By Emma Stenzel
The transition from summer to fall is busy for everyone at Saint Mary’s University. Students, professors, staff and faculty must all adapt to the demands of the new school year. The season can be hectic; just ask SMU’s Office of Admission. With fall come many prospective students hoping to learn more about SMU during on-site visits and campus tours. This season has proven to be one of the busiest yet.
Brandi DeFries, director for admission, said that fall is the most popular time of year for high school students to visit colleges, as students hope to narrow their options early in the school year, allowing enough time to plan for college.
She said that October and November are particularly busy, as the weather is still pleasant enough to enjoy a campus tour. Winona’s scenic bluffs and rivers make the season especially enjoyable for fall visitors, said DeFries.
“Every time I came to visit…I couldn't get over how beautiful the campus was, especially in the fall,” said freshman Grace Zachman. “That was one of the main reasons why I first applied.”
Aside from college visits, DeFries said that admission counselors themselves are constantly traveling during the fall season, attending multiple college fairs and making high school visits. Staff members also spend a lot of time calling prospective students to talk to them about SMU and e-recruiting, which involves contacting students by using social media networks, iPads and other new communication technology.
As if fall weren’t busy enough, two of the most important weeks for college visits occur during October. Education Wisconsin (EW) and Education Minnesota (EM) fall breaks annually attract a large number of potential students to visit college campuses, since students do not have school during these weeks.
Aubrey Hollnagel, visit coordinator, said around 50 students were scheduled each day to visit SMU during this year’s EM, a contrast to the five to ten planned visits on other Thursdays and Fridays.
Even though more students visit campus during the fall, the Office of Admission ensures that each visitor still receives the personal attention they deserves. DeFries said that SMU avoids group visits so that the admission staff can best accommodate each individual’s needs. Students are able to meet with professors and coaches, sit in during a class and stay overnight in a campus dormitory.
“It is the entire university that affects the visit most,” said Hollnagel. Students should “say hi and make the visitor feel welcome.”
If it is any indication of the effectiveness of SMU’s Office of Admission, enrollment increased by five percent with this year’s freshman class, said DeFries. Though DeFries views the growing student body as a positive sign, especially in today’s unsteady economic conditions, she said the school still does not want to become too big. SMU hopes to enhance its academic profile while maintaining its small class sizes, low student-to-teacher ratio and the ability to give individual attention to every student.
Though the Office of Admission is largely responsible for recruiting new students, DeFries and Hollnagel agree that the values of the SMU community are oftentimes the ultimate deciding factor for the students. Hollnagel said that the campus itself is the school’s greatest advocate.
“It is important that everyone leaves here feeling they could fit in and belong here,” Hollnagel said.