Longwood Welcoming Largest Freshman Class

Published 3:29 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2011

FARMVILLE – Longwood University will welcome its largest freshman class ever when the 2011-12 academic year begins on Monday.

The freshman class is expected to number approximately 1,090, an eight percent increase over last year's freshman class (1,008) and a 4 percent increase over the largest previous class, in 2008, which totaled 1,053.

The size of the freshman class is even more impressive considering that the number of freshmen who were accepted was down 5 percent compared to last year. Also noteworthy is the 12 percent increase in males in this year's freshman class.

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“We found the right students and delivered the right messages at the right time,” said Sallie McMullin, interim dean of admissions. “Students received their acceptance letters sooner than in the past, which allowed us to build relationships by sending them more information, inviting them to campus events, and calling them – all to share the 'Longwood story.' Students got a clear picture of how they can have a superior academic experience while enjoying the comfort of an ideal-sized college.”

Among the incoming freshman class, the average GPA is 3.43, up from last year's average of 3.39. Admissions officials also are pleased there is a 9 percent increase in freshmen with a 3.5 or better GPA and a 6 percent decrease in freshmen with a GPA of below 2.9. The average SAT score is about 1,070, which is consistent with the average in recent years, as is the number of transfer students this year, 173.

Academic majors among freshmen that were significantly more popular this year compared to last year were communications studies, with a 94 percent increase, and biology and criminology, both with an increase of more than 40 percent.

“While the admissions office certainly worked hard to bring in the freshman class, we also acknowledge the hard work by others, especially faculty members who increased their contact with students through email, phone and in person,” McMullin said.

President Patrick Finnegan echoed those comments. “Our faculty were more involved during campus visits than in the past, discussing our strong academic programs and demonstrating the faculty's keen interest in helping students develop to their full potential,” he said.

As of Aug. 10, Longwood's overall enrollment was 4,652, compared to 4,566 for the same day last year, said Dr. Ling Whitworth, director of assessment and institutional research. The final enrollment number for fall 2011 (fall enrollment is tabulated in late October, to take in continuing registration and the sizable fluctuation that occurs after the add/drop deadline) is expected to be about 4,900, she added. Overall enrollment last fall was 4,831.

The university had more success this year in maintaining the freshmen after they indicated their intent to enroll, a perennial challenge for all colleges and universities. Asked to explain why this year was better, McMullin cited the program “1839,” a 10-week extended orientation for all new students, which she said “ties students quickly to the university.” The program, which started three years ago, is coordinated by the Office of First Year Experience (FYE).

“The program, delivered online through Blackboard, helps new students with transition and integration and is also a retention tool,” said Sarah Whitley, FYE director. “The content covers everything from academic preparation to social integration to what it's like to live in Farmville. New students are assigned a peer mentor, affiliated with their Longwood Seminar class, with whom they correspond and share information on a weekly basis beginning in early June. They're in constant contact with the school, and it's an opportunity to meet some of their classmates.”

Finnegan and McMullin also cited the importance of campus visits in recruiting students. “We saw a significant increase in visitor traffic to campus last year, and if this summer is any indication, we can anticipate as large a class next year,” McMullin said. “Students who visit our campus are far more likely to enroll than those who don't visit.”

“We concentrated on bringing prospective students to campus because we've found that, once they learn more about Longwood and talk with our current students, they are attracted by the close-knit community and the great educational opportunities,” Finnegan said.

McMullin mentioned another factor contributing this year's higher freshman enrollment. “Our school spirit is at an all-time high; current students' enthusiasm has become infectious to their younger friends.”

New students move in Aug. 18, returning students who are residents of Longwood-managed apartments move in Aug. 19, and returning residential students move in Aug. 20-21. Student organizations that will again help with move-in include the Movers & Shakers, the Peer Mentors, resident assistants, desk aides and supervisors in residence halls, as well as residence education coordinators. Tents staffed by faculty and staff volunteers will provide hospitality to students and families.