Posted by Julia Leef
April is one of the busiest months of the year for admissions. Between tours, open houses and Accepted Candidates Days, admissions is kept busy with a stream of incoming prospective students. Monday, April 18, marked the last of the three Accepted Candidates Days this month, as students and their families attended a series of events mainly hosted at the Arthur Zankel Music Center to learn more about the college.
Families arrived as early as 7:45 a.m. for registration at the Janet Kinghorn Bernhard Theater, and many then opted for one of the 8 a.m. tours, focused on the science facilities, the arts facilities or the campus in general. After being officially welcomed to the college, accepted students listened to Beau Breslin, assistant dean of the faculty and director of the First-Year Experience, and to a panel of students organized by Rochelle Calhoun, dean of student affairs, who talked about their experiences at the college. The candidates and their families were also taken to Williamson Sports Center where they met with faculty representatives from all of the academic and athletic departments for a 45-minute session. Families were also given the opportunity to sign up for financial aid appointments throughout the day.
After the 1:30 p.m. tours, which included bus tours of Saratoga Springs, the day ended with a closing reception at the Porter Plaza, where a jazz group entertained families. On the previous Accepted Candidates Days, which took place on April 8 and 15, the day culminated with The Accents and the Treble Makers, respectively.
Christina Sanyour, an early decision II student from Summit, New Jersey, said that she was attracted to the wide variety of programs she could participate in on and off campus. "Being here today made me realize even more things I could do," she said, adding that she really liked the idea that "Creative Thought Matters." Robert Miller, from Wellesley, Massachusetts, had an uncle who attended the college, and is interested in the liberal arts programs offered. He added that it was a nice day when he last visited and that he enjoyed seeing students outside on the green.
According to Mary Lou Bates, dean of admissions and financial aid, a total of 209 people came to the final Accepted Candidates Day on Monday, bringing the total from the month up to 540, which is slightly less than last year's total of 580. Prior to the construction of the Arthur Zankel Music Center, the college hosted four Accepted Candidates Days because of the large number of candidates and limited amount of space. This involved a day that was only for early decision students in late March.
Bates says that she has received positive feedback from families, whom she says are impressed by the how organized and efficient the events were. "One of the ways we gauge how successful the day was is the number of people who come out of the bookstore with big bags," Bates joked, referring to the people who bought items, such as college sweatshirts, from the SkidShop.
John Murphy, from North Andover, Massachusetts, said that it was the best accepted students day he had been to, and that he thoroughly enjoyed hearing students talk about their experiences at Skidmore. "The students that I see walking around seem like people I could relate to," he said. John is also interested in the new Arthur Zankel music building and is considering minoring in the music department.
On Thursday, April 21, the campus hosted an open house for high school sophomores and juniors. After an optional 8 a.m. tour of the campus, high school students registered at 9 a.m. and attended a student panel and an information session on applying to Skidmore. Several other tours were available throughout the day.
This open house provides high school students with enough information to see if Skidmore College would be a good match for them, Bates said. And it brings in a wide variety of people every year. "We see students from literally all over the world," she said.
There are six open house days during the spring semester, three of which occur on April 6, 12 and 21. An estimated 620 people attended the open house on Thursday, by far the largest attendance of the year (the second highest was in March, which through two open houses attracted 130 people). Since the open houses occur relatively early in a high school student's college search, they can really affect the student's perception of the college, Bates said. Those who come away with a positive impression of the college may even apply early decision.
In addition to these two events, the college also uses two programs to contact the families of potential students, Parent-to-Parent, in which parents of current students talk to those of prospective ones, and alumni volunteers who talk to accepted students. These programs both occur during the month of April.
The college employs other methods to attract potential students. Peter MacDonald, director of Recruitment Communications, works closely with admissions from a communications and marketing perspective. This working relationship was a recent change made within the past two months. "It's a sign that the administration is taking our efforts seriously in terms of outreach," MacDonald said, "and in terms of making sure we do the best that we can in getting the word out and increasing our yield."
Most external attention comes from the college website, referred to by MacDonald as "the centerpiece of admissions recruitment." Other attractions come from social media offshoots such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, as well as e-mails, which are sent to accepted and high school students, and a number of brochures. The college also uses websites such as cappex.com that help students with their college search. "There are so many ways for students to get information and so many places where they are," MacDonald said.
The Class of 2014 is well-known for being the largest and most diverse class in the history of the college. According to Bates, the college's target number for '14 was 640 students on campus and 36 in London, but, due to an unusual increase in the number of accepted students who decided to attend Skidmore, the end result was 730 students on campus and 40 in London, even after the summer melt, a term Bates used to describe the students who say yes in May but do not end up coming to campus in September.
The class target for this year fell within a range of 580-630 students in anticipation of an even higher yield on May 1, also known as "Candidates Reply Date". The college also offers a unique option to students on the wait list that allows them to notify the college by May 20 or 21 about whether they are still interested in attending. If not, they will be taken off the wait list in favor of those who are.
Attending events on campus is not the only influence that affects a student's final college choice. Financial aid plays a role in this decision as well. Skidmore College is a need sensitive institution, and will provide full financial need to as many accepted students as possible. "We are committed to meeting the full need of any student whom we admit who demonstrates financial aid need," Bates said. However, with a limited financial budget ($33 million this year), the college can only provide full aid to a certain number of students. After there is no more money left to give, students will be accepted who do not require financial aid. There is no difference in the academic quality of these students.
Bates would like to thank the students for being a part of the process and in welcoming prospective students to the campus. "We hear from the kids who visit how warm and friendly Skidmore students are here, that Skidmore is a very welcoming place," Bates said. "When students on the panel are asked why they chose Skidmore, that comes up again and again."