From application to admission

First-year class sets new record

by Leah Twilley

When Grand Haven native Lauren English was deciding where to go to college, her No. 1 priority was to move out of state.

“I didn’t want to stay too close to home,” English said. “I wanted to get out of my bubble and experience new cultures.”

But when she visited Grand Valley for the first time she realized that she didn’t have to travel far to experience new cultures and diversity.

“During my first visit to campus I saw that Grand Valley is a very vibrant community that’s so energetic, positive and offers a ton of opportunities to learn and get involved,” she said.

English said choosing to attend Grand Valley was unexpected. “I’m definitely not a homebody. I was that kid in high school who everyone thought would go to California or somewhere far away, but Grand Valley felt like home,” she said.

Today, the elementary education major works in the Admissions Office at Grand Valley where she facilitates orientation for new Lakers, teaching them about the campus culture and showing them what makes Grand Valley special. The newest class of students, the Class of 2018, is the largest class of students at Grand Valley to date, with 4,226. A record-breaking 19,256 first-time- in-any-college students applied to attend Grand Valley this year.

Class of 2018


The first group photo of the Class of 2018 was taken in Lubbers Stadium August 21 during Transitions, a program that helps new students get acclimated to campus and prepare for a successful university experience.

photo by Bernadine Carey-Tucker

Jodi Chycinski, director of Admissions, said there is a lot of precise, behind-the-scenes work that goes into recruitment.

“Our ultimate goal is to get potential students to visit campus,” she said. “Once we do that and they can see what we have and experience it, then it really sells itself.”

Chycinski said her office begins to build awareness of Grand Valley among potential high school students as early as their sophomore year.

“It’s important for us to start cultivating a relationship then, so that by their junior year we’re on their radar enough that it gives us an opportunity to entice them to visit campus,” she said.

By a student’s junior year, the Admissions team notifies students when a Grand Valley representative will be at their high school and sends them the Junior Viewbook, a collection of photos and information about Grand Valley. “Our hope then is for students to have learned a little bit about us and will want to come to Grand Valley to see for themselves,” said Chycinski.

Another recruitment tool is meeting with senior students through visits to high schools by admissions counselors who are assigned territories throughout Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Admission staff members visit about 500 high schools in the fall. Some Admissions staff members focus on graduate, transfer and international recruitment and diversity initiatives.

Astin Martin is an admissions counselor who covers 24 high schools in West Michigan public school districts, including Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Holland.

The California native attended Grand Rapids Public Schools before attending Grand Valley where he played on the Laker football team. He said educating prospective students about Grand Valley comes naturally.

“There are many students in my territory who want a little more direct attention, so they feel comfortable,” Martin said. “They’re already nervous about applying to college, so making a personal connection helps to ease some of that tension.”

The busiest time for Martin and his colleagues is in the fall, when most of the high school and career fair visits take place. The most common question he gets is “What is Grand Valley known for?” His reply is easy. “I always talk about the importance of a liberal education,” he said. “Then I talk about all the resources and activities students have access to, like financial aid, advising, student organizations and athletics events.”

Class of 2018

3.54: average high school GPA

23.9: average ACT score

96 percent: students had a B or better overall high school GPA

90 percent: intent to work at a job during their first year of college (10 percent expect to work 20 hours per week or more)

82 percent: attended public high schools

12 percent: come from a high school graduating class of less than 100

50 percent: plan to earn graduate degrees

Martin said understanding students at each school is important, too. “If I’m visiting a GRPS high school, I am from the same community so I can bring a personal touch to working with the students and staff members. I know what they’re thinking and want to ask. At East Kentwood, I see more students in my presentation because it’s a larger student population,” he said.

Chycinski said the counselors are well-prepared to talk about Grand Valley. “So often students don’t know what to ask. It’s all very new to them,” she said. “So when we walk into a school, there is information that we make sure we share with every audience, so we’re painting the same picture of Grand Valley for everyone.”

Most applications come in from September to November. Chycinski said the Admissions Office begins making decisions right after Labor Day of the senior year. “All hands are on-deck during this time. We’re reviewing and reading applications everyday and making decisions, so typically, students will hear back from us in two to three weeks,” she said.

Decisions are made based on a student’s academic credentials, however, Chycinski said, every application is viewed as an individual application.

“Students have stories to tell and our application gives them an opportunity to tell them,” she said. “Students may have circumstances that are quite compelling and that causes us to take time to find more background on the students, or we might decide that we need to wait to see their senior year grades. There are a lot of different decisions we make; it’s not just admit or deny.”

More than 19,000 first-time-in-any-college students applied for Grand Valley this year, a record.

Chycinski said it’s a testament to the quality experience students have at Grand Valley. “One of our best recruitment tools is a current student going home and talking about their experience, which is what we are hearing they do over and over again.

Lauren English with a student

Lauren English, left, helps a new student register for
her classes during orientation.

photo by Elizabeth Lienau

“During orientation in the summer, Dean (of Students) Bart Merkle will ask students to stand if they have another family member who’s attended Grand Valley. It’s amazing to see how many people stand up compared to 10 years ago,” she said.

Chycinski said recruitment is a campus-wide initiative, as alumni and all offices on campus play a key role in recruitment, from faculty to Financial Aid to Facilities staff members who keep the campus picture-perfect.

She said one challenge in recruitment will be the declining number of high school seniors in the Midwest and Michigan. A report by Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education predicts that by the 2019-2020 academic year, high school graduates in Michigan will fall 20 percent to below 99,000, and the decline is expected to continue. However, more effort is occurring in high schools to encourage students to consider higher education.

“It will become more and more competitive to attract students, so we must continue to focus on students here and the experience they have, like Lauren,” she said.

English said her favorite part about giving tours and helping at orientation is inspiring students.

“A student who was in one of my tour groups came up to me during orientation in July and said, ‘I just want you to know that you’re the reason I came here. You sold me right off the bat and made me picture myself here.’ It was a rewarding moment,” she said.

Page last modified November 6, 2014