In spite of the recruitment challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Bucknell University has set a new application record of 11,109 — a 12.3% increase over last year's total of 9,890. The previous record was 10,967 applications in 2015.
Bucknell continues to attract prospective students from across the nation because of its robust residential educational experience that offers top-ranked liberal arts, engineering and management programs in three distinct colleges: Arts & Sciences, Engineering and the Freeman College of Management. The University began the current academic year with a record 991 new students in the Class of 2024 coming from 33 states, the District of Columbia and 37 countries.
University Vice President for Enrollment Management Lisa Keegan attributes some of the application record to new strategic marketing initiatives designed to reach a broader audience, as well as additional virtual and self-guided tour and visit options for families.
Bucknell's ability to safely offer in-person instruction throughout fall semester classes, an effort girded by stringent health and safety protocols, has also played a role in encouraging prospective students to apply. Bucknell opened the fall semester with nearly 3,400 students on campus and will welcome a similar number back to campus this week for the spring semester, which begins Monday, Feb. 1.
"We believe Bucknell’s ability to offer on-campus classes this past fall allowed prospective families to glean a clearer picture of what Bucknell offers than if we were fully remote," Keegan says.
Until travel restrictions had to be instituted, some of those prospective families visited on small, physically distanced group tours, which were offered as pandemic conditions permitted and included additional safety measures such as mandatory face-covering and temperature checks on arrival. Dean of Admissions Kevin Mathes says that seeing life and learning continue on campus may have helped reassure students about their upcoming college experience.
"Our ability to be open residentially this fall without a caveat — a decent number of schools only permitted new students or half of their students to be on campus — allowed prospective families to witness our students handling the pandemic firsthand," Mathes says. "We believe it gave them confidence in Bucknell's ability to excel in challenging situations."
"We also believe that students are applying to more colleges this year since they weren't necessarily able to visit as many schools and hone their college list before applying," Keegan adds.
Both Keegan and Mathes expect most college students will attend classes in person in fall 2021 due to the progress in vaccines and confidence inspired by success stories like Bucknell's reopening for on-campus instruction.