By Dallen Rose, WSU Insider

A new recruitment initiative is yielding results on the Pullman campus, thanks to the combined efforts of recruitment staff and faculty volunteers.

The Top Scholars recruitment initiative, which aims to increase the University’s enrollment of high-achieving students, began in 2017. Since then, admission applications from high-ability students have increased by 30 percent.

This year, the Top Scholars team added a new component: the Faculty Call-a-Thon.

The call-a-thon’s volunteers worked in groups of 20, gathering in the Office of Admission and Recruitment’s Telecounseling Center. Only a handful of faculty had done something like this before. For most it was a step into the unknown, but they were excited to speak with the Top Scholars group.

“Because this was our first Faculty Call-a-Thon in over a decade, we weren’t sure how the faculty or the students would respond,” said Jessie Lynch, assistant director of admissions and recruitment. “But the academic departments were happy to participate when we presented our comprehensive plan. We ended up with plenty of volunteers.”

When the calls started going through, excitement filled the room as the faculty members happily conversed with prospective students. One professor, speaking with a particularly inquisitive student, actually taught an impromptu 15-minute mini-seminar right there on the spot. Another jumped out of his chair, did a fist-pump and cheered after a National Merit Scholar confirmed her admission.

Students, in turn, were excited to receive their calls. The recruitment team communicated with them beforehand to let them know that a WSU faculty member from their academic area of interest would connect with them. The individualized communications paid off. While the national average answer rate for evening outbound phone calls is 15 percent, the WSU faculty calls achieved a 45 percent answer rate. All told, 71 faculty members called 1,200 students over a period of two weeks earlier this year.

So far, Top Scholars confirmations are higher than last year; that number will increase throughout the spring and summer as more students confirm.

“Hopefully that feeling of excitement and willingness to make those connections continues to grow,” said Lynch. “I can’t wait until we get official numbers on the tenth day of classes, so I can reach out to the faculty volunteers and say ‘this is your impact, these students are here because of you.’”

The next milestone is getting students who have accepted admission to follow through and enroll.

The “melt factor”—the number of students who confirm their admission but don’t enroll—is something every college admission office must account for, and it’s especially relevant for the Top Scholars demographic. WSU is competing against top schools nationwide for these high-achieving students, who often have multiple admission offers and scholarships to choose from.

One of the most effective ways to counter the melt factor is to get admitted students to visit campus. The Top Scholars team has that covered, too.

The Future Cougars of Distinction program, held March 3, drew 260 high-achieving prospective students to campus. For students who are deciding between college offers, the personal attention they receive at this event can be a game-changer. So far, 66 percent of event attendees have confirmed their intent to enroll.

The Top Scholars initiative has also brought opportunities to  a recent graduate. Amethyst Freibott worked for the admissions and recruitment team as a student. Just before graduation, the  Office of Admissions & Recruitment surprised her with a new job offer: recruitment coordinator for the Top Scholars initiative. She helped plan the Faculty Call-a-Thon and the Future Cougars of Distinction program, and sent personal cards to all of the WSU Regents Scholars.

Freibott also coordinates individualized Top Scholar campus visits, executes the Top Scholars email series, and maintains relationships with students and their families.

“I feel so lucky,” said Freibott. “To work with people I respect and admire, to meet all these students and their families and form connections with them—it’s a dream job.”

Lynch and Freibott say they strive to create “a collection of moments” that help students form a positive connection with the University. It’s an endeavor shared not only by admissions and recruitment staff, but by faculty and staff across the whole campus.