For those of you who have been keeping up with how the cogs of our school link together to keep everything running smoothly, you may have heard some rumors floating around that the school is getting rid of our scholarship days.
The truth? Witt is.
Wittenberg is trying to move away from the scholarship days that allow the best and brightest students in the country to compete for greater financial aid packages and allow both sides to determine whether the student and the school are good fits for each other.
But never fear: Witt’s department of Enrollment and Admissions is working with the Honors program to redesign how we recruit incoming students. John Hille, the interim Vice President of Enrollment Management, sat down to talk a little bit about the future of our scholarship days and try to dispel the fears that the students and faculty may have about the future of our school’s enrollment. Hille had worked with President Frandsen at Albion College, and was brought here, to Witt, to improve our admissions and retention.
Why eliminate the scholarship days in the first place?
“Scholarship days were created in past decades to do a couple of things,” Hille said. “One was to recognize certain special skills or activities that a student ought to be rewarded for, and the other was to…encourage students to actually make deposits.”
Many of you probably remember the FAFSA and how much of a hassle it was to complete the giant online form that determined how much financial aid you were eligible. Our scholarship days were planned around the deadline for the FAFSA, which used to occur in March.
“We would have scholarship competitions late in the cycle, usually in February, to make the final decisions on special scholarships, and we’d then package them all and get them out the door,” Hille said.
But now the FAFSA deadline is in October, so high school students are getting their financial aid packages long before our scholarship days, which is a problem because Wittenberg wouldn’t know how much money they could offer to a student at that point. The school tried to have our scholarship days as earlier, but for whatever reason they didn’t work well at all.
Another problem is that incoming students aren’t even bothering to compete for high scholarships at Wittenberg in the first place, because “other colleges were making a better up-front award than we were going to make after the competition,” Hille stated.
To counter this, the school is offering greater up-front scholarships and focusing the competitive scholarships in our special interest awards Hille said. This way, Hille hopes, “more of the better students will accept our offers.”
Another thing the school is hoping to implement is Honors Visitation Days. Rather than having a couple hundred kids sit in the CDR for several hours and compete for a scholarship, the school will reach out to those potential students who qualify for the Honors program and invite them to an event – a Witt Series event, for example – that the school has already organized that relates to an academic interest of the student. The student gets to meet President Frandsen and Honors Director Molly Wood and see what kind of programs and opportunities the school offers.
“It’s going to be kind of a rough process this year, getting all this in place,” Hille admitted. “We hope to do a pretty good job of that this year and then do a much better job of that next year.”
The most important thing current students need to know is that Witt is still recruiting students with competitive scholarships, but “they’re not compressed into Scholarship Days.” The special interest scholarships are, according to Hille, scheduled “at the convenience and discretion of [the] faculty” of the department the student is looking at. This way the process of recruiting students is individualized to that student and focused on what that students wants to do.
The Admissions department is also working on a new marketing campaign that will draw prospective students to Witt. Using a new marketing tool like the website Slate, which allows the school to focus on a student amidst the hundreds of thousands of high schoolers who are looking for their perfect college fit. “We’re using automation to personalize,” Hille said with a smile.
Wittenberg recently hired a brand-new Vice President of Enrollment Management, Carola Thorsen, and Hille has been working to catch her up to speed on all the new changes being made. “Carola is very experienced, truly an excellent hire,” Hille stated confidently.
Hille will remain as a special advisor to Frandsen to prepare for the new marketing campaign Wittenberg is hoping to use for future students. The work that the university is putting into the new recruitment campaign is one of the many changes being implemented to improve our enrollment and retention and to make sure not only that that Wittenberg students can find the right school.