Becoming a Baylor Bear
The fall 2020 incoming class of first-year students (BU24) was the largest class in Baylor history — a notable achievement by our admissions recruiting team under any circumstances, and an odds-defying feat given variables from the past year. As parents and students faced the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, many families looked at numerous colleges and universities before determining Baylor was their choice. Additionally, 2020 brought changes to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) guidelines — the rulebook, of sorts, for universities — that allowed institutions to recruit students beyond decision deadlines. This meant that even after students had made decisions to attend, participated in Orientation and other summer events for their college of choice, they were still receiving promotions and scholarship offers to woo them to other universities.
“Knowing that our prospective students were affected by COVID-19 in myriad ways, we wanted to give them the most time possible to make their college decision,” Senior Director of Undergraduate Admissions Ross VanDyke, B.A. ’03, said. “As a result, we extended our decision deadline to June 1 and continued to stay connected with BU24 students all the way to the start of school.”
The experience recruiting BU24 was informative and paved the way for new approaches to connecting the next group of prospective students (BU25) with Baylor.
“Even as we celebrated the great incoming class, we began shifting our focus to BU25. And we knew we had to get even more creative in the next year,” VanDyke said. “Many BU25 students will have spent an entire year learning online through their high schools. We had to find innovative ways to connect online and offer smaller, safe environments for personal interaction.”
One way the University connects with prospective students is through summer programs — Accelerate for rising high school juniors and seniors and Summer of Discovery for incoming first-year students. Through these programs, students take Baylor classes throughout the summer at a discounted rate.
“Summer of Discovery is a glimpse into the experience of being a Baylor student and even helps them get ahead in their degrees,” VanDyke said. “The success of that program last year made it even more apparent that prospective students want to connect with the University on a personal level.”
The University also adapted its successful Premiere campus visit event to the virtual world with opportunities to hear live from faculty in their areas of interest, learn about life on campus, visit one-on-one with staff and hear from each other in small webinar sessions. Drive-in movie events offered another opportunity to connect with Baylor, young alums and each other, and to hear from Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. For students who enjoyed being active, a social media dunk contest judged by men’s basketball Head Coach Scott Drew generated excitement.
Daily campus tours also adapted due to COVID precautions. Rather than larger tour buses, students and their individual families now schedule guided on-campus tours offered in smaller golf carts. Others who can’t make it to campus can schedule individual Zoom meetings that are tailored to their academic and student life interests of the student.
“We wanted to do some things that allow students to engage with Baylor while still being socially distant and connecting them in ways that demonstrate Baylor is a truly special place to get their college degrees,” VanDyke said.