As the start of the new academic year approached, colleges began to worry: How will the pandemic affect our enrollment?
For Northwestern, enrollment numbers have not been a problem. In fact, NW has seen another record-breaking year.
This fall NW boasts a mighty 1,546 students, up 9% from last year’s 1,412. On top of a record-breaking enrollment, the number of graduate students also rose from 351 to 461, thanks to a new physician assistant program and record-breaking enrollment in the master of education program.
How? Some speculate it’s the abrupt change students saw this spring with their education and the longing to return to normalcy.
Tamara Fynaardt, vice president for enrollment and marketing, said, “We’re finding that due to their COVID-impacted education experiences last spring, undergraduates are more eager than ever for the highly personal classroom and campus life experience Northwestern offers.”
The enrollment team’s reliance on the NW Network has increased due to virtual fairs and cancelled test dates. In fact, the team is beginning to rely on NW students.
“Through the month of September, the NW Network is giving students a coupon for free cheese balls at the Hub if they share names of high school students who would be a good fit for Raider Nation,” Fynaardt said. “And if any of those names are new to us, then students will get a free smoothie coupon for every new name.”
NW students can bring names of prospective students to Kristin Rucks in the Compass Center for Career and Calling.
Criteria for enrollment has also changed for fall 2021. For the upcoming year, NW will waive the once required standardized test score. Enrollment will be based solely on GPA, as will academic scholarships provided by NW.
Prospective students will have the option to report a score, but it is not required.
Admissions counselors also had to change the recruitment process and how they connected with prospective students amid the pandemic.
On March 13, NW announced the move to online classes, resulting in cancelled RED101 days and individual visits for high school juniors. Virtual visits became the reality, as admissions counselors soon learned how to make the NW community as vivid on screen as it is in reality.
Sarah Pemberton, admissions counselor and ’17 alum, says counselors are continuing to look into different virtual options: state specific group virtual dates, one general virtual visit page and department specific Zoom meetings.
As of June 8, guests were welcomed back to campus with new safeguards.
“Guests are required to follow campus policies just as the students are,” Pemberton said. “Wearing masks while inside and meeting with professors and staff.”
Now that the academic year has commenced, NW has begun their recruitment for the coming fall. However, as college fairs are still virtual and COVID policies differ from school to school, a counselor’s job has taken on a new form. Most admissions counselors should be getting ready for a busy travel season of visiting high schools, but this year will contain more office time.
In place of travel, counselors are forging new communication paths that include reaching out to churches and youth groups, partnering virtual visits with guidance counselors and a texting app for interpersonal communication.
Despite the various changes, Pemberton remains hopeful amid this new season of recruitment.
“Being on campus during the fall will allow the admissions counselors to make more contact with the students that are visiting and hopefully that leads to better connections with students even after they leave campus,” Pemberton said.
If any NW students enjoy free food and know high school students who would be a good fit at NW, they can be referred on our website: nwciowa.edu/admissions/refer-a-student.