Last December, when Wendy Rodriguez learned she had been accepted into Emory's Class of 2017, she didn't expect to feel an immediate connection to college life — it would be months before classes began, after all.
But soon after logging in online to discover that she had been admitted through early decision, the 17-year-old was immersing herself in the Emory experience.
Admitted student Wendy Rodriguez shared "Flat Dooley" on her Facebook page.
Connecting with new classmates through social media, learning about campus traditions through an Emory Student Alumni Board "care package," and even posting a Facebook photo of herself posing with a cardboard cut-out of Dooley, Emory's unofficial mascot — it all only reaffirmed her decision to attend Emory, says Rodriguez, a high school senior from Covington, Ga., drawn to the University's undergraduate neuroscience and behavioral biology program.
"When I think about college, it's a little bittersweet because I'll be leaving my family," she says. "But I see the traditions — Wonderful Wednesday, the (Coca-Cola) Toast and Dooley — and Emory already feels like family."
"I mean, come on. A skeleton as a mascot? That's awesome," she adds.
New students, new strategies
This year, Emory's newest group of admitted students are connecting with the University in innovative new ways — part of a tech-savvy strategy to nurture a strong sense of community and connection earlier than ever before.
It's all the result of a new vision in Emory's Office of Admission that focuses upon reaching out to admitted undergraduate students in more targeted ways. Using a strong social media program, the strategy also channels the enthusiasm of early decision and admitted students to encourage those who may still be deciding, explains Daniel Creasy, director of communications for the Office of Undergraduate Admission.
"If you keep (admitted students) connected, they can become an exciting vehicle for talking about Emory," he says. "We're being very proactive, trying to build a relationship with them right away."
Creasy is part of an undergraduate admissions communications team installed last fall by Dean of Admission John Latting that is charged with strengthening efforts to share Emory's message with prospective students via traditional and social media.
Part of that strategy involves employing one of Emory's existing strengths — the voices of current students — to illustrate the Emory experience, Creasy adds.
As prospective students explore Emory through blogs, video, tweets, Instagram, Facebook or other websites, current Emory students serve as de facto "ambassadors" to the University, helping others to envision themselves here, Creasy says.
"Our goal is to streamline Emory's message to students via increased social media efforts, as well as more extensive student interaction with prospective students," he says. "We're really evolving how we tell Emory's story."
Putting out the (virtual) welcome mat
This academic year, prospective students should already see a difference, Creasy notes.
Gone are the days of students moping around a mailbox waiting for college acceptance letters. Now, students simply log onto OPUS (Emory's online student information system) at an appointed time. From there, they are directed to an admitted student website tailored for Emory's Atlanta campus, Oxford College or a site designed for dual acceptance, Creasy says.
Students are greeted with "Welcome to Emory" and "Welcome to Oxford" videos and invitations to connect with other students by joining Emory Class of 2017 or Oxford College Class of 2017 Facebook groups. They can also find Twitter and Instagram hashtags, or may request contact with a current student to help answer individual questions.
So far, it's working. Given an invitation to connect with campus and each other, hundreds of students are doing just that, Creasy notes.
"Of our 700 early enrolled Emory College students, some 550 are already part of the Facebook group, discussing anything from who will be doing The Color Run Atlanta (an upcoming 5K) to sharing Twitter and Instagram addresses," he says. "They're engaged and getting to know each other."
As far as Suanu Bakor is concerned, it's been great to link with other future Emory students through Instagram and Facebook. "You find people talking about everything — books, music, arts and sports," says Bakor, a senior at Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Tech who was accepted early decision to the Class of 2017.
"In just talking, everyone gets each other excited — it's great, we really get into it, it gets your school spirit ramped up," he says. "I know it may seem like a little thing, but it's really how kids connect these days."
Admissions packets that arrive in the mail are different this year, too. In addition to posters. information and fun facts, Early Decision students receive "Flat Dooley," an 18" cardboard figure, with an invitation to take their photograph alongside the "Lord of Misrule" and post the image to their Class of 2017 Facebook page.
"He's the spirit of Emory, welcoming them, and students from all around the country have actually done it," Creasy says. "We'll use those pictures from early decision students to send to regular decision students, along with an invitation to come (visit campus) and pick up their own Dooley."
"We hope they'll come and visit and love what they see," he adds.
Preview Day: April matters
Prospective students will also find online links to upcoming admitted student events, which include April's traditional full-day open houses, scheduled as follows:
- Atlanta campus: Monday, April 8 and 15, and Friday, April 19, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
- Oxford College: Friday, April 5, 12 and 19, and Saturday, April 20, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Sunday, April 14, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
This year, preview dates will be peppered with creative events, including a modified Coke toast, a large Emory 2017 banner that classmates can sign, and a taste of Wonderful Wednesday, complete with club tables and performances.
The most unusual offering? A giant ball pit, located in Asbury Circle, where prospective students are invited to "take a seat and make a friend," choose a ball with a question written on it, and start a conversation.
"The idea is to put a visiting student in the pit with an Emory student," Creasy says. "It could either be amazing or one of the weirdest things ever — that's the excitement of it."
Information is also available about daily visit options and more than a dozen "Choose Emory" events scheduled across the country in April that allow students to interact with deans, administrators and alumni.
"Essence of Emory," an invitation-only program designed to celebrate Emory's diverse community, will be held Sunday, April 7, to Tuesday, April 9.
Class of 2017: Emory's undergrad colleges see record applications
Emory College of Arts & Sciences and Oxford College each received a record number of applications from students seeking Fall 2013 admission, according to both Emory and Oxford offices of admission.
Emory College received 17,652 applications for fall enrollment, exceeding last year's pool of 17,493 applicants. Target enrollment for the class is 1,350 students.
The College experienced a record number of early decision applicants select Emory as their first choice. Nearly half of the entering freshman class enrolled through early decision.
Oxford College also saw a record-setting year, with 6,586 applications — slightly more than last year — to fill an entering 2013 fall class of about 480 students.Oxford noted significant growth in early decision applications; the second round early decision applications were up 91 percent over last year, the first time Oxford offered an early decision option.