The Daily Star
By Jessica Reynolds

May 6, 2014

As high school seniors eagerly check their mailboxes for acceptance letters, colleges are doing everything they can to lure potential students to their schools, local directors of admissions said Monday.

Rob Blanchet, director of admissions at the State University College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill, said the college has sent acceptance letters to 2,332 students. Based on previous years, about 45 percent of those students will choose Cobleskill. Blanchet called this the “conversion rate.”

There are many different things that colleges do to attract students, Blanchet said. First, colleges often personally reach out to accepted students. At SUNY Cobleskill, the office of admissions has been working especially hard at its outreach efforts. “We’re increasing our social media presence and using email and other electronic methods to reach out and encourage students to come here,” Blanchet said. “We also travel to high schools and college fairs to talk face-to-face with students.”

Karen Brown, director of admissions at the State University College at Oneonta, said outreach includes making phone calls to students and their parents, mailing information, touching base via email and providing a Facebook group that admitted students can join called “SUNY Oneonta Class of 2018.” The college also gives tours to parents and prospective students every day.

The most effective way colleges get students to choose them is by encouraging visits, Blanchet said. It’s an “extremely important” way to see whether a college is a good fit for someone, he said.

“You wouldn’t buy shoes before trying them on,” Blanchet said. “Visiting colleges is similar, but on a much bigger scale. This is one of the biggest commitments of their lives.”

Administrators at the University of Scranton will likely be glad to hear that Patrick Brown, a senior at Delaware Academy Central School in Delhi, has decided to attend their college. Brown said he applied to five other colleges, including SUNY Oneonta, but wanted to attend a school that’s farther away. He made his choice after visiting the Scranton campus, he said, where the employees seemed caring and there was a good program to help students decide on a major.

One way colleges bring prospective students to campus is with Accepted Student Day. SUNY Cobleskill hosts between six and seven Accepted Student Days each year, Blanchet said. Hartwick College, SUNY Oneonta and the State University College of Technology at Delhi said they, too, have held Accepted Student Days recently.

On April 12, SUNY Oneonta held an academic exploration day for accepted students, Karen Brown said. More than 600 students attended.

Accepted Student Day and similar events are like orientation, Blanchet said, except the student may not have decided to attend that particular college yet. On these special days, admitted students can take tours of the campus, check out clubs and organizations that the school has to offer and meet with an admissions counselor, Blanchet said. If students have already decided to attend the school they’re visiting, they can get their photo identification card or even set up their schedules.

SUNY Cobleskill buses students up to the campus from downstate to ensure that they get a chance to see the campus in person before making a decision, Blanchet said.

“The campus is beautiful,” Blanchet said. “Seeing it makes a big impact on students. Usually they get here and they fall in love with it.”

This year, SUNY Cobleskill saw an 18 percent increase in students who visited campus, Blanchet said. This is because both colleges and high schools are stressing that it’s an important and useful step.

SUNY Delhi’s director of admissions, Robert Piurowski, said along with visiting campus, he encourages prospective students to explore the area surrounding campus, like the town of Delhi, to see if the community will be a good match.

“As an alum, I can say that visiting is what helped me make my decision,” Piurowski. “There’s a transparency that you get from visiting. You see what daily life would be like. It’s important for students to get a feel for the campus life and to start to embrace that.”

For many students, cost and financial aid are other factors that come into play when deciding which college to attend. This year, SUNY Delhi will provide an additional $50,000 in scholarships for members of the incoming class, Piurowski said. According to Karen Brown, more than 27 percent of SUNY Oneonta’s freshman class will receive scholarships.

Along with his positive experience visiting the University of Scranton campus, Patrick Brown said, he chose the school because he was able to receive a good amount of financial aid.

“It just seemed like the right fit,” Brown said.