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New freshman class continues upward trend

The 2006 incoming freshman class is one of the highest caliber in the history of Illinois State University, and the University is receiving an unprecedented number of applications for admission due to the hard work and innovation of Admissions and Enrollment Management and Academic Services staff.

“Our new student academic profile just keeps getting better and better,” said Steve Adams, former assistant vice president of Enrollment Management and Academic Services and current interim vice president of Student Affairs.  “Illinois State has become a very special place for very special students.”

Molly Arnold, director of Admissions, credits her staff’s creative approach to recruitment as one reason for the increase in applications and the resulting high quality students who attend the University.  She said they have used consultants from the University’s Communication department to assess messages, presentation style and program format and to help them “grab the attention of students who receive a minimum of 2,500 pieces of mail during their senior year in high school.”

Further innovative initiatives include the establishment of High School Counselor and Community College Advisory Counsels to help Admissions stay on target with what students want to help them make their college decisions.  Admissions has scheduled online Chat University evenings so that students can talk with Admissions staff in Web real time about topics of interest such as financial aid and housing.  They conduct application workshops in schools with large numbers of students who are either educationally or economically disadvantaged.

Throughout the application process, students are informed of their status through the Welcome2ISU Portal Web site, and intense follow-up efforts include phone calls, e-mail and personal notes.  All of the initiatives are in addition to the yearly 260 high school visits, 110 high school/college night programs, 68 special requests for visits, 27 special programs, 11 Freshman Information Nights and eight articulation programs for high school counselors.  Admissions also hosts visitors each week day and Saturday during the academic year to accommodate those who can’t take time off school or work to see the campus.  They hold information sessions followed by campus tours, including residence hall tours. Arnold said six of her 10 staff members are responsible for the high school visits and the majority of high school programs.

Adams believes the University faculty has much to do with the higher quality of new students.  “Our faculty have a primary emphasis of teaching, so students feel much better when they know they will be working with the best in their fields,” he said.  “We have so many outstanding fields of study and programs at Illinois State, such as the nursing program and interior design sequence, among many others.  We also have new and newly renovated facilities, which allows for advanced technology and more interactive teaching strategies.”

In the past three years, Admissions has increased their new freshman student applications by 13.5 percent, and the average ACT score has risen from 23.6 to 23.9.  To the uninformed, the .3 increase might not seem like much of a difference, but to the admissions experts it is a huge jump.  The high school grade point average of the incoming freshman class is 3.5 on a 4.0 scale with 90 percent in the top half of their class and 50 percent in the top quarter.  The numbers of underrepresented students have also climbed.

Adams said Illinois State University was one of the first universities to “go beyond the numbers” by looking at the student in a holistic manner.  They accomplished this by asking for personal statements from students and sometimes seeking recommendations from teachers, counselors and administrators.

“We are becoming a school of choice,” Adams said. “There is no question that we are a rising flagship institution in Illinois.”