By Abby Weingarten
When the campus was evacuated in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff in the Office of Enrollment Management at New College had endless questions:
What would happen after the spring 2020 semester? Would students, faced with growing uncertainty, take gap years? Would they commit to making deposits?
The answers turned out to be surprisingly upbeat, all things considered. In fact, New College’s numbers actually exceeded those from 2019.
The College has received 203 deposits from incoming first-year and transfer students, compared to a final count of 174 from the previous year. The graduate program is welcoming its largest class this fall with 18 new students, up from 14 in 2019.
“We are now ahead of last year, which is an extraordinary achievement given the pandemic,” New College President Donal O’Shea said.
There will be 38 transfer students entering this fall, compared to 27 at this time last year.
“I think colleges everywhere were just expecting this to be a crazy year,” said Sonia Wu, New College’s interim dean of enrollment management. “But then our numbers went up. The transfer numbers this year have been pretty spectacular, too. We’re higher in transfer students than we were for the past two years.”
Unlike in previous years, when students could only apply to New College through the Common Application, students can now use New College’s online application. Application fees have been waived and essays are optional, making the process easier for both students and staff. It also freed up more time for staff to focus on building relationships with students throughout the enrollment process.
During the summer, the staff stayed in touch with all interested students, reminding them via mail and email campaigns to turn in their transcripts, scores and financial aid verification forms. The Office of Communications & Marketing (OCM) crafted friendly email messages that reassured students about the pandemic-related uncertainty and gently nudged them to complete their to-do lists. The OCM staff also created new web pages that appealed to admitted and deposited students.
“The new voice that came through in the email/mail messages and the webpages was so major in changing the tone of the interaction we had with students during the pandemic,” Wu said. “It was much more personal than in the past, and so we were able to communicate to students that New College is such a cool place. The response was huge.”
The graduate program also adopted new tactics to attract more students, including a rolling application review strategy, opening the application process earlier and recruiting more international students. Because New College began accepting applications in January, many graduate students committed before the pandemic significantly hit America.
“Instead of waiting until May or June, we started in January to attract good applicants and give them scholarships,” said Tiffany Washington, New College’s manager of graduate and international enrollment. “I think, if we waited until the last moment, we would be really in trouble because of all the uncertainty with COVID-19.”
To read New College’s full reopening plan, visit ncf.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/New-College-Plan-to-Reopen.pdf.
To learn more about how New College is preparing for the future, visit ncf.edu/academics/new-can.
To see how the College has adapted to remote learning, visit ncf.edu/thrive.
Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.