Transfer applicants for the spring semester at Hillsdale College are booming, increasing by 110% from this time last year.
Zach Miller, senior director of admissions, said his department has received 78 applications from students hoping to transfer to Hillsdale this year, up from 38 in 2019. The upcoming spring and fall transfer applications combined have increased 126%, he added.
“As we started thinking about the fact that a lot of colleges are going online and making those decisions late in the game, we saw that there was an interest from a lot of folks to see what other options might be available if they didn’t want to do their first year in college virtually,” Miller said.
In past years, transfer students have fallen into two camps. Some students transferred to Hillsdale because they are dissatisfied with where they currently attend college. Other times, Miller said, students who applied to Hillsdale but were not accepted reapplied after establishing academic merit at a local community college.
But this year, with the increase of virtual learning across campuses nationwide due to COVID-19, the appeal of Hillsdale’s mostly in-person classes has grown, Miller said.
Beginning last summer, several students reached out to admissions counselors to ask if they could transfer in or apply as first-time freshmen for the fall semester.
The answer for most was no, said admissions counselor Peyton Bowen, as the class of 2024 had already filled up. They were encouraged to apply for the spring or fall semesters of 2021.
“I had a lot of students looking to enter right away,” Bowen said. “And we obviously weren’t able to take them. They didn’t apply with our class, and we have no interest in really growing our class. We like to stay the same size and we want to preserve the small class sizes.”
At the start of the school year, the class of 2024 was made up of 364 freshmen, with 192 men and 172 women.
Other students who were originally accepted to Hillsdale but chose to go to different colleges have been asked to reapply with the class of 2025. Some of these student’s first choice schools had gone online, and when they found out, students reached out to Hillsdale to see if they could still commit.
“We are not going to honor their [original] acceptance because they are already accepted,” Bowen said. “They understand the integrity of the process, and usually if they’re interested in a place like Hillsdale, they’re really willing to do the work to get in. I’ve seen students work to improve their application essays. They’ve submitted new supplemental materials to make their application more impressive.”
Typically, the admissions team accepts around a dozen students for the spring semester, Miller said.
“Admission has become more and more competitive for the spring semester mostly because we have a certain number of beds, so we can only admit based on how much space we have for them,” Miller said. “I would expect our spring admission rate to go down.”
Jenny Pridgeon, an admissions counselor and director of field recruitment, said her transfer applicants come from large state schools, as well as the Ivy League institutions. Admissions Counselor Maddie Conover said one student from Harvard University inquired about taking classes at Hillsdale until his classes resumed in person.
Bowen said students often rely on places like restaurants and bars outside of campus for community and entertainment. With many businesses shut down due to the pandemic, students are looking for an active on-campus community, which they think they will find at Hillsdale.
“I think that there are a decent number of students who are in these cities where they depended on the community outside of the college to make them happy,” Bowen said. “Now, I think they are looking for activities and a good community on campus, because that’s not really something that can be taken away by restaurants and concerts.”
It’s too soon to know whether applications for the fall will rise, Pridgeon said. High school seniors have more free time due to the pandemic, she said, which means they may apply to more schools.
“Right now, we are trying to hold steady, trying to look at people that are academically prepared,” Pridgeon said. “We can’t wait until the end to just admit the best, we have to admit as we go, so we are doing the best we can.”