On Wednesday, the National Association for College Admission Counseling released its annual “Space Availability Survey,” listing the colleges and universities that still have openings for this fall’s first-year class. As we move past May 1, the traditional deadline for students to submit enrollment deposits, the survey is a good reminder that the admissions calendar isn’t the same at every college.
At some institutions, May 1 has an air of finality, a ring of importance, and an almost mystical significance. At others, not so much.
Just ask Tammie Durham, director of enrollment services at Pennsylvania State University at Schuylkill. As usual, she expects to continue recruiting and evaluating applicants throughout the summer, even as she turns her attention to high-school juniors.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ms. Durham said that about half her staff was on the road, recruiting prospects for 2011. The other half of her staff was on the campus, working on yield strategies for this fall’s first-year students.
“At any given minute or hour or day, we’re working with prospects in two different pools,” she said.
Ms. Durham expects to enroll a class of 460 new students this fall. So far, Schuylkill is about two-thirds of the way to that goal, about the same as this time last year. To enroll the remaining third, Ms. Durham and her staff will continue to reach out to admitted applicants in various ways. With e-mail messages. With letters from faculty members. With telephone calls from current students.
Schuylkill’s enrollment calendar reflects the needs of the applicants in its community. For one thing, the university serves many first-generation students, who often require a lot of help navigating the application process. Recently, Schuylkill has seen an increase in adult students, whose timeline for applying to college often does not conform to the traditional admissions timeline.
And the campus is becoming more diverse. On Tuesday, Ms. Durham attended a meeting about the forthcoming arrival of first-year students from India. She and her colleagues discussed many questions. Would the campus dining options be sufficient for the students? Were the right faculty advisers and community contacts in place? What would the students do during academic breaks?
“The idea of being done on May 1 and being able to concentrate on next year’s class is very attractive,” Ms. Durham says. “But the work we do during the summer is extremely rewarding. We often take someone who comes to us with a lot more baggage, and that takes a lot more work. But then you get to watch them graduate.”
Three time zones away, Bob Wilms, senior associate director of admissions at Menlo College, in Calif., had just returned from a recruiting trip, during which he spoke to high-school juniors. But on Tuesday, he had to tackle a stack of files containing applications for this fall’s class. Later, he planned to call and congratulate several applicants who had just committed to the college.
Mr. Wilms hopes to enroll a first-year class of 292 this fall. He guesses that the number will be closer to 250. So far, the college had deposits from about half that number, and transfer students will very likely help the college close the gap.
So, too, will international students. Each year, the college sees a late surge in applications from foreign students, especially those from Asia. On Tuesday, Mr. Wilms received a half-dozen overseas applications, which he would have to process quickly so that admitted students would have enough time to secure their visas.
Mr. Wilms hopes there comes a day when the college can have its class set by June 1. After all, summers require intense planning at Menlo: the college has just three full-time admissions staff members, who must balance travel to college fairs with the demands of down-to-the-wire recruitment, such as making time to meet with admitted students who visit the campus.
When will this year’s recruitment process finally end? “We don’t wrap it up until the first week of September,” he said.