Correction appended: An earlier version of this story inaccurately identified Talyah Sands.
The University has long taken pride in its undergraduate students being “the leaders and best.” And in following this motto, the University doesn’t want students leaving Ann Arbor any time soon.
To encourage undergraduates to continue their graduate-level education at the University, several graduate schools, including the School of Information, the School of Social Work, the School of Public Health and the Law School, have taken a more active approach to recruiting on campus in recent years, according to University admissions officials.
These new recruiting techniques include targeting student organizations and contacting individual students in order to receive as many applications as possible from University undergraduates. And admission officials say these new tactics are working. Most graduate programs at the University reported an increase in applicants in the past few years, with active on-campus recruitment being a potential contributor to this rise.
As an example of typical recruitment activity, the School of Information sends postcards and e-mails to every single undergraduate with information about open houses and advising opportunities, according to Laura Elgas, associate director of admissions and student affairs at the School of Information.
“We definitely find that students who completed their undergrad at Michigan have some advantages in that they are familiar with the University and Ann Arbor, as well as campus resources,” Elgas said.
Similarly, to increase undergraduate interest, the School of Public Health sets up lectures and presentations on health issues, offering undergraduate students opportunities to communicate face-to-face with public health representatives, according to Kiran Dhiman, student admissions coordinator in the School of Public Health.
“Michigan graduates are well-prepared, strong candidates for our graduate programs,” Dhiman said. “We’ve increased our on-campus recruitment efforts as a result.”
The number of applicants to the School of Public Health has increased steadily since 2008, Dhiman wrote in an e-mail interview.
In 2008, there were about 1,650 applicants, in 2009 there were about 1,825 applicants and in 2010 there were approximately 2,100 applicants to the school, according to Dhiman. Though 2011 admissions are still open, Dhiman wrote that numbers currently “appear to be slightly ahead of last year.”
Similarly, Sarah Zearfoss, the assistant dean and director of admissions at the Law School, wrote in an e-mail interview that there was a “large uptick” in applications for the 2009 admissions cycle when nearly 6,500 students applied. This increase came after the Law School’s application numbers held steady between 5,500 and 6,000 applicants a year since 2002, she wrote.
“It seems that this year, we’ll be on the high end of our usual range, and that’s exactly where we’d like to be,” Zearfoss wrote. “It’s a large enough pool that we have an enormous amount of talent to choose among, but not so large that there are a lot of unrealistic applicants.”
Each class is composed of about 360 students, according to Zearfoss. Zearfoss also wrote that the Law School seeks incoming students not just from the University’s undergraduate student body, but from all over the United States as well.
“We recruit nationally, traveling around the country to our top feeder schools and reaching out to prospectives across the nation,” she wrote.
Some graduate and professional schools on campus like the Law School even offer special incentives for University undergraduates to apply. The Law School’s Wolverine Scholars Program allows highly qualified University students to apply to the school without taking the LSAT.
Zearfoss said the new program, first started in fall 2008, is promising for University undergraduates and the school.
“The program is in its infancy, but we’re very enthusiastic about the caliber of people it has brought our way,” Zearfoss said.
LSA senior Andrew Lieberman, who recently applied to the Law School and the Wolverine Scholars Program, said the new program has helped him in the application process.
“The school seemed very eager to keep Michigan’s best undergrads wishing to go to law school,” Lieberman said. “It allowed the Law School to know that I was very interested in them once the regular admission cycle rolled around.”
Zearfoss echoed this idea and said the Law School’s awareness of the intimacies of an undergraduate education at the University typically help applicants.
“Our familiarity with the strength of various (University) programs and our relationships with faculty in other parts of the University always help Michigan undergrads,” Zearfoss said. “It means we take some non-obvious candidates very seriously when in (the) absence of key ‘insider info’ we might not know.”
Like the Law School’s Wolverine Scholars Program, the School of Social Work has an optional preferred admissions program for entering freshmen who already know they want to pursue graduate-level studies in the social work field. The option has been available since 1987, but recently, the Preferred Admissions program has gained popularity for undergraduates, Erin Zimmer, the assistant director of Student Services in the School of Social Work, said.
Zimmer said only a small amount of applicants apply via the Preferred Admissions Program their freshman year. She speculated that the current economic situation has contributed to the increasing interest in the school by leading more students to go to graduate school instead of heading straight to the job hunt.
The School of Social Work has seen an increase of more than 250 applicants from the 2009 admissions cycle to the 2010 admissions cycle, according to Zimmer.
“We think the economy is contributing (to the increase in applicants),” Zimmer said. “A lot of students want to advance themselves to be competitive in the job market.”
Public Health student Talyah Sands is currently participating in an overlap graduate program, called the 4+1 Program, at the School of Public Health. She completed her psychosocial health major last fall, which she created through the University’s Individual Concentration Program, and is now enrolled in the School of Public Health. The program allows seniors to begin their graduate degree during their senior year, with credits overlapping between undergraduate and graduate studies.
“A huge advantage of the 4+1 Program is the opportunity to dive into my desired field of study as I finish up my undergraduate degree,” Sands said. “Since I already knew that I wanted to study public health, it was nice to start taking courses in it right away during my senior year, instead of just filling up my schedule with miscellaneous credits.”
She said her experience in this dual program has been positive.
“The school is amazing, and it is an honor to be able to learn from some of the brightest and most accomplished people in the field,” Sands said.