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IU Northwest News

Ramped up recruitment efforts paying off

Events for prospective students have record turnout; retooled orientation promises to make students feel connected, supported

Tuesday Dec 08, 2015

First impressions are everything.

Indiana University Northwest knows how important it is to make a good one.

Prospective students, whether just starting to consider colleges and degree options, or those already enrolled, need information and resources so they can make informed decisions about their future. They need to be assured, early and often, that their school of choice will promise a long-term, supportive relationship, setting them up for success.

With this in mind, IU Northwest has ramped up, retooled and refreshed its efforts to reach out to future students and convince them that IU Northwest is the proper fit to help them achieve their goals. Preview Night, Careers in Health Care and the New Student Orientation are three examples of campus initiatives designed to recruit and retain students.

Early introductions

Preview Night, an opportunity for prospective students and their families to tour the campus, learn about campus resources and meet with faculty, is a bi-annual staple event of the Office of Admissions. This fall’s Preview Night in October drew the largest crowd ever, with approximately 330 prospective students attending.

Dorothy Frink, Director of Admissions, attributes the success to some key program changes. Seventy-nine families took advantage of early campus tours which kicked off the program. Another perk that served as a draw was the waived application fee for those who applied that night. About 90 students took advantage of that.

The program itself has become more robust, with student organizations and campus police joining the resource fair in the gymnasium. Certain departments also opened their labs and met with students directly in their academic units. Students also heard presentations about career assistance available to them, as well as how IU Northwest tuition compares to that of other universities.

Frink said the program will continue to evolve into more of a campus-wide event, with still more interaction between prospective students and the academic units and student clubs.             

“We have great momentum going into the spring recruitment season,” Frink said. “The team’s goal is to see an increase in newly admitted students for Fall 2016. As a campus, we must stay focused on ways to keep our admitted students engaged.”

The “Careers in Healthcare” event continues to evolve to meet the specific needs of prospective students interested in health careers. The November event drew a modest number of high school juniors and seniors and their parents. Another previous event served students of the Hammond Career Center.

“In years past, the medical school invited prospective students to an event called “Freshman to Physician,” targeted primarily at those who are looking at medical school,” Frink said. “While effective in recruiting the best prepared physicians of tomorrow, we weren’t talking to those interested in other health careers. By switching the focus from future physicians to health careers in general, more students will have an opportunity to explore all the health-related degrees they can receive at IU Northwest.”

‘Get a Student Life’

The job of helping students feel good about their chosen university doesn’t end once they’ve enrolled. In fact, it’s just the beginning.

Students will only persist to graduation if they feel supported and connected to their campus community. That’s why the New Student Orientation (NSO) serves as another critical first experience for students new to the campus.

With this in mind, the all-important orientations and how they’re planned and handled have been ramped up. In the summer of 2015, staff members involved in bringing a new kind of orientation to IU Northwest attended seminars and training that enabled them to implement some best practices. A “New Student Orientation Advisory Board,” comprised of Scott Fulk, Jennifer Dennison, Cathy Hall, Megan LoGreco, and others, then got to work on mobilizing a larger effort to involve the entire campus in orientation day. By bringing in folks that specialize in student activities and academic success and achievement programs, and by urging faculty and staff to participate in the activities, NSO has evolved into an “all hands on deck” kind of event.

Dennison, coordinator for Academic Success and Achievement Programs, estimated that 900-plus students attended the six orientations during the summer of 2015, and that the response by students, families and faculty and staff have been “overwhelmingly positive.”

“Orientation is the first step in retention,” Dennison said. “It’s important to make sure that students have a firm grasp on the academic expectations that lie ahead; that they are assimilated into the campus community; that they are familiar, to an extent, with the resources available.”

The outdoor “Thrill of the Grill” lunchtime event, which draws the entire campus, was a successful way of integrating faculty and staff with new students and their families. Dennison said faculty and staff members were sitting at lunch tables talking with students instead of waiting for them to approach a resource table.

“Orientation, while fun, is really an academic experience,” Dennison said. “We really tried to tackle that sense of belonging and sense of community.”

That is accomplished, in large part, by NSO student leaders, about 15 of them, who are essential to the success of the program.

“They were amazing,” Dennison said of the student leaders. “They had authentic interactions with our students and their families that just moved our mission forward and making sure students felt a part of the community.”

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