email, and seriously consider connecting with us through our online visit programs.

As you navigate these odd times, know that at VU you can always “Anchor Down.”


John O. Gaines
Director of Undergraduate Admissions
Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University