Finding Future Flashes
Kent State uses local drive-in movie theaters and online campus fairs as venues for virtual campus visits.
Each year, thousands of prospective students visit Kent State’s eight campuses to experience what it might be like to be a Flash.
Those typical campus visits came to an abrupt halt in early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced restrictions on mass gatherings. By fall, as application deadlines for the 2021-22 academic year approached, the admissions teams on all the campuses had to find new ways for visitors to view their offerings.
The teams decided if they couldn’t bring prospective students to Kent State campuses, they would bring Kent State to them. Working within the confines of Ohio’s public health orders—no close gatherings of more than 10—they pondered how to show a crowd of prospective students everything Kent State has to offer, while keeping them all safely apart.
Drive-In for Scholars
At the Kent Campus, the admissions team found one answer in the state’s wealth of drive-in movie theaters. As it turns out, Ohio is tied with New York for the most active drive-in theaters in the nation. These days, the venues that harken back to days gone by are filling a very modern need.
Over the course of two weeks in November, the admissions team traveled to five drive-in theaters throughout Ohio—Holiday Auto Theatre in Hamilton, Sundance Kid Drive-In in Oregon, South Drive-In in Columbus, Auto-O-Rama Twin Drive-In in North Ridgeville and Mayfield Road Drive-In in Chardon—to host KSU2U events for prospective students and their families.
The team presented Admissions 101 information, a video interview with a current student and a video tour of the Kent Campus—all on the massive outdoor movie screens, which attendees viewed from their cars. Participants also were treated to movie-theater snacks and Flash swag, and admissions team staff members monitored the concessions line to ensure safe distances between individuals.
The events also included question-and-answer sessions, during which admissions and financial aid counselors wearing face masks went car-to-car to speak directly with participants. In addition, the team hosted an Instagram live session at the end of each event for prospective students to ask any remaining questions.
“Drive-in theaters proved to be the perfect venue for KSU2U,” says Vince Slomsky, director of strategic communications, enrollment management. “We understood that we had to do this in a safe, socially distanced space—and how cool is it that we could showcase Kent State on the big screen?”
Kent State Geauga and Twinsburg Academic Center also participated in the Mayfield Road Drive-In event in Chardon, since it was “practically in our backyard,” says Mary Lynn Delfino, admissions counselor at the Twinsburg Academic Center. “We were happy to share information about how the Regional Campuses are an important part of the Kent State system.”
Slomsky, who pitched the idea for KSU2U after attending a fundraising event at his local drive-in, says the KSU2U events exceeded expectations, drawing 576 cars with potential students and their families. During the same two-week period last year, 395 potential students visited the Kent Campus.
Still, Slomsky says, the successful turnout at the drive-ins did not make up for the loss of the two large on-campus visit days—“Preview KSU!”—that would have taken place earlier in the year.
“We know nothing will ever replace the feeling a prospective student gets when stepping foot on our beautiful campus,” he says. “But we are hoping that KSU2U gave them a taste of how amazing we are and will help confirm that Kent State is where they need to be once they graduate high school.”
Tours Via Technology
In addition to the KSU2U events, the admissions teams at the Kent Campus and Regional Campuses have been relying on technology to provide information to potential applicants. They offer videos, virtual appointments and creative opportunities for on-campus services.
Some of the Regional Campuses have been able to continue offering on-campus tours by limiting participants to one prospective student and their guests, keeping within the Flashes Safe Seven guidelines. Others have been able to provide only virtual visits or self-guided tours.
“Throughout these challenging times, the staff have continued to have a ‘students-first’ attitude by adapting to new technologies and new methods of providing services in the format (virtual or in-person when possible) that best meets the desires and needs of each individual we are serving,” says Laurie Donley, director of enrollment management and student services at Kent State Tuscarawas.
All of the Regional Campuses collaborated this fall for a virtual college fair. The Virtual College Exploration, hosted by the Ohio Association for College Admissions Counseling (OACAC) in partnership with StriveScan, was open to all Ohio students. Teams from each of the Regional Campuses—including the Twinsburg Academic Center, a satellite location of the Geauga Campus—shared a Google doc to develop and organize the OACAC college fair presentation. The event, which was presented live Nov. 9, was recorded and is available for viewing.
Each campus highlighted its own unique features during the webinar sessions, says Keturah Kneuss, assistant director of enrollment management and student services at Kent State Stark, who coordinated the presentation.
With 28 participants, Kent State’s Regional Campuses session drew the second highest number of registrants of all the sessions held during the second week of the fair. After the event, the admissions counselors followed up via email with the participants.
“The admissions counselors put together a great presentation and did an awesome job of engaging with the prospective students, families and guidance counselors before, during and after the event,” Kneuss says. “It was a fantastic way for the admission counselors at the various campuses to get to know each other, and it allowed us to lay the foundation for new and exciting ways to collaborate.”
—Candace Goforth DeSantis, BS ’94