Building Connections with Incoming Students

Published on 05 April 2021

When the world shifted from in-person meetings to virtual ones in March 2020, the Office of Admissions at University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis began to discover new ways to recruit and support students throughout the college search and enrollment process.

“Within three weeks, we were able to transition our in-person operations to virtual weekly programming,” said Jill Gebke, director of admissions. “As a smaller institution, we were able to pivot quickly in order to continue supporting prospective students during a critical time in their college-decision making process.”

In addition to hosting weekly Q&A and information sessions, the Office of Admissions invited students to meet virtually one-on-one with admissions representatives and the Office of Financial Aid to discuss their future enrollment plans.

“By moving into a virtual environment, we have been able to bring campus to students and families who may not have had the opportunity to visit,” Gebke added. “We’ve been able to maintain our connection to students here in Missouri and Illinois and also start connecting with students from California to New York, and even international students.”

Moving the University’s annual Preview Days and Lab Discovery Days into a virtual format paved the way for additional creativity and innovative thinking.

During Preview Day, students and their families tuned in to a livestream event to learn more about what life would be like as a student at UHSP, and virtual Lab Discovery Days allowed incoming students to conduct an experiment with faculty without leaving their homes.

“We sent attendees a lab supply kit, so they could follow along at home to complete the experiment,” Gebke said. “We want students to feel welcomed and supported by our University family, and building early connections helps them feel confident that UHSP is a place where they can grow personally and professionally.”

To further those connections, current students contacted prospective students to answer questions about campus life and student activities and welcome them to the University community. The Office of Admissions also implemented a new program to provide surprise gift packs to students during the application process.

“Our Discovery Boxes helped us recreate the excitement of submitting an application and celebrate our applicants,” Gebke explained. “We shipped Discovery Boxes monthly during October, November and December to celebrate early applicants, and students were excited to receive them. They became so popular that students reached out immediately after completing their application to ask when their Discovery Box would arrive.”

As recruitment of the University’s fall 2021 class continues, it appears that these new recruiting strategies are paying off. Many colleges and universities have seen a decrease in applications during the pandemic, but at UHSP, applications are growing.

Total applications for fall 2021 are tracking 9% ahead of applications at the same time last year, and growth among applicants using the Common App, an undergraduate application service that allows students to apply to member institutions, is even more pronounced. Applications submitted through the Common App have increased by 265%, despite Common App’s reported overall application volume only increasing by 11%.

“The University’s commitment to world-class health sciences and pharmacy education paired with its tight-knit community of professionals, researchers and scholars makes the decision to choose UHSP an easy one for many students and their families,” Gebke said. “Students who are unsure of which path to pursue in health care are coming to our institution as a way to explore their options, network and learn in a health care-focused environment.”


Throughout the application and admissions process, the Office of Admissions is here to help you along the way and answer any questions you may have about the enrollment process.

The best way to experience UHSP is by visiting campus!

Join us for an in-person visit or virtual meeting.


This story was first published in the spring 2021 issue of Script Magazine. To view past issues of Script, visit the Script Magazine archive.

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