By Abby Weingarten
When the application for enrollment deadline approached on April 15 in the middle of a pandemic, New College staff members were not sure what to expect. But the result pleasantly surprised them; the numbers had gone up from last year, even under the circumstances.
“We’re a little bit ahead of where we were last year, and this was a very rough year. We’ve had significant issues with the pandemic and, of course, with the legislature,” said Sonia Wu, the interim dean of enrollment management, referencing House Bill 7087 that ultimately did not pass last month. “When we heard the news that we might be merging with UF and that New College might lose its independence, there was a lot of gloom and doom. Then the pandemic happened. So, these are not the numbers I expected to have this year considering the significant events we’ve experienced.”
A total of 1,337 student applications have been completed so far (last year there were about 1,200), putting the figure slightly above the four-year average. Wu is also hoping to welcome at least 230 new students in the fall of 2020, and May 1 is the nationwide common reply date (though many schools have extended their deadline).
“We’re feeling pretty good and working hard individually with potential students,” Wu said. “We feel strongly that we’ve got this great experience just waiting to happen for them.”
One of the ways the staff has made the enrollment process easier during this time has been via a new application option, which became available in the winter.
“We’re much nimbler now in terms of how students can apply and get to know New College,” Wu said. “We’re still using the Common Application but now we also have our own application. We’ve waived the application fee and the essay option (focusing more on English courses and grades). This new option helps us move through applications much more quickly so we can focus more of our time on building relationships with students.”
Another addition this year was a virtual Admitted Student Day (normally an in-person meet-and-greet experience for incoming students, which was instead held entirely online on April 18).
“We’ve never done it this way. We got faculty and staff to do short recorded presentations/introductions welcoming students to campus, etc. We opened it up to all prospective students (not just the ones who have been admitted but also students who have expressed an interest in attending in the fall of 2020),” Wu said. “Of course, we missed the face-to-face interaction, but doing it that way let us reach people with much of the same information, even after the event.”
Wu is optimistic that New College’s navigation of the remote learning period will continue to draw prospective students. But there are still plenty of question marks.
“Because there’s so much uncertainty with the pandemic, students may be thinking, ‘Should I go a college closer to home? Is it a bad idea to go out of state?,’” she said. “I think everybody’s enrollment stuff at every college is in a state of flux.”
Wu has already heard from a few students who have put in their non-refundable deposits but opted to defer their enrollment for a year as they figure out their next steps.
“I feel the College has been able to pivot and still provide a really great experience to students,” Wu said, referring to the transition to the remote learning period. “It’s pretty amazing what people have managed to do under the circumstances.”
All information about Admitted Student Day can be found at ncf.edu/admitted
Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.