North Central College - Naperville, IL

Sustaining Excellence: Admission

As North Central College took another major step this fall toward the Strategic Plan goal of 2,400 full-time undergraduates, a good place to start the story of admission success is with Ben Fewkes ’13. He came to North Central with 11 peers from Normal (IL) Community High School as a result of hearing the “buzz” about the campus, ongoing contact with admission counselor Ashley Dudich and successful visits. “Last year all my friends were talking about this great college they wanted to go to,” he explains. “We all ended up coming here together.”

In a year when competing institutions were experiencing declining enrollments, North Central welcomed another record-setting class of first-year students—544—along with 266 new transfer students. Add it all up and full-time undergraduates total 2,333, compared to 2,187 last fall.

Strategic decisions about financial aid in a time of recession and rising unemployment, along with the lowest percentage tuition increase in more than three decades, positioned the College to complete a successful recruitment year. But the real key to success was a year-long admission “drill” executed by an experienced staff and supported by every segment of the institution. A record number 1,043 prospective students attended visit day programs last year, up from 786 the year before. Applications jumped from 2,575 to 2,760 for the Class of 2013.

“We do well with students who visit campus,” says Martin Sauer, dean of admission and financial aid. “Our growth in enrollment correlates with more students and parents visiting campus.”

Encouraging a visit is the goal of a series of mailings to high school prospects that begins as early as their sophomore year. Face-to-face recruiting continues to be an important part of the recruiting mix. Campus visit days are carefully orchestrated by the admission team, including Martha Stolze, director of freshman admission, and Stephen Mueller, director of transfer admission.

During visit days, prospects interact with faculty and learn about co-curricular activities. They meet coaches, attend classes and watch performing arts rehearsals. Campus tours show off facilities, from Kiekhofer Hall on the north end to the Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center and the new Residence Hall/Recreation Center on the south end.

More than 85 percent of first-year applications arrived electronically last year. Among the financial challenges were 47 more requests for financial aid and 16 additional Presidential Scholars, reflecting the economy’s impact on college decisions. Also challenging during 2008-2009 was the switch to requiring nonrefundable tuition deposits. In the past, high school seniors could reserve a spot but then request a refund if they chose a different school.

“In January, we had 31 deposits versus 207 the year before,” says Sauer. “But the advantage is that it allows our staff to focus on the students who haven’t made a firm decision yet.” The goal was to reach “500 deposits by the Indy 500.” They did it—and then some!

Annual Report 2009