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Applications soar by 20 percent at UMW

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The University of Mary Washington has received a record number of freshman applications for the Class of 2018.

The university had already received 5,122 applications by Feb. 4, according to the office of admissions.

That’s 20 percent more than last year’s total on the same day.

Provost Jonathan Levin said the increased number of applications are a result of efforts by admissions personnel “to get the word out about who we are.”

Part of the strategy is the UMW advertising campaign, which was launched for the sole purpose of creating interest in the university.

The campaign involves advertisements on billboards, buses and in malls. It also includes print materials that target high-achieving out-of-state students.

The record number of applications is a stark turn-around from last year.

In total, UMW received 4,505 freshman applications for the fall of 2013.

The committee offered admission to 3,625 candidates and 954 students enrolled as first-time freshmen for the 2013 fall semester.

The low number of applicants last year resulted in an 80 percent admission rate.

That percentage has steadily risen over the last decade. For the 2007–08 academic year, UMW admitted just over 70 percent of applicants.

Levin has made lowering the admission rate again a goal for the next couple of years.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said.

His strategy is to move the admission percentage back to 70 in the next two years and then see if UMW can decrease it again.

He called 2014 a “transitional year,” for the admissions office, which has seen significant changes in hierarchy and procedure under the helm of director Carol Descak.

Descak, a temporary, two-year hire after the former director left and a search for a permanent director began, has hired a new undergraduate admissions director, enhanced search strategies with updated computer programs and changed the way the school approaches recruiting territories.

This year, the school has also experienced an increase in out-of-state applications, which are up by 34 percent.

Those applications were dropping off in recent years, a concerning trend since out-of-state students are a money-maker for the university.

The loss of tuition from 436 fewer out-of-state students since 2007–08 totals about $5.4 million, according to UMW’s finance office.

Levin said the current admission cycle will be a lesson in what strategies work for recruitment and which don’t.

“I don’t want to simply inflate the number of applications,” he said. “It is better to develop serious applicants. Just inflating the numbers could bring down the actual yield for the admissions cycle.”

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976