Katie Frickel almost didn’t get to experience Admitted Student Day. She wanted to make the trip to San Dimas and looked forward to getting to know new friends who would be part of hundreds of memories she will make in college. The coronavirus pandemic kept Katie and dozens of other students from experiencing one of the first memories they had hoped to make.
Every spring, LPU Director of Enrollment Management Matthew Tapp, Assistant Director of Recruitment Jacob McCracken, Admissions Counselor Kelsie Spoelstra, and Visit & Event Coordinator Mandy Vieyra make big plans to welcome admitted students and their guests to campus. Former students themselves, many on the team knew how important on-campus events have been over the years. They wanted to keep the tradition alive, even when campus classes were moved online and staff learned to work from home.
In the old normal, newly admitted students would personally interact with fellow students, family, faculty, and staff as everyone became familiar with the student’s new home away from home. They would experience chapel, visit the resident halls, eat in the Café, and participate in campus life.
Then, COVID-19 changed everything.
For staffers like Kelsie and Jacob, who have been around LPU for a while, the thought of canceling Admitted Student Day was disappointing. They had memories of welcoming other classes to campus and sharing all that the LPU community has to offer new students. When safe at home orders were enacted, Matthew asked his team to help develop a creative alternative.
Everyone wanted to salvage Admitted Student Day and they collaboratively developed an innovative solution. “We were committed to ensuring that these students had something to celebrate,” Matthew says. The team worked remotely, maintained social distancing, leveraged technology, and developed a virtual event that they hoped students would love.
Still, it had never happened this way. No one knew for sure if it would work.
Katie and about 70 admitted students – a record at LPU – received a pleasant surprise. The team in San Dimas sent them each a gift box with items to celebrate their first milestones at LPU. Inside, they found noisemakers to use at their first Warriors game and a stress ball to help them get through their first semester classes.
Students were invited to join a virtual event during which they unwrapped confetti poppers and popped them in unison to celebrate that they were “LPU Bound!”
The response to the virtual event was heartwarming as students said they felt celebrated. A number of students emailed staff to request to be roommates with people they had met for the first time during the event. An entirely new sense of community resulted from a digital event as more students than ever before built authentic relationships in a very different venue.
“Getting to learn about the experiences of other students, the highs, lows, and favorite moments really gave me a more personal idea of what Life Pacific University will be like,” Katie says. When she received news that she had won a scholarship, Katie says, “It felt like a little love note from God. It felt pretty affirming actually because I had just made the decision to attend Life Pacific the week before.”
Much more than a digital webinar, Matthew Tapp and the entire LPU team wanted Virtual Admitted Student Day to connect students with each other and the University in a way that would set them up for success. COVID-19 has interrupted a host of graduations, award ceremonies, sporting events, and more. Face-to-face interaction with professors and roommates became virtual as celebratory hugs and high fives were replaced with emojis and instant messages.
Virtual Admitted Student Day was a triumph. It helped students connect to their University as they transition to college during a challenging season. The Council of Christian Colleges and Universities featured LPU’s event on their Facebook page as an example of creative adaptation amidst the pandemic.
Matthew says nearly all recruitment is now being done online. The team launched virtual events for prospective students and applicants, hosts virtual 1-on-1 visits and meetings using Zoom, and meet regularly with students on the phone. Additionally, the team has produced video campus tours in English and Spanish, self-guided virtual tours, increased marketing content and creativity on social media and through email.
Innovation and technology provided a record number of LPU admitted students with just the kind of connection they needed to answer questions, feel welcomed, and know that God has a place for them at Life Pacific University.