As the spring 2011 semester draws to a close, the work has only just begun for New College’s Office of Admissions. With not only recruitment needs to be met but retention rates to be upheld as well, the end of one school year is only the beginning of more work for all involved in admissions.
According to Sonia Wu, the Associate Dean of Enrollment Services, in comparison to this time last year, the number of students who have declared an intent to enroll at New College has actually increased by 50 percent. “But we’re talking such tiny numbers [only 22 people…] that we can never just get comfortable,” Wu explained. “It’s also complicated by the fact that we may be looking for a different number from year to year and then the projection [of the number of new students] may change for how many people will come back the following year.”
The past few years have shown that New College has a first year retention rate of about 84 percent. The graduation rate of first time, full time students is 46 percent within four years of schooling and 60 percent within six years. According to Wu, this is on par with universities and colleges throughout the nation.
Although new admissions and retention rates are not necessarily seen as important information to the confident Novocollegian, they can definitely affect Resident Life in unforeseen ways. As Associate Director of Student Affairs Donita Pace mentioned in March’s Towne Meeting, the number of incoming first-years can skew housing numbers greatly. New College first aims to fill up rooms and only then can it decide the number of students who can live off-campus for the next school year.
“[New College] requires students to live on-campus all four years,” Wu explained. “Then, Student Affairs and Housing decide, of students who want to live off-campus, who can. But we’re admitting students and people should expect to live on campus. If there’s the opportunity for them to live off-campus, who gets to is decided by Student Affairs. But people should expect to live on campus. It’s a residential college — that’s the purpose of being a residential college. It’s an expectation that people will live on campus.”
One issue that the Admissions Office has been facing as of late is an increase in the number of interested high school and transfer students, from just over 10,500 in 2007 to over 12,500 in 2010. The Admissions Office now must give attention to this greater number of interested students, spreading the already small staff even thinner — especially considering the number of completed applications has remained between 1,000 and 1,600 over the years. New College admits, on average, 60 percent of applicants, and of that number the percent of students who accept admission dropped significantly from 2007 when it was 34 percent, to 2010 where it was 24 percent.
“Another challenge for us is [the] budget,” Wu mentioned. “Especially at a small school, where we really have to pick and choose which high schools and college fairs we can visit. We don’t have a staff of road runners, who are hired by larger universities just to go on the road and visit schools and fairs … One of the heavy responsibilities [of New College admissions staffers] is just staffing the office so that we’re here to help visitors, because we feel like that’s one of our best ways of getting across what’s special about the college.”
Due to their often less than ideal financial means, the Admissions Office depends a lot on current student involvement in the recruitment of possible students, Wu said.
“As students, if you can let us know if you’re doing something interesting that maybe prospective students would like to hear about, pictures and stuff that we can share and put on the web, stories that we can tell, things like that,” she noted. “Then after you graduate, more of the same, what have you gone on to do, how has your New College experience served you well, something to help illustrate what the college is about […] It really helps make the college come alive for prospective students and their families.”