5 great Higher Education socially distanced Halloween campaigns and events

This Halloween presented a scarier challenge for universities than in previous years as students and faculty were forced to navigate the celebrations whilst ensuring local safety measures remained in place during the pandemic. 

Despite the restrictions, there were a number of institutions that managed to use the spooky season to create a feeling of connectedness amongst the student body. 

In this five minute read, we cover the spooky events, creepy competitions and scary social posts that universites used to create a sense of community this Halloween, and we’re giving you five examples that can be repurposed for future seasonal events and student celebrations. 

#1 Virtual events that surprise and delight

WIth many students prohibited from attending events in person, creating virtual experiences can be the next best thing in providing an immersive way for students to enjoy the festive fun. 

Halloween at Vanderbilt Web Banner

This Halloween, Vanderbilt University partnerened with Neon Entertainment to offer students the chance to attend a virtual Murder Mystery. Participants joining the Zoom experience were able to interact with live suspects and have a go at solving a crime in real-time. This concept could easily be recreated around a different seasonal theme such as finding who stole eggs from the Easter Bunny, catching Santa Clause’s kidnapper in the run up to Christmas or stopping a jilted lover from enacting their revenge on Valentine's Day. 

A night to dismember

If your University has a drama department or club, you might consider getting them involved to host and add another element of community to an immersive event. Offering prizes for those who can solve the mystery would be another way to make the action more thrilling for participants. 

#2 Quizzing that helps cultivate a competitive spirit on campus 

As a quick and simple source of interactive, online entertainment, quizzes continue to be a popular choice for universities during the pandemic. The University of Reading was just one of the institutions using the quiz format to great effect on their social channels this Halloween, offering not just quick-fire quiz questions but also the opportunity for students to find out about the history behind the celebrations from one of the University’s professors.

University of Reading Quiz

Quizzes are a great way to create digital content that students can engage with, bringing out a sense of competitive spirit that is a big part of the University bonding experience. Institutions looking to keep the quiz format fresh might consider enlisting students, faculty or even local community experts to host the quiz around different seasonal events and offer relevant seasonal prizes. 

Making quizzes a regular weekly or monthly event, keeping leaderboards, offering a trophy and posting pictures of winning quiz teams on social channels are all ways universities can engage students in competition and make the most of the socially-distanced fun.  

#3 A showcase for fancy dress fun and creative expression

Dressing up in creative, comedic and crazy costumes at every opportunity is a big part of university life and, just because students aren’t able to showcase their outlandish outfits in person, doesn’t mean this staple of student life has to stay in the cupboard. 

Full Sail's University Horror Halloween

Full Sail University was just one of many institutions encouraging students to share their inventive outfits this Halloween, hosting a virtual Comedy of Horrors Halloween Party. The virtual party is another format that can easily be ‘dressed-up’ differently depending on the occasion. Virtual DJ sessions, games and prizes for those voted the evening’s best dressed can all help to make events a success.  

#4 Keep it creative with seasonal crafts

Another great Halloween trick that was a treat for students at Full Sail University was sharing pumpkin carving tips via their social channels. Whilst not all holiday celebrations centre around carving up seasonal produce, most offer an opportunity to get creative and craft or bake items that are synonymous with the season or calendar event. 

Full sail pumpkin carving

Universities wanting to go a step beyond sharing on social channels could consider hosting virtual ‘crafternoons’, taking participants through simple guides to create things like festive decorations, easter sweet treats or Valentine’s cards and add an element of competition by offering prizes to those voted the best. 

#5 Give your site a seasonal face-lift 

Sometimes the simplest ideas can deliver great results - like the Halloween makeover Vassar University gave to its website which saw usually blank web page backgrounds replaced with haunting scenes, and the Vassar logo altered to flash with lightning. Make sure you also check out their takeovers from prevous years. The university also updated its website copy to invite prospective students to choose from the University’s ‘Dastardly departments’ and ‘Mystifying Majors’ and described the faculty as a ‘truly distinguished coven of witches and warlocks, spirits and sorcerers’.  Also check out their Halloween University Zoom backgrounds!

Varrar Animated Gif

In the spirit of the season, universities can consider having a little fun with the theme - creating a sense of community by setting up a shared joke or showcasing something that would be out of the ordinary on any other day of the year. This could be as simple as a playful microsite or social channel take-over or something a bit more involved, such as having staff present virtual classes dressed in seasonal outfits. 

All the above tactics can be tailored for campaigns across the year, whether it be the colourful celebration of Diwali, the romantic festivities of Valentine’s Day or simply the start of a new year or season - every calendar event brings a chance for creating a community-feel on and off campus.

If we missed any good examples please let us know. Remember to check out some of the amazing campaigns run in previous, more normal, years:

  • Great idea: Vassar College’s spooky Halloween homepage takeover (2014)
  • 4 of our all-time favorite Higher-Ed Halloween Trick or Tweets  (2016)
  • Higher Ed Halloween 2017: Trick and tweets roundup (2017)
  • Monsters University - The best Halloween 2018 Higher Ed hauntings (2018)
  • A Spooktacular Halloween Campaigns Retrospective (2019)