Enrollment numbers show promise

by Sylvia Koss

Simpson College welcomes a freshmen class that has pushed its way to the top when it comes to enrollment numbers.

This year 407 freshmen have started their journey to success at Simpson along with 65 transfer students. While this number is high, it does not break the record set in 2003 of 413.

With a class size of only 332 last fall, it leaves many wondering how the college drew in a much larger group of students this year.

“I truly believe it was the product of a full on campus effort,” Jill Johnson, executive director of marketing and public relations, said. “I think everyone rose to the occasion; did things that maybe they hadn’t done before, or increased what they were doing to help recruitment. I think it really showed in the numbers.”

As Johnson said, the job of bringing in prospective students is the responsibility of every member of the Simpson community.

“I think a lot of times people just think that it’s admissions’ job to bring in the class, and granted they are on the front lines every day, but I think it showed that it really takes a community to bring in a class like this,” Johnson said.

While it isn’t all admissions’ job to bring in these numbers, they do have a large part in the process. In order to see these greater numbers in class size, the Admissions Department has to start much sooner than before.

“All admissions offices are starting off earlier and earlier with kids,” Director of Recruitment Cole Zimmerman said. “Now we’re actively after junior and seniors and send mailings to sophomores.”

This alone has been proven a successful tactic by the amount of prospective students attending organized visit days.

“The way that we know that is our Junior Visit Day that we do in the spring keeps on getting bigger and bigger,” Zimmerman said. “The Iowa Private College Week in August keeps gaining in size and those are younger students. More and more students are looking earlier, and in all fairness, their parents are too.”

Students have the opportunity to tour the campus online as well as traveling to Indianola for a guided visit. On top of this, the Admissions Department has added more opportunities for students to experience Simpson.

“Last year, on Homecoming Day, we had an event called ‘Experience Simpson’, and oh man, that was a homerun,” Zimmerman said. “That was prospective students, and of course a majority of them brought their parents, and then they go down the hall in McNeill, and we’ve got a professor or professors from the different academic departments in a classroom. And then, we invited two to four real recent alums, just graduated in the last year or two, to come and be with those professors.”

The Admissions Department as a whole has worked extremely hard to make visiting Simpson and meeting members of the community as easy as possible for prospective students.

“Even though we had some turnover this last year, the folks that we hired are incredible,” Zimmerman said. “The admissions staff that are here right now are terrific. They get it. The just get it. They did an awesome job.”

Now that Simpson has reached its goal for desired enrollment numbers, the campus must focus on retention. Much like before, this will be an effort the entire campus must participate in, especially students.

“I think anything that students can do to get students involved, I think the more they feel connected to campus, the more likely they are to stay,” Johnson said. “I think if someone feels like they’re a part of something or more connected, I think their success will be more likely. And I think students can play a big role in that, especially upperclassmen that have been here and done those things; encouraging them to be active and involved and look for the things that match their interests.”

The biggest way Simpson College can retain its enrollment numbers is to help students find the success it has promised them with its newly established brand.

“A brand is something that’s really sort of hard to define, but it’s really something that lives in the organization. It’s not a marketing campaign, it’s not a logo, it’s not anything like that,” Johnson said. “I guess it’s the promises that you keep to your audiences; students, prospective students, their parents. The things you say about yourself really have to be reflected here every day and that’s kind of what a brand is.”

In order to keep this guarantee, the college must produce the success it promises.

“Going forward with our Success brand, it’s defining success in many different ways for students here, and that’s what’s sort of exciting about it,” Johnson said. “The professors and faculty know that success happens here every day, they see it every day. And so it’s not a hard leap to work that into everything that we do.”

While a portion of that success is dependent on the faculty and staff the college employs, a large percentage of that falls back on the students as well.

“I think students have a big role in that too because they’re actually demonstrating what happens when you find success here,” Johnson said. “It’s not just success after college, but service organizations, finding out that value in serving others. Even just grasping a concept that has been difficult for you or doing something you didn’t think you could do. I mean that’s all part of feeling like you’re having success at Simpson, and that’s what we’re all about; making sure that the students really feel that here.”