As one of the only col­leges holding classes in person this fall, Hillsdale has seen an influx of transfer appli­ca­tions from other edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions. Courtesy | Hillsdale College Mar­keting Department

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.”