It is Monday morning, and for some of campus, that means it is time to review the nearly 1,000 applications that have been electronically submitted in the last week, gauge where numbers are compared to last year, and check messages from prospective visitors, applicants, and even parents.
Ann Rothermel, currently serving Illinois State University as Associate Director of Admissions (specifically working with the Undergraduate Processing unit), must be at the ready this morning to discuss terms like “preferred filing period,” “on-the-spot admission,” and “articulation.” Rothermel started her adventure in the Office of Admissions in August of 2008, worked on a team configuring the online application in 2012–14, and is now supervising the entire area of undergraduate processing.
The admissions process is so much more than SAT, ACT, and GPA. These days, thanks in part to the implementation of new software that allows for more efficient processing, staff are able to spend more time making personal connections with students, which includes combing over personal statements supplied by students in order to consider the whole profile.
“Context really matters with understanding the applicants’ scores and qualifications,” Rothermel said. “We have witnessed more freshmen that are taking less conventional routes, and we want to come alongside that and give specific consideration to those individual experiences.”
Over the last decade alone, applications have increased at a steady clip. The processing cycle is larger now, with the advent of online applications, and the University’s capacity to accept has grown. The numbers, though, are not watered down.
“Thirty-two hundred freshman applications used to be a sort of theoretical cutoff,” Rothermel said. “We are seeing students that are typically far above our minimum admission criteria.”
When asked, Rothermel brags that one of her favorite things about working in the office is the sense of camaraderie and teamwork.
“The people here are exemplary, including the current students that serve as our ambassadors and guides; and everyone needs to be pretty schooled in answering a variety of questions or knowing where to find the answer quickly.”
Answering general admissions questions can require knowledge of everything from scholarship criteria to daily bus schedule information and where to get the best cheese quesadilla (Watterson of course). With those fun conversations, though, come the tougher ones. Encouraging applicants who might be just shy of our admissions standards to continue to work on materials and experience is a regular occurrence for Rothermel and staff.
“We want students to be successful and do not want to have students arrive who might not be prepared to succeed, even with the help that our campus offers,” she said. “We understand that not everyone will be admitted to the University, but it is important that everyone have someone to connect with here in order to ultimately achieve their goal. Even if we are not the ultimate choice for the prospective student, we want to be sure that questions are asked and that we are truly living out the ‘individualized attention’ piece of Illinois State’s strategic plan.”
One success story comes out of a conversation just like that. A student who was struggling with his application and was not originally accepted as a freshman, Rothermel recalled. He attended community college, established a stronger GPA there, and would check in each semester by phone and email. Eventually, he was able to put together a successful application and accepted to Illinois State as a transfer student. One day after a short break Rothermel came back to the office to find a note that read:
“I want to thank you for all your help to get me here, and would love it if you would be a guest for our performance with Gamma Phi Circus.”
Rothermel recalls her heart being more than full. Not only had he held up his end of the bargain, but he also made an effort to keep her informed during each step of the journey, shared his successes, and invited her along for one of his big milestone moments.
In addition to Ann’s work in Hovey Hall, she also co-presents at the second day orientation program “All About ISU,” sharing with new Illinois State employees her admissions perspective of our student profile, our shared values, and the history of campus. In her spare time, she and her husband are avid live-music fans, not immune to travel, and have watched concerts in at least 12 states, attending 28 shows last year. In keeping with the theme of “records,” the Rothermels try to purchase a vinyl album of each of the bands they have seen in person.
For more information on admissions and to begin the process, visit their online site.