By Kaitlyn McCormick
Continuing its focus on increasing enrollment and “spreading the Rider word,” the university’s admissions program has jumped right into what seems to be the most normal year to date, following the culture shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taking advantage of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) weekend that allowed many prospective students and parents a day off to come tour campus, Rider hosted two open houses on Nov. 11 and 13. According to Executive Director of Undergraduate, Transfer, International and Westminster Choir College Admission, Susan Makowski, the two days brought 780 students and their families to Rider’s campus.
While she admitted that it “may sound crazy,” following the social distancing of the pandemic, Makowski said that nothing gives her more joy than seeing a crowded Student Recreation Center (SRC) or Alumni Gym of students and their families.
“Our community is what makes Rider, and that’s what they see and feel, and that’s why they come here,” she said.
Makowski went into detail about a return to recruiting methods that hadn’t been in full effect since before the pandemic.
“We are getting back to a normalcy that we recall from 2019, because 2019 was really the last fall that we recruited fully without COVID impacting us,” she said.
In addition to changes in recruitment strategy, the university, like many, have consistently turned to the pandemic as an explanation for drops in enrollment. Recent numbers, however, have shown comparative improvements.
Resulting from recruiting practices employed in 2020, there were 8,791 applications for Fall 2021, 7,204 admits and 638 enrollments, according to statistics provided by Vice President of Enrollment Management Drew Aromando. The following year, however, saw increases across the board to 9,340 applications for Fall 2022, 7,858 admits and 779 enrollments.
According to Associate Vice President for University Marketing and Communication Kristine Brown, this increase was partly due to the investment the university made to purchase names from institutions such as College Board to advertise to students, purchasing 169,896 for the Fall 2021 enrollment period compared to 241,716 for Fall 2022, based on the numbers provided by Aromando.
Brown also shared statistics on Nov. 15 showing that applications were up 15% over last year to date, and slightly over pre-pandemic rate. Open house visits have also increased by 100% this year compared to last, date-to-date, with almost 1,000 more visitors.
The university’s website has also seen a 103% increase in visits this academic year in comparison to the previous. According to Brown, the most visited enrollment pages include the Open House, Lifting Barriers and Academic Program Finder sections. Brown also noted that there have been longer average browsing times reported.
This season, Makowski’s team was able to reach about 90% of the schools they recruit at in person, very few of which kept recruiting limited to Zoom and online interactions. Rider’s reach is expansive, covering all of New Jersey and five Pennsylvanian counties that run along the Delaware River, as well as parts of Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York to name a few East Coast states. The office also has recruiters in California, primarily the southern region and Texas, as well as more states across the country and separate pockets that athletic coaches recruit in.
In high schools closer to Rider and uniquely partnered, however, some students are able to receive an instant admissions decision.
“While we are meeting with the students, they’ve already applied, we review their application and we’re able to make the decision for them right there in their high school setting at that moment,” Makowski said.
Makowski emphasized the importance of the university’s full embracement of admissions events, something she says other schools don’t always provide.
“Knowing that we have a campus that supports us is awesome,” she said. “We had, since day one, people on this campus supporting, [saying], ‘Yeah, get visitors here. We’ll figure out how and we’ll make it work.’”
Originally printed in the 11/16/22 issue.