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Parents in touch Newsletter
Upward Trend in Admissions Continues
Colleges and universities are unique institutions in that every four years, the faces of their students completely change. While traditions are passed down, each class brings with it a new flavor that helps shape the University.
Recently, we sat down with Lou Hirsh, Director of Admissions, to learn more about UD’s impressive freshman class and how parents can help us in the recruiting process.
Q: Can you tell us about the Class of 2015?
A: There’s been an upward trend in our applicants’ profiles. There has been a steady increase in GPAs, SAT scores, and class rank, which makes this the best class UD has ever seen—but, for me, it’s more than just the numbers. You know you did a great job selecting students when you hear from faculty and hall directors about how engaged and energized these students are. While the numbers are important, the engagement piece will serve the institution better in the long run.
We have just over 3,900 students in this class. Many students come from the Mid-Atlantic, New England, and DC regions, but we have been able to bring students in from across the United States, with 36 states represented, as well as nearly a dozen foreign countries. The number one major for these students is University Studies—or undeclared. This is very satisfying; it shows us that these students don’t necessarily know exactly what they want to do, but they feel certain that they’ll be able to find it here at UD. We have very strong academic programs here, and with only a few exceptions, we have the flexibility that allows students to sample some courses and see what resonates.
Something else that has impressed me about this class is how they have used their admissions essays to reflect on how their life experiences have shaped them into the human being they have now become. This is a difficult subject for a 17 year-old high school senior to articulate; yet, we’re seeing more and more self-reflective essays in our applicant pool.
Q: How do you and your staff recruit students and how can parents help?
A: A few weeks ago, we traveled to Connecticut to do student interviews. While my staff was speaking with students, we had a local parent and UD alumnus there to meet with parents. The parents of a prospective student have primal worries, especially this one: what happens to our relationship with our child when he or she goes to college? Are we still a family? Will we still love each other in the same way?
It is often tough to accept that their children are becoming adults. A parent volunteer can allay these worries and help them see the transition as an enriching experience for students and parents alike. In short, the more parent involvement, the better.
For parents who would like to become more involved with admissions, we encourage them to look into our Volunteer Admissions Support Team (VAST). Individuals on that team can help with everything from interviewing, to congratulating accepted members into the UD family and encouraging them to enroll, to sharing their stories with others. Learn more about the VAST program.
Q: UD was listed as a “Best Value” school in 2011. Can you tell us about UD’s tuition and what makes it a best value?
A: There are a number of reasons why UD is a best value school. Our university is almost unique in that we resemble a private school but with a $15-20K price difference. Further, we’re different from many of the other flagship state universities in that this is a very welcoming place for undergraduate students. You can see this from your first steps on the UD campus when you meet our Blue Hen Ambassadors—enthusiastic undergraduates who introduce prospective students to UD. Sure, we can teach tour guides to dispense factual information about UD, but we can’t teach excitement; that’s genuine. It catches people’s attention. Our visitors see a campus that seems ideal—and one that isn’t as expensive as other institutions.
Q: You’ve announced that you’ll be retiring at the end of this year; what kind of legacy do you hope to leave at UD?
A: (chuckle) I’m tempted to say what my grandmother would, ‘legacy schmegacy.’ But what we’ve tried to do here, and I believe we’ve done it, is to maintain an admissions office that is student-centered. What we want is for every student who is part of our freshmen class to be here because it is the correct choice for them, to feel that they belong here, that this is the right school for them.
The other piece, for me, started when I arrived in 1984. I’ve never stopped being impressed with my colleagues: faculty, staff, and those in Student Life. We try to recruit students who are worthy of them. We want students who will add value to our community.
I also believe in doing things honestly. Not every admissions practice out there is in the best interest of students. I’m very proud, frankly, that we dropped a binding Early Decision program because I felt it discriminated against students who were low income and also against those who just needed more time to think about colleges. Students can benefit from not being pressured into this frenzy of deciding early. There are a significant number of schools that are filling up to 50% of their seats with their Early Decision candidates. And what message does that send? We’re rewarding 17 year-olds for making a quick decision about college and for having families who are well-off enough not to have to worry about a financial aid package. I find that deeply troubling. I like the fact that we can say to students that we’re confident enough in what we have to offer you that we can give you until May 1, the National Candidates’ Reply Date, to make a decision about UD, without any added pressure from us. I think that’s a statement of faith in our institution and in our students. I believe that by keeping this simple, we made the right decision.
And finally, since I made the announcement, I’ve been getting an awful lot of emails. In this job, you touch people’s lives in a way that few others get to do. Hearing from students whom you’ve interviewed, admitted, and are seeing flourish here is really special. They email, thank me for that, wish me well—that’s wonderful stuff. I think every one of us who has been to college remembers that moment when we stepped onto a campus as an enrolled student—when Mom and Dad gave us that iconic hug, turned around, and drove away. For me, that moment was almost 50 years ago, but I still remember that feeling vividly. It’s been a pleasure knowing that I have been able to help so many students experience that feeling here at UD.
Lou has been a member of the UD community for nearly three decades. During his tenure in the director position, the university has experienced a steady growth in undergraduate applications, as well as the implementation of the Commitment to Delawareans, which helps prepare Delaware residents for admission to UD, as well as financial assistance. He’s served on countless committees and associations, both internally and regionally. For more information about Lou and his time here, read this article from UDaily.