RECRUIT STRATEGICALLY TO ATTRACT A DIVERSE RANGE OF PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS WHO ARE GOOD CANDIDATES FOR YOUR PROGRAM.
- RECRUIT STUDENTS WHO COULD ENROLL IN YOUR PROGRAM WITHIN THE NEXT 1 TO 3 YEARS.
- CREATE BROADLY APPEALING MESSAGING THAT WELCOMES ALL STUDENTS.
- IDENTIFY AND PARTNER WITH OTHERS WHO ARE IN A POSITION TO INFLUENCE POTENTIAL MAJORS.
- PAY PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO YOUR DEPARTMENT’S WEBSITE.
- FIND CREATIVE WAYS TO REACH POTENTIAL MAJORS.
- WELCOME STUDENTS WHO ARE NEW TO COMPUTING.
- TREAT INTRODUCTORY COMPUTING COURSES AS OPPORTUNITIES FOR RECRUITING UNDECLARED STUDENTS.
- EMPHASIZE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN COMPUTING AND OTHER FIELDS.
- EXAMINE YOUR ADMISSIONS PROCESS FOR BIAS.
- DEVELOP A RECRUITING STRATEGIC PLAN.
Focus on students already attending your institution who are undeclared or seeking a second major, admitted students who have not yet decided to enroll, community college students who could transfer, or high school students. By contrast, outreach to middle school students should not be viewed as recruiting because the likelihood that those particular students will end up in your program is low, and far in the future.
Emphasize that computing helps people, solves important problems, is collaborative, and overlaps with many fields and interests. Additionally, computing jobs are abundant, well-paying, and available in many industries. Choose images and examples to highlight that a broad range of people belong in computing, and avoid reinforcing negative stereotypes about computing.
On campus, collaborators might include advising, admissions, career services, diversity and inclusion, marketing, student organizations, student ambassadors, departmental staff, faculty in other departments, and anyone else who is — or could be — sharing information about your program. Off campus, cultivate relationships with “influencers,” such as high school teachers and guidance counselors. Consider providing all of these influencers with “talking points” to ensure that messaging about computing and your program is accurate and positive.
Many prospective students will get their first impression of your program through your website. It should be welcoming and informative to someone who may know little about computing or the opportunities it offers. Positive messaging about computing and your program can be embedded throughout the site in text, videos, images, departmental news, a welcome from the department chair, profiles of students, faculty, alumni, and more.
Possibilities for engaging potential majors include social media, promotional “tents” on cafeteria tables, and posters, fliers, or banners around campus. Look for opportunities to make a personal connection; for example, faculty or current students can reach out to accepted students by email, mail, or phone to answer questions and to help them feel welcome.
Women, students of color, and students from less-advantaged backgrounds are more likely to lack prior computing experience. Introductory courses should be supportive of beginning students and prepare them to continue in the program. Consider inviting students to your program with messaging such as, “Beginners Welcome!” and “No Experience Needed!”
Engage students with course content that connects to their interests and use well-structured collaborative learning to promote student confidence and community. Regularly discuss the benefits and breadth of computing careers, and consider inviting guest speakers who can serve as role models. A well-timed comment such as, “Hey, you’re really good at this! Have you considered (taking the next class, majoring, etc.)?” can be very effective.
Subjects such as biology and health sciences tend to attract many women and have natural connections to computing. Consider offering or better publicizing majors, minors, tracks, or courses that combine computing with other fields, and direct recruiting efforts at students who have expressed interest in those fields.
If the qualifications for admitted women are consistently higher than for men, this might indicate that the bar for women is being unintentionally raised. Similarly, if prior computing experience strongly influences admission, underrepresented students may be disproportionately disadvantaged. One institution that has been highly successful in diversifying its program moved to a “holistic admissions” process that prioritizes a student’s ability to do the work, contribute to teams, contribute valuable perspective, and persist through challenges.
Having a plan allows you to identify specific and reasonable goals for recruiting efforts while ensuring that you are targeting students with the right aptitude and interest for your program. Aim for low-cost activities implemented at strategic times, for the right audiences, and in the right venues. Carefully track your results so you can adjust your approach accordingly.
- Workbook: Strategic Planning for Recruiting Women into Undergraduate Computing: High Yield in the Short Term // www.ncwit.org/recruitingworkbook
- NCWIT Tips: 11 Ways to Design More Inclusive Academic Websites // www.ncwit.org/academicwebsites
- Module 3 of NCWIT 101: Introduction to Diversifying Undergraduate Computing Programs // www.ncwit.org/Course1_UGPrograms
- Counselors for Computing // www.ncwit.org/c4c
- Webinar: Increase Women in Computer Science and Engineering Majors: 5 Evidence-based Strategies (A Case Study) // www.ncwit.org/WebinarIncreaseCSMajors