DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > Grad school Open House 2020

Attendance doubles for spring grad school open house

Lincoln Park Campus
(DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)
​​​​Necessity required DePaul move its annual Graduate Program Open House from the Student Center to Zoom. The result was record-breaking attendance.

Last month's open house attracted 626 prospective students, more than double the past two years. Attendees met with representatives from nine colleges in 22 breakout sessions.

Suzanne Depeder, associate vice president of Graduate and Adult Admission in Enrollment Management, says being flexible and accessible was critical to the event's success.

"While we were forced online by the shelter-in-place order, we saw this as an opportunity. We were able to expand our offerings because we were not limited by physical space, allowing a greater number of prospective students to access information specific to their interests," she says. "Faculty and staff embraced this challenge with enthusiasm, and that is reflected in the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received.  It was an informative and meaningful experience for our prospective students."

Because of the limited time to shift from the original format, the online set-up was similar to the in-person version.  Students were directed to a portal to explore all offerings, as well as links to specific breakout sessions in which they previously indicated interest.  Sessions were recorded to provide after-the-fact access to anyone who was unable to attend.

Based on the experience, Depeder sees this as an event that can be enhanced and added to the future mix of recruitment programs even after a return to campus.

"We learned how we could leverage our technology better, whether that means using additional features or facilitating navigation differently," she says. "But more than anything, it reinforced how important it is that we meet students where they are to accommodate their active and busy lives."

Recruitment tactics and challenges change quickly

While the open house is the most prominent example, Graduate and Adult admission transformed its entire portfolio of recruitment activities in a matter of days in mid-March. They are hosting online events and individual appointments, increasing the number of offerings to keep prospective students engaged in the process. They are utilizing the virtual tour to showcase the campus and available resources.

Student needs have changed just as quickly, but the foundation of DePaul's response stays the same.

“Prospective students are looking for certainty. They typically have questions about what it will be like in a DePaul classroom; now they wonder if they will be in a classroom or online this fall," Depeder says. "They always want to know about financing their degree, but there is an increased urgency for many who have suffered financially from fallout of the economic shutdown. Now more than ever, Vincentian personalism continues to differentiate how we recruit. We won't have all the answers, but are working daily to provide an experience that is responsive to each student's needs."