Recent news has indicated that colleges across the country are looking into new indicators, such as leadership, for admitting high school seniors into their programs.
But at Gannon University, the undergraduate admissions office is taking a different approach to recruiting the students it needs.
Director of Undergraduate Admissions Terry Kizina said that the office is looking at the specific requirements for each academic program when going through applications to the university.
He said that last year Gannon received more than 3,800 applications, and about 81 percent were granted admission. He said that number is typical of most years.
But Kizina said this is just the first step in the process. Of the 81 percent of students accepted to Gannon, he said only about 20 percent choose to come to the university the next fall.
“Each year gets a little more competitive,” Kizina said.
He said some programs – like nursing, occupational therapy and physician assistant – may have a higher percentage of students coming and accepting their offer than maybe business or engineering.
But Kizina also said that some students who apply may not be accepted into their desired major, but are still granted admission to the university.
“Someone may apply to, let’s say, physical therapy, and they don’t meet the admissions requirements, but they do meet them for undecided health science,” he said. “It gets them into that track and lets them prove themselves.”
Kizina said the decision to accept students who do not meet the requirements of their desired major often comes directly from the professors in that program. “That happens with a number of programs – engineering’s that way, health sciences are all that way, education is that way,” he said. “We will forward it to the faculty group to make a decision on that.”
But Kizina said academics isn’t the only subject taken into account once students have been accepted to the university. He said visiting the campus is very important for potential incoming freshmen, because it gives them the chance to make sure it’s the right fit.
“Not only do we want to offer them the best education in the academic portion of their education,” Kizina said, “but we want them to come, to be involved and immerse themselves in the university and take advantage of what’s available.”
Janna Reynolds, a junior English major at Gannon, said her campus visit was a deciding factor for her when she made her choice.
“I visited campus and I thought it was a really nice place,” she said. “The tour guide was really nice whenever we came through.”
Reynolds said Gannon had been her top choice school, but she did apply to one other in the process.
Junior criminal justice major Lauren Chounet, meanwhile, said she ultimately decided on Gannon because her older brother had gone there.
She said she had been recruited by Gannon, but had applied to two other schools.
“I got into all of them,” Chounet said, “but they offered me more money here.”
Zach Flock, assistant director of e-marketing, said that the biggest thing that has changed regarding admissions to the university in recent years is the students themselves.
He said they’re getting more Internet-driven, and so the university has responded by providing as much information as possible online.
One of Flock’s major projects, then, is Edge, an online magazine geared toward prospective students.
He said the concept behind Edge is that it’s authentic material from Gannon students. “It’s still coming through the office of admissions, but it’s an honest evaluation of things on campus from students,” Flock said. “And I think that fits into the overall pool of information that students consider.”
Though Flock said that it’s hard to quantify whether students have made their decision to come to Gannon based solely off of Edge, he said he would be surprised if they did.
“But I think the rationale behind it is the sources of information students use to make their decision has changed,” he said.
Kizina, likewise, said he thinks Edge gets a little more sophisticated in what it does every year. As it’s currently on its third year in production, Edge posts blog-like columns from real Gannon students, telling it like it is.
“We’re not always all serious,” Kizina said. “We like to have fun too, and the students like to have fun, and some of the things the staff has done there really reflect that.”
Aside from Edge, Flock said Gannon has just launched a virtual campus tour on its website, which is also geared toward prospective students.
Flock said the biggest service the virtual tour will offer is for international students, who are often experiencing Gannon for the first time when they start classes in the fall.
Overall, Flock and Kizina expressed that the biggest change in admissions in recent years has been the students.
Kizina said he has noticed that students now are much more demanding than they were 10-15 years ago, in regards to the information they want and how quickly they want it.
“They email you and there’s an expectation that you’re going to get right back to them,” Kizina said. “So that puts additional demands on staff; we want to make sure we do it right.”
Additionally, Flock said, a big change comes in the speed at which students want the information.
“There’s just an expectation that you’re going to have a great website,” he said, “you’re going to have a great tour of your campus online; you’re going to have a strong social media presence.”
This article by Kelly Moreland originally published in The Gannon Knight on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013.