Colleges compete to recruit the best and the brightest

By Shannon Smith

Student competition for acceptance in the nation’s universities is fierce. However, few people realize that these same colleges also face competition from one another, vying to attract the best and brightest students to their school.

Students often realize the incentive of being accepted into a university when they see how that school treats its freshmen.

Anne Sjostrom, Duke University’s associate admissions director, said Duke freshmen were given iPods – a $299 market value – shortly after they arrived on campus. These types of incentives can attract more prospective students.

Associate provost and University professor Ruth Watkins said the excellence of the University’s students suggests that recruiting events are valuable and effective.

She said the University is serious about its recruiting efforts.

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“The U of I has a multifaceted recruitment plan that includes visits to schools, information sessions for high school counselors, targeted mailings and web- based communications and special recruitment events,” Watkins said.

However, the University is not the only institution racing to recruit students. Other Big 10 schools, such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison (U of W-M) work hard to recruit both in-state and out-of-state students. Toua Thao, an admissions adviser on the campus, said U of W-M makes an effort to contact students, “especially those in the top 10 percent of their class.”

Sjostrom said recruiting helps no matter how big the school’s name may be. Duke, which is in the Atlantic Coast Conference, visits high schools worldwide on a regular basis.

A number of schools depend on their status to recruit students.

“The U of I has an excellent engineering program. It has a reputation and is academically known throughout the world,” said Oriqilang Wuliji, a University freshman in engineering. “If it wasn’t for the reputation, I wouldn’t have come here,” he added.

A school’s academic excellence is not always the deciding factor for students. During her senior year, Miami University-Ohio freshman Courtney Morris attended an overnight and open house at the university, where she said she enjoyed the atmosphere.

“The campus had a good feel. I just knew it was right,” she said.

Private universities put more emphasis on recruiting because their schools are often smaller and more expensive. Rodney San Jose, Bradley University’s admissions director, stressed the importance of getting the school’s name out.

He said Bradley practices early intervention, running up to 50 sessions on campus during the summer alone to introduce high school students to the university. San Jose said one of the university’s biggest selling points is relaying the “value of a private university.”

Charlotte Miles, freshman in applied life studies, said she actually considered Bradley University as a potential option. Miles said she initially heard about the school through mailings. A high school visit from one of Bradley’s representatives “put a name with the face.”

“Meeting someone in person was really nice,” Miles said. “It felt closer than just the paper ads.”

Private universities often tender extra incentives to potential students. Washington College, a school located in Chestertown, Md., presents one example. According to the college’s Web site, the school “offers $40,000 tuition scholarships ($10,000 annually for four years) to all admitted applicants who are National Honor Society members.”

Scholarships such as these often play an important role at private universities. Because private institutions receive less state funding, they tend to cost more. Washington College, for example, costs about $34,750 annually.

But school officials said it is important to remember during the recruitment process that students must fit in at whatever university they choose.

“(College) is not a hard sell, as in buying a product,” said Chuck May, associate admissions director at the University of Missouri-Columbia, a Big 12 School.

“If a student were looking to go into criminal justice, for example, Missouri would not be the place for them, because we do not have a criminal justice program,” he said.

Because of competition between institutions, schools stress the importance of available scholarships. The University of Missouri-Columbia offers scholarships such as the Mark Twain Non-resident Scholarship to out-of-state students. This scholarship waivers upward of $4,400 to $5,500 of student tuition annually, depending on that student’s GPA and ACT scores. In addition, students are automatically considered for the scholarship once they are admitted.

Schools also often waiver fees for students of alumni, as well as National Merit Scholar Finalists.

Wuliji, who is from Edmond, Okla., suggested that the University put a larger emphasis on recruiting out-of-state students. He said he only received a brochure from the University when he was looking at universities, so he had to conduct most of his own research.

“After I was accepted, then they encouraged me to visit,” Wuliji said.

Watkins said the University is trying several innovative activities this year including more receptions for students and parents, as well as more on campus visits.

“The University is using a variety of creative efforts and trying to be more personal,” she said.