Westminster Announces a 25 Percent Freshman Enrollment Increase and Waives ACT/SAT Requirement

Fulton, MO ‒ Sept. 14, 2020: Westminster College in Fulton, MO, is pleased to announce a 25 percent increase in freshman enrollment and that the institution is continuing to waive its ACT and SAT requirement this year.
Westminster originally waived the standardized test requirement in April to help prospective students during the COVID-19 quarantine.

Dr. Paul Orscheln, Vice President of Enrollment Services, Marketing, and Strategic Communications, says that one contributing factor to the increase in freshman population was going test-optional last spring.

“With the cancellations of the ACT and SAT tests last spring and summer, we knew many students wouldn’t have the opportunity to provide a score or improve their score to meet our admissions requirements,” explains Orscheln. “Given the amount of stress they were already managing with going online to finish their senior year, we felt we needed to reduce any barriers we could to attend Westminster.”

At exactly 177 students, the Class of 2024 is the largest freshman class the College has welcomed in four years.

Orscheln adds that relaxing the testing requirement was not the only reason the freshman population increased this semester. A number of crucial strategic changes and financial investments relating to enrollment were implemented within the last year.

“We devised a careful plan to ensure those numbers increased,” Orscheln says. “Basically, we overhauled the engine of an already functional machine to make it run even more smoothly.”

The College found that traditional direct mailings that were dropped a few years ago to save costs were actually vital, because parents see this material, whereas digital marketing often goes directly to prospective students only.

Orscheln explains, “Our goal is to reach students and parents where they are, and we must make sure we are communicating through every channel possible.”

Adding the direct-mail pieces back to the overall recruitment strategy was part of Orscheln’s additional role as Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Communications — a title he acquired in March.

 “The integration of both departments has made both units stronger,” Orscheln says simply.

In addition to a few changes in marketing technique, Orscheln says freshman enrollment is up because of a strong team of admissions counselors in dedicated territories who are skilled in listening to prospective students.

“They really are an enthusiastic, great group of people with a lot of energy,” Orscheln emphasizes, adding that his department recently doubled the number of admissions counselors in the St. Louis area.

Oddly enough, the COVID-19 pandemic did not negatively affect enrollment numbers, as a few had feared and which happened at some institutions nationwide.

“We were trying to continue to build enrollment through the pandemic and were pleasantly surprised with the numbers we ended up with,” Orscheln says.

When prospective students could not visit campus this spring, Enrollment Services made sure to continue reaching out through chatbots and other texting and video platforms. The College also launched a virtual tour feature on its website.

After the spring quarantine, many prospective students and parents sought out Westminster’s in-person classes, with the understanding that the format could pivot to virtual delivery, as it did in Spring 2020.

Orscheln says that all departments implemented social distancing and sanitization efforts in order to make college life work during this unprecedented time in history. As a result, the overall environment feels even more family-like, which prospective students pick up on the minute they set foot on campus.

“Everyone at Westminster is working together as a team. We all feel good about what we’re doing, and that can be felt by others who come in from the outside,” Orscheln reflects, adding, “That’s not something we can fake, and our numbers show it.”

Founded in 1851 and home of Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech, Westminster College in Fulton, MO, is ranked prestigiously by U.S. News & World Report as a National Liberal Arts College. The institution is in the top 15 percent for graduate earnings and boasts a 98 percent placement rate. Westminster also is a Forbes Best Value College. Westminster focuses on educating and inspiring students to find the power in their purpose in order to become the world leaders of tomorrow.

To find out more about Westminster, please visit our website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Sarah Backer at 573-220-9038 or Sarah.Backer@WCMO.edu.

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.