Preventing potential drop in enrollment

Office of Undergraduate Admissions tries to keep incoming freshman numbers up despite COVID-19

Julia Herman, Assistant News Editor

a sign with walking tour maps outside of a college admissions office
Prospective students now have until June 1st to make a decision about attending SPU, from the original deadline of May 1st. While on-campus events have been suspend, prospective students can still take self-guided tours of campus. (Blake Dahlin)

Seattle Pacific University, a historically small university, could potentially experience a smaller incoming freshman class due to the outbreak of COVID-19. SPU’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions is trying to prevent that through different measures.

May 1 was the original decision-day deadline at many colleges and universities. Many students reached out to ask for an extension as they tried to make their choice by bringing all the factors that come with COVID-19 to the table.

While a normal year at SPU would have around 20-30 students asking for extensions, according to Director of Undergraduate Admissions Ineliz Soto-Fuller, 336 people sought extensions this year.

“We didn’t fully extend to June 1 initially because there were a lot of students that we knew that had already made their decision. We had the May 1 deadline but were allowing extensions to anyone that needed it. But once it hit May 1, we decided to formally extend it to June,” Soto-Fuller said over a joint zoom call with Nate Mouttet, vice president for enrollment management and marketing.

The Admissions office says they understand how difficult this time has been on many prospective students and families, and they want to work with them in any way that they can. 

During this time, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions has received many phone calls from prospective students and their parents regarding health and financial concerns, which has been one reason why many students requested an extension to make their decision.

With many students having filed FAFSA in the fall before the pandemic hit, and their financial situations having now changed, the admissions office has been suggesting to talk with the Student Financial Services about making appeals.

“Normally, college is already a big decision but it can be even harder now for some. To give people the time to make a decision is not only just in their best interest but in ours as well,” Mouttet said on the joint zoom call.

With classes being online this quarter and it potentially continuing into next school year, the Admissions Office is trying to navigate how that will affect their numbers for the incoming class and what they can do to keep prospective students accepting their offers.

Although they were shooting for a class larger than last year’s freshman class, Mouttett and Soto-Fuller said they will not fully know until the June 1 deadline, but they are hopeful that they will reach their goal of 650 incoming students.

“Lord willing, we will have a full class and there’s good signs that there will be,” Mouttet said.

SPU usually draws in prospective students through events such as Admitted Student Preview, which typically takes place twice during the spring quarter to give students a taste of life at SPU.

With health and safety guidelines implemented this year due to the virus, it was clear that these events could no longer take place on campus, so they moved to a virtual platform.

“We have done virtual one-on-one appointments, several webinars on topics that we know students want to know about, weekly information sessions. We have tried to provide anything virtual that we think students may need,” Soto-Fuller said.

There is a positive side to having these events and seminars moved online: The Office of Undergraduate Admissions reached a lot more students than what they have in the past because travel was no longer a limiting factor. 

“I think there are some people that we could have gotten if they visited campus. A visit to campus is very powerful,” Fuller-Soto said. “I think it’s sad that some people couldn’t visit. But I do think it was very helpful for the students who normally can’t visit. We weren’t offering these virtual options beforehand.”

Mouttet also said that he feels that without visits, SPU potentially could have lost students from other states, but also feels like with the state of the country right now with the virus, they might have reached more people in the Seattle area, who want to stay closer to home as the virus continues.

While there are many aspects of the next school year that are still up in the air, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions is trying to support as many prospective students as possible.

“We may have lost some distanced people,” Mouttet said, “But there are a lot of people who may be from Seattle that look at us and say ‘I know this campus, I know Seattle,’ and ‘oh this school has my major, maybe I want to stay close to home.’”