1,497—that’s the total number of traditional undergraduate students at AU this fall. Although overall enrollment is slightly down since last year, the class of 2020 is one of the biggest classes to come through AU in past years.
That number, accompanied with a 77 percent retention rate for the freshman class, means the Admissions Department and the Enrollment & Marketing team have a good reason to celebrate.
“The increase in the fall class is attributable to plain old hard work on the part of our admissions staff,” said Rebecca Fuller Beeler, vice president of enrollment and marketing. “We have a new admissions director, new members of our leadership team and almost all new admissions counselors. They, combined with more seasoned members of the admissions team, put in a lot of time and energy into building relationships with prospective students, continuing to recruit students all summer and making sure that the students who were good fits with AU found their way here.”
Kynan Simison took over as the director of admissions in the spring and began evaluating different admissions processes and looked to improve in each area.
“With close to 15 years of admissions experience before coming to AU, I had a lot of ideas and best practices that worked well for me in the past,” she said. “Some were easy to implement and others we had to tweak along the way.”
Once the summer hit, admissions and marketing had a lot of work to do to prepare for the upcoming year and connecting with students who were still deciding on colleges late in the game. The admissions department looked to improve on their procedures and experienced a large turnover with admissions counselors in June. A new communication and marketing structure was enacted, which focused on being strategic in establishing partnerships amongst other universities and companies.
“The bottom line is that with all the changes and turnover, this group shouldn’t have succeeded. And, none of us would have faulted them for that given the circumstances. The fact that they did succeed is a testament to their hard work, dedication, and long hours,” Beeler added.
The admissions department remained cautiously optimistic when looking toward the upcoming year. A lot can happen during the admission cycle and the newly assembled team was still working to get in their groove. With countless hours and a new vision, the teamwork proved successful.
The biggest change in the admission process was focusing more on individualized tours rather than large group visits. “We know that if students come and visit campus, see this beautiful place, experience our culture and the friendliness of everyone here, a lot of times they will quickly decide if they can see themselves here,” Beeler said.
Large group Discovery Days have been cut in half since last year, but there has been a vast rise in individual tours. The admissions team has gone the extra mile by working to tailor tours for the prospective students. Prospective students have the opportunity to decide which campus highlights they see on their tour based on their personal interests and needs.
“They have limited time and often are visiting multiple schools a day. So we want them leaving with seeing what’s important to them, not just the cookie-cutter AU tour,” added Simison. This new process was the result of student surveys, new student feedback, and the advice of a consulting firm hired by the admissions department.
However, the job isn’t over once students leave campus. “We also have a very detailed follow-up plan. Our counselors contact the students again after the visit and answer more questions,” Simison added. “We are paying a lot more attention to our visits this year, monitoring them and looking to improve.”
With the newly hired admissions counselors settling into their roles and lots of new practices in place, there is optimism for the future of AU Admissions like never before.
“I don’t anticipate a huge increase for next year’s class because we have to set realistic expectations and continue to strive for the best possible experience for our prospective students,” said Simison. “Regardless of if they chose AU or not, we want them to leave feeling wowed.”
From the time prospective students meet the admissions counselors on the road to when they come to visit, the Admissions Department is striving to make every moment count. The process is filled with lots of people and roles. Between Simison, Beeler, the Admissions Counselors, student CREW members, tour leaders, and many more, there is a large amount of people working tirelessly to bring people to AU; and it’s starting to make a difference.