CU Fridays bring a lot of prospective students to campus and will continue to be a strategic recruitment tool.
“Students who visit campus are significantly more likely to enroll,” said Roscoe Smith, associate vice president for university admissions. “For people who don’t visit campus, there’s only about a 10 percent chance that they’re going to enroll.”
Personalized visits, however, are more ideal for the faculty and prospective students, faculty and admissions staff say.
Still, CU Fridays are an important recruitment tool as admissions seeks to give high school students a broad understanding of Cedarville.
Sarah Allen, associate director of guest services, said CU Fridays are designed specifically for high school students who are visiting Cedarville for the first time or who have a lot of interest in the school.
Smith said CU Fridays push people to come visit because it gives them a concrete date to try to visit.
But CU Fridays only give the students a surface-level overview of Cedarville, Allen said.
“CU Fridays are fun because there’s so many people on campus – it gets students excited about Cedarville,” Allen said. “But it really only scratches the surface at what Cedarville has to offer because we really can’t personalize people’s visits that day.”
Smith said when they know they’re going to have a lot of visitors on campus, it’s more efficient for them to plan an event – such as a CU Friday – that accommodates a large number of guests.
“Instead of trying to schedule individual appointments with faculty (for) 150 students on a Friday, which is what we can have, it’s easier to plan an academic fair and ask all the departments to be there for an hour and bring everybody to them,” Smith said.
Allen said CU Fridays are most effective when the students partner that visit with a personalized visit. That way, the students get two views of Cedarville.
The CU Friday view of Cedarville is an overview – the students can be in chapel, tour campus and find out about possible majors, Allen said. The students have a chance to explore a lot of options and narrow them down to what they are most interested in, she said.
Coming on a CU Friday gives students the freedom to make their personal visits more personalized, Allen said. They can have one-on-one meetings with faculty, see specific dorms and spend time with students in a particular major.
“We do a lot of different types of visits,” Allen said. “And that way, we can show them Cedarville isn’t just what you see on CU Friday – there’s so many more layers to it.”
No matter how we design it, Allen said, coming for one day can’t give students a look into everything that makes Cedarville such a special place. She said that’s why they encourage students to visit multiple times.
Allen and her team can personalize visits for students coming to see Cedarville during the year.
“Those are fun because we get to get creative and think, ‘If I were coming and I were interested in that program, what would I want to see?’ and kind of tailor it for all the things they want,” Allen said.
Bob Chasnov, chair of the department of engineering and computer science, said CU Fridays are good times of interaction for faculty and families.
For Chasnov’s department, at the end of the CU Friday, interested students are brought to the ENS for a tour of the labs.
“When prospects come and see our laboratory facilities, things we’re doing for competition teams,” Chasnov said, “that is what we feel people need to see to get the ‘wow’ effect about our department.”
However, Chasnov said personalized visits are the most ideal for students to take during the academic year.
“We have always had one-on-one contact with families for as long as I can remember,” he said. “Our faculty are very open to doing that.”
Engineering and computer science faculty will eat lunch with prospective students then take them on a tour of the labs.
“That became a benefit – you have to eat lunch sometime anyway. Why not do it for a double purpose?” Chasnov said. “And we have quite a few faculty who do that on a regular basis. We get a lot of good feedback from the families when we do that because it provides one-on-one attention.”
The lab visits during CU Friday are not as effective as a one-on-one visit with a faculty member around lunchtime because of the time of day and timing, Chasnov said.
Beth Porter, chair of the department of music and worship, said she looks at recruiting as not only recruiting to her department but to the whole school.
“We have an awful lot of kids who come through CU Friday who may not be a music major, but they want to participate in our ensembles,” Porter said. “And that’s crucial for my department’s health as well.”
However, she said that much of her department’s recruiting depends on getting students to Cedarville to audition.
“Recruiting into music is like recruiting in athletics: it’s very individually oriented,” Porter said. “Kids want to know the professors and things like that.”
Porter said they have some of their own events to bring music students to the school.
“Because of the kind of recruiting we have to do, we customize our events to be musical events because we’re attracting musicians,” she said. “We do some of our own things – audition days, music showcase, and then, of course, all the concerts and things that we do to try to get people here.”
This past fall, admissions asked the music and worship department to do a special fall audition day as an early decision day. Typically, auditions are held in the spring because high school musicians are busy in the fall with marching band and other commitments.
“We had 13 or 15 kids come and audition in the fall,” Porter said. “I’m very glad that they – admissions and enrollment management – pushed us to do that because I think it was successful.”
This semester, one of the CU Fridays will be different – it’s on a Monday.
“We’ve never done (a CU Monday) before, so I’m kind of excited,” Allen said.
This CU Monday will be Feb. 17 on President’s Day, a day that Cedarville typically has a lot of students visiting because they have school off, Allen said.
“What we were finding is we typically have 130 to 150 families for CU Fridays, and we were getting upwards of 80 families on President’s Day,” Allen said.
Since President’s Day is a big day for juniors to visit Cedarville, a CU Friday-like day is perfect for them, Allen said. Then, the students make the most out of their day by exploring the various academic and social options at Cedarville, she said.
In previous years, Allen and her staff have created personalized visits for each of the visitors on President’s Day. She said this is a huge time commitment because planning one of those visits can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.
With such a large amount of visitors, at some point the “personal” comes out of “personalized” visits, no matter how hard we try to make the visits perfect for the visitors, Allen said.
“We thought, ‘Why don’t we bundle it together, do like a CU Friday schedule, but do it on Monday of President’s Day?” she said. “We’ll see how that goes.”
Lauren Eissler is a junior journalism major and assistant managing editor and campus news editor for Cedars. She essentially lives in the J-Lab, with her caffeine intake roughly corresponding to how many articles she’s writing, and tweets as @L_Eissler.