Fall Visitors’ Day attracts diverse group of applicants

Lea Negrin

Credit: Bullion
Credit: Bullion

Prospective students and their family members flocked to Whitman on Friday, Oct. 9, for the first of two Fall  Visitors’ Days.

Of the 260 people in attendance, 105 were prospective students. The students who came hailed from 13 different states.

“We even have someone from Texas,” said senior and student admissions intern Rachel Hahn, who greeted visitors along with senior Jacqueline Kamm.

Throughout the last decade the student body has shifted from comprising of approximately 50 percent Washington students to less than one third. The college continues to evolve into more of a national and international institution rather than a regional one, according to Assistant Director of Admissions Victoria Lidzbarski and Director of Admissions Kevin Dyerly.

“Whitman’s biggest challenge is that it’s off the beaten path . . . once students come visit, this place sells itself,” Dyerly said.

This growth in recognition is not because Whitman has changed its identity, according to Dyerly, but rather because of the awards Whitman continues to receive from third-party ranking systems such as the Princeton Review and Colleges That Changes Lives. Due to these reviews the school’s name has reached more ears across the globe, attracting an increasingly diverse student body. Locations of post-graduate work also spread Whitman’s name to more distant locations.

“My college counselor recommended Whitman and my principal spoke really highly of it,” said Ashley Rassi, a visiting high school senior from Ohio.

Throughout Visitors’ Day, prospective students toured the campus, learned about Whitman’s curriculum and participated in various programs including academic sampling and listening to a student panel on their Whitman experience.

“I am impressed with how friendly everyone is,” said Rassi.  “I liked that they kept things in small groups but I wish that there had been more time to go to a real class.”

Each year, Whitman reaches out to approximately 30,000 prospective students through pamphlets, emails and letters. A typical applicant pool is around 35,000 students. With international recognition rising, Whitman’s applicant numbers have increased in recent years.

“[Whitman’s applicant pool] has been up four to six percent consecutively for the last couple years,” Lidzbarski said.

Even the national recession hasn’t caused a dip in applications, despite the college’s sticker price surpassing $48,000 this year.

Whitman increased its financial aid by over a million dollars from last year to this year to meet the needs of students, as reported previously by The Pioneer. The college’s ability to address this issue is due in part to the support from friends of the college such as alumni.

“We used every penny of it to retain students,” Dyerly said.

As national and international regard for Whitman increases, and financial assistance for students stays strong, Whitman will likely continue to attract students from increasingly diverse regions. Soon, even someone from Texas may not seem so remarkable.