As January is coming to an end, I am writing this on a plane back to Connecticut from Texas. I’ve been in Houston and Dallas the last couple of days, meeting with alumni, parents and even a few pre-frosh. When I began my presidency in 2007, we increased our communications efforts in areas of the country where Wesleyan wasn’t as well known as it is on the Coasts, and we placed a special emphasis on Texas. We have many alumni there who work in the technology, education, medicine and energy fields, to name just a few. We’ve held well-attended events in Houston and Dallas the last two years, and this week’s gatherings were energetic and popular. The Roff family, our host in Houston, has had six family members at Wes, and the Barth clan there can count seven! We discussed the planning framework, Wesleyan 2020, in both cities, and even the torrential rains in Dallas didn’t dampen the high spirits at the reception hosted by the Wolins (P ’12).
I was pleased to report that in the last three years we have tripled the number of applicants from Texas. This is one chapter in a very impressive admissions story. Last year applications were way up, and so a reasonable person might have expected some pull back from these numbers in 2010. But the application pool has increased again, this year by about 6%. That means that our pool has grown about 30% in two years! Most important, the quality of the pool is very strong, and we are meeting our goal of increasing geographical diversity. Early decision applications are at an all time high. It’s a tribute to our community that so many talented people want to be part of it!
Why are so many more people applying to Wesleyan? It isn’t easy to point to any specific factors with confidence. Clearly, we have benefitted from positive press thanks to the great work of our faculty, students, staff and alumni. Our admissions and communications departments have been in high gear making sure that we get the word out about what makes Wesleyan an extraordinary institution. The campus looks great, and investments in our physical plant have had compelling results. We have been emphasizing some of the distinctive aspects of a Wes education, and above all, students and their families have been talking to others about their own experiences. Enhanced recognition is important not only because it allows us to put together ever more diverse and talented classes, but also because it increases the value of Wesleyan diplomas for all our alumni.
We don’t need to “sell Wesleyan,” or develop some slick marketing messages. After all, by emphasizing our distinctiveness we are also saying that Wes isn’t for everybody. The culture of openness and experimentation, exuberance and achievement, creativity and focus…this culture is different from the ones that have developed at other fine schools. We want to get the word out, but we don’t need to present ourselves as just another highly selective school for successful high school seniors.
Now that we have well over 10,000 applications for next year’s class, the admissions staff has to read each one of them with the time consuming care that comes with a holistic application process. I thank them in advance for all the hard work that will go into putting together the class of 2014!