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SMC increases efforts to meet enrollment goals

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, January 19, 2005

After disappointing admissions numbers in 2004, Saint Mary’s College is back on course this year and close to reaching its recruitment goal of 1,000 applicants. The numbers thus far are consistent with past years but the applicant pool itself is stronger than in 2004, said Mona Bowe, interim director of admissions. SAT and ACT scores have risen compared to those of last year’s applicants.”We already have 700 applicants, and our goal is 1,000,” Bowe said. “But we are well on our way already.”Though admissions officers are waiting for applications from students who will apply to Saint Mary’s regardless of recruiting efforts, Bowe said they are also pursuing students who may not have considered Saint Mary’s one of their top choices.”Probably one of the biggest things we are doing is that we are sending a second application mailing,” said Bowe.Saint Mary’s is sending out 7,000 applications to high school students in the next couple of weeks. The Saint Mary’s marketing department paid for the rights to reproduce a Nov. 1 Chicago Tribune article featuring success story alumnae Diane Aigotti, the treasurer of Aon Corp., which will accompany the applications. Recruitment has always been a concern for the small women’s college. However, the drop in the size of this year’s freshmen class, by about 50 students, has caused even more worry. College President Carol Mooney cited raising the national profile of the college and improving recruiting techniques as some of her goals.The Saint Mary’s admissions office has responded to an ever-changing recruiting arena by making changes to its strategy. One of the most notable is the addition of the Vmag, a virtual online magazine sent to prospective students. Vmag, featured in a New York Times article on college recruiting on Dec. 30, has been sent to accepted students for the past two years. This year, for the first time, it is also available to prospective applicants. Interested students can download Vmag software from the College Web site, automatically giving them access to the first four issues. The magazine includes video clips of the college campus and of current students speaking about their experience at Saint Mary’s.”The cool things about it is that every time you’re online it [the software] will go out automatically and see if there is a new version of the magazine online,” Bowe said. “We are really hoping that some students who might not be already interested in Saint Mary’s might become interested in the school.”Admissions officers also strove to improve Fall Day on Campus, when potential students visit campus, in order to attract women to the College. Traditionally, the day includes campus tours and question and answer sessions guided by current students. Occasionally a coach meets with a prospective athlete to discuss the athletic department. This year Fall Day was expanded to include a real classroom experience. “We worked a lot closer to Dr. Timm and the student affairs division, and with Dr. Pat White,” Bowe said. “We were able to get some of our faculty on campus on a Sunday and to actually teach classes.”The prospective students were sent to one classroom and their parents to another, simulating a normal day on campus, Bowe said.”The Fall Day is really for seniors who are already interested and are looking more at the academics,” Bowe said. “We probably won’t do that for Spring Day because those students are normally sophomores and juniors and it is a little early to put them in a classroom.”Bowe and her colleagues have continued using other methods to try to raise application numbers. The admissions office also issues an “alumnae endorsed” application wherein it mails 18,000 application packets to Saint Mary’s graduates and encourages them to give it to a woman who they believe would be a good fit for the school. “When that application comes in we know they know an alumnae and they have a little more of a perspective of Saint Mary’s,” Bowe said. In recent years current students have also been asked to help and have been “given student endorsed” applications. The application fee for both types of endorsed applications is waived.