Campus engagement pays off

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Within higher education’s increasingly competitive environment, admissions counselors are well aware that their outreach involves not simply providing reliable information, but the responsibility to actively seek students who will succeed at their institutions.

Even so, while pressure mounts for counselors to produce numbers (visits, applications, etc.), the most talented representatives will look beyond standard drivers to find creative ways to demonstrate what words can only describe.  For example, the claim that college is a time to explore, learn and create, and that “College X” knows how to support students throughout the process is, at best, a promise.  Easily made, easily broken, and not particularly memorable.

Coker College students perform in “The Laramie Project” for Performing and Visual Arts Day.

If college is about learning, then we believe that the admissions process ought to be about learning, too.  While many admissions offices offer prospective students the chance to sit in on a class as a way of getting a first-hand look at the collegiate experience, such a limited exposure will almost certainly have a limited impact.  Students may learn something about the college, but it’s unlikely to create an “ah-ha” moment.

This year, Coker College significantly modified one of its traditional admissions events — portfolio review day — to offer students a daylong program that could turn out to be a life-changing experience for some.  Our new Performing and Visual Arts Day gave students both an inside look at specialized programs and a chance to showcase their own talents.

Prospective students spent the day in traditional activities, such as touring campus and meeting faculty and students, but they were also challenged to learn by doing through hands-on workshops with current students.  Prospective students were also invited to audition or have their art portfolios reviewed for scholarship consideration and receive a no-holds-barred critique of their work.  They watched current students perform in a theater showcase event during the day and received free VIP passes to attend a fully-staged production of The Laramie Project that night.

Perhaps most important, they had an opportunity to see themselves as part of a creative, caring community.  For most of us, if we are honest, that single vision, whenever it happens, can make all the difference.

As one student shared with her Facebook friends that evening, the introduction felt like this:

“Today at Coker was Amazing. We got to do a basic graphic design class and a basic drawing class with just charcoal sticks on paper, which is something completely new to me. We got to talk to three art major seniors. And omg they were so cool, and one girl’s art just was like… awesome. It totally just… spoke to my heart. And I feel so inspired, like I can do anything. Like my mind is free and I can create anything I want to Express. … at Coker they are like “there is no wrong way to draw. It’s your interpretation. Just Express your feelings as deep as you can.”

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