With the record number of applicants the University received this year, the staff at the Admissions Office has been working harder than usual over the last few months. According to Admissions officers, the University’s dramatic rise in applications, despite reversed trends in the majority of other private liberal arts institutions, came as a surprise.
“It’s been busy,” said Tara Lindros, assistant dean of Admissions. “The processing staff who open the mail and enter everything in to the computer have been very busy. And those of us who actually sit down and actually read the applications…you feel that those extra 1800 applications does make an impact on how much more work you have to do to complete them.”
Because of the dismal economy, Lindros said it was hard to predict in the fall what the admissions landscape would look like. Lindros attributes the rise in applicants to a number of factors.
“I think it’s a convergence of a lot of different things, plus a little bit of good luck,” she said. “I think it’s a combination of having a tour model that we think works very well, having a lot of visitors, doing travel to a lot of places in the country, and having somebody like President Obama speak at commencement.”
The admissions office tried to make tour groups smaller this year in order to provide a more personal experience for visitors. In March, a total of 191 tours were given for 2,354 visitors, compared to last year where only 144 tours were given to 2,544 visitors. For the months of February, March, and April, the tour guide to visitor ratio dropped slightly to roughly 1:13. These numbers apply only to regular tours and do not include schools and programs that arrange special tours with the University.
According to Barry Finder ’09, one of the tour program coordinators, tour guides have had more work this year than in the past.
“It has felt far busier this year, but I think that’s just because we’re more prepared,” he said. “As you can tell, we had far more tours this March than last March, which means that we were better staffed.”
WesFest was also, as usual, a big operation. Kora Shin ’09 was one of the WesFest interns this year charged with making sure the weekend ran as smoothly as possible. The interns organized student events, put together information booklets, communicated with prefrosh, and matched prefrosh with student hosts. Shin said that this year’s WesFest, despite a 22 percent increase in applicants, went off without a hitch.
“I think WesFest went well,” she said. “For me, the high point was the student barbeque. It was nice to see the prefrosh enjoying their time here at Wesleyan and it was nice to see all the students having a good time too.”
According to Lindros, a bigger pool of applicants this year did not mean a dilution of talent.
“You could assume that it’s a bigger pool so maybe there are less really great kids in the pool; that it’s more kids in the middle or in the bottom,” Lindros said. “That’s not at all the case; this is a very strong pool of applicants. We were more selective by quite a bit than we were last year and I think those students we did choose are as good if not better than the students we’ve had in the pool in the past.”
Now that the process of screening applications is over, the office is moving on to other tasks—such as convincing accepted students to choose Wesleyan. Lindros and her staff have been calling accepted students and answering any questions they might have.
The office is also dealing with transfer applications, as well as starting to shift its focus toward next year’s class. Lindros is hopeful that the increase in applications this year is a reflection of a genuine increase in interest in the University, though she maintained that nothing is certain.
“I think that we have high hopes that this is something we can sustain,” she said. “But because we can’t put our finger exactly on what caused this to happen this year, it’s hard to say if we can recreate that thing again.”