Applications, admissions trend upward for 2021 class
Augustana may once again be looking at a record-setting freshmen class for the 2017-2018 academic year. Thanks in part to new financial aid and scholarship deadlines, admissions for the class of 2021 are up 150 percent, with individual campus visits increasing by 20 percent this fall.
Vice president for enrollment Nancy Davidson said she saw the uptick coming.
“Last year was a great year for marketing Augustana with the name change,” Davidson said. “We knew that would have a big impact for the fall of ’17 as well.”
Although Davidson noted that the launch of the “Be a Viking” marketing campaign played a sizeable role in generating interest in Augustana, other factors including a new fall deadline for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and changing acceptance requirements for incoming freshmen were also factors.
High school seniors are now able to file what Davidson called a prior-prior FAFSA by Oct. 1, which gives potential students access to their financial aid packages sooner by pushing up the deadline into the fall. A Nov. 1 scholarship deadline has been added to accommodate the change.
Also new this year: the requirements for getting into Augustana. Applicants now only have to submit a formal application, their standardized test scores and a transcript, where before letters of reference and a writing sample were mandatory.
“We want to remove as many barriers as possible,” Davison said. “But the quality of our applicants hasn’t changed at all. We just want to make the process as simple as we can.”
Though the application process for incoming students is looking simpler than ever, associate director of admission Thad Titze said his job is now a bit different from previous years.
Where once the admissions process was linear—visits in the fall, applications in the winter and scholarships in the spring—the stages are now intermixed as scholarships can be awarded as early as Nov. 1 given the new FAFSA deadline.
“It feels odd to manage everything at the same time,” Titze said. “But I think the earlier deadlines add enthusiasm that’s spilling back to the high schools. We’re seeing students submit applications from places that aren’t normally interested in Augustana.”
Though the number of group tours and visit events have gone down this year, junior student ambassador Courtney Arthur said from what she’s seen giving tours to potential students, high school juniors and seniors want a more tailored admissions experience.
“It seems like they come in knowing what they want to do more often,” Arthur said. “So we spend time in the specific areas that they’re interested in. I think that’s why individual tours have gone up—you can’t do that on group tours.”
Arthur said the only downsides she sees to having another large freshman class is the increased strain on the freshman dorms that are already at capacity.
But even though numbers look good right now, Davidson said it’s still too early to tell if next year’s freshman class will be as large, or even larger, than this year’s.
“We’ve had a great fall so far,” Davidson said. “And I’m optimistic about where we’re headed. We still have a long way to go before May 1, but I’d rather be in this position we’re in now than behind. We’re doing everything we can do enroll many more students.”