Using Technology to Help Recruit the Next Generation of College Students

CollegeWeekLive allows UC Riverside to reach out to prospective students around the world

UC Riverside Admissions Counselors Malcolm Manuel and Elizabeth Lopez. Photo by Ross French

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (  — A high school student pops into the room to speak to  University of California, Riverside Undergraduate Admissions Counselor Malcolm Manuel about attending UCR. She tells him about her classes, GPA and SAT scores, then asks questions about majors, financial aid, and whether or not UCR is a “party school.” After a few minutes she disappears from the room and another student takes her place, beginning the process again.

But these conversations are entirely virtual, taking place within UCR’s online chat room on CollegeWeekLive (CWL), a free service for prospective students that provides around-the-clock access to brochures, videos and other information from schools as well as the ability to interact with admissions counselors through chat rooms and video chats.

CWL is beneficial both for prospective students, made up of Web-savvy teens who prefer to get their information online, and the university, which has an easy way to reach out and communicate with them.

“CollegeWeekLive allows us to reach students around the state, the nation and the world, some of whom we might have been able to talk to as easily before we joined CWL,” said Robert Penman, marketing and communications manager for Undergraduate Admissions. “We get a better feel for the students and what they are really interested in.”


A screenshot of UC Riverside’s College Week Live portal page.

What’s more, statistics show that CollegeWeekLive provides the university with a higher-quality applicant pool.

“Students who visit us on CollegeWeekLive and apply to UC Riverside, on average, have higher GPAs and are admitted at higher rates than the rest of our applicant pool,” Penman said.

Prospective UC students may begin submitting their University of California applications on November 1, but most spend weeks or months researching prospective schools, searching for the right combination of location, size and educational experience. September, October and the first weeks of November are a critical decision time for these students, and it is a time when UCR’s CWL portal is the most active.

Manuel, who himself graduated from UCR in 1999 before going to work in the UCR Admissions Office, said that staffing the online booth is similar to a regular college fair, though it can be more challenging.

“The questions just keep firing,” he said of the virtual event. “At a college fair, people will come to your table stop and listen, and everyone is listening at the same time. In a virtual environment, they are much more focused on having you answer their question. So you will get a question about GPA or SAT scores, and moments later somebody else will ask you the same thing again.”

One question that counselors frequently hear is “Will I be able to get into UC Riverside?” But it is a question that UCR admissions counselors aren’t able to answer.

“Students will tell you about the courses they have taken, their AP and honors courses, their GPA and their SAT score, then they’ll ask if they can get in,” said counselor Elizabeth Lopez, herself a 2010 graduate from UCR. “Admission to UCR doesn’t work like that. Our goal as counselors is to provide students with the information and resources they need to be best prepared to gain admission to our campus.”

In addition to the chat sessions, counselors also provide video presentations on topics such as campus life and writing the personal statement. Both Lopez and Manuel agreed that the online presentations can be daunting, as they are made to a camera on a computer rather than to a room of students.

“The video chat can be a bit awkward,” Lopez said. “They can see me, but I can’t see them. You have to remember to look into the camera, make sure you are paying attention to them, stay focused and field the questions that are coming at you.”

UCR participated in three major events during the month of October that introduced hundreds of prospective students to the campus. On the University of California System Day on October 4, a total of 859 students visited the UCR site as part of about 10,000 students who participated in the virtual event. A week later, on October 11, another 304 students visited as part of the Univision Virtual College fair. Finally, on October 17, about 500 students visited during a featured “UCR Day.” By comparison, UCR’s now-discontinued “Preview Day” would see about 300 prospective students visiting the campus.

A fourth event is scheduled for November 15 from 4 to 10 p.m., giving prospective students a last chance to get their questions answered.

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