Admissions Push: After May 1

A lot of colleges don't care about the deadlines but work to attract the right student.

July 15, 2019
Class at Frostburg State

This is the time of year when colleges boast about their new students. You know the stories: the perfect grade point averages, the SAT or ACT scores to make one jealous, and the service projects that make the admissions office swoon.

What to do? Admit students as you can. But then talk about the problems. These days, the students who are perfect to admissions deans can be awfully hard to enroll. Many of them lack the money (or money they can use) to pay for college, at private institutions or at public institutions outside their state. So admissions deans must think about what they will be doing now to retain those students.

But this is a very different time of year for colleges that do not have the national brand names to attract students.

For such colleges, this isn't a time of boasting but of realistic pitches.

Take Cazenovia College, less than a hour's drive from Syracuse, N.Y., which currently is looking for students for its incoming class. According to Kristen Bowers, associate dean of admissions at the college, that's not cause for concern.

Cazenovia is a four-year private college that admits between 70 and 80 percent of those who apply. For colleges like Cazenovia, this means telling reporters and others not to pay too much attention to the roughly 2,500 students who apply each year. Most of them are admitted but won't attend.

"Our admissions staff is small," Bowers says. "It's about fit. We have students who are in the top of their class. But we have students who aren't. And for those students, we are looking for fit and their potential to succeed."

Even though Cazenovia admits most of the students who apply, Bowers said it's important to talk about why students can't get in. In Cazenovia's case, these are students who might succeed but haven't demonstrated academic success. Each one of them, Bowers said, gets an invitation to a local community college, where they will have the potential to succeed. Those that do will be invited back.

For these colleges, there are milestones along the way.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling releases a report every year with colleges that have openings after May 1. This year's total was more than 400.

Arlene Cash, vice president for enrollment management at Frostburg State University, in Maryland, said that students want a bargain if they are looking now.

"We're still getting applications now," she said. "We're still working it."

Frostburg State is increasingly facing pressure to stand up for its region (western Maryland). And many of those colleges that continue to recruit students after May 1 are rural, at least compared to the institutions overflowing with students.

Now, the university is three short of the 775 it was supposed to enroll in the fall -- and the university feels real pressure to be at the desired total. And the goal isn't three alone -- the college will inevitably lose some students to other institutions.

"For the rest of us, May 1 is for the wishers," Cash said.


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