Tag Archive for admissions

Meislahn to Retire as Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid

 Nancy Meislahn is the longest-serving dean of admission in Wesleyan history.

Nancy Meislahn is the longest-serving dean of admission in Wesleyan history.

Nancy Hargrave Meislahn, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid, recently announced that she will retire. Meislahn will leave the University in September after the arrival of the Class of 2023, the 20th class she will admit to Wesleyan.

Meislahn came to Wesleyan from her previous role at Cornell University in January 2000 and is the longest-serving dean of admission in Wesleyan history. Over the past two decades, she has overseen a period of enormous growth and progress in Wesleyan admissions. For the Class of 2004, the first class admitted under Meislahn, Wesleyan received fewer than 7,000 applications and had a 27 percent acceptance rate. In contrast, nearly 13,000 applicants sought a spot in the Class of 2022, which enrolled this fall, and the acceptance rate was only 17 percent. Applications from students around the world increased dramatically during this period, and the international student population on campus has doubled.

"As my team knows, my mantra is, ‘If we are going to work this hard, we better be having fun!’ I certainly have," Meislahn said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

“As my team knows, my mantra is, ‘If we are going to work this hard, we better be having fun!’ I certainly have,” Meislahn said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

In an email to the campus community, President Michael Roth ’78 wrote, “Nancy has led an admission and financial aid operation that embodies core Wesleyan values. She spearheaded several important initiatives to make Wesleyan more affordable for families in need of financial assistance, and expanded access to students from underrepresented backgrounds who may not have even considered applying here in the past.” Examples include building on long-standing relationships with organizations like Prep for Prep and A Better Chance and creating new partnerships with QuestBridge and the Posse Veteran Scholars Program.

Under Meislahn’s leadership, the Office of Admission also transitioned to an entirely paperless operation, introduced a test-optional policy, made Wesleyan’s admission process friendlier to undocumented and DACA-status students, and implemented two different database systems.

Roth added, “Nancy’s passion for her work and for Wesleyan shines through to all who meet her, whether it’s in cheering on our lacrosse and rowing teams, celebrating the creative work of our faculty and students, or in declaring ‘Say Yes to Wes!’ every spring.”

“I’ve often said this is simply the best job,” said Meislahn. “I’ve been so fortunate to work with some of the smartest, best educated, and most committed staff in admission and financial aid. As my team knows, my mantra is, ‘If we are going to work this hard, we better be having fun!’ I certainly have.”

Roth said that he intends to conduct a national search to find a successor, and will share more information in the coming months.

Meislahn staffs the desk inside the newly-remodeled Office of Admission.

Thornton Leaving Legacy of Student of Color Recruitment at Wesleyan

Since joining Wesleyan in 1985, Thornton has been instrumental in establishing and leading the University’s historic commitment to a diverse and academically elite student body, a defining feature of the Wesleyan experience. As he wraps up his final fall semester, Thornton took time to sit down in his office across Foss Hill and reflect on his accomplishments, Wesleyan’s future, and some of his fondest memories.

Since joining Wesleyan in 1985, Cliff Thornton, associate dean of admission at Wesleyan has been instrumental in establishing and leading the University’s historic commitment to a diverse and academically elite student body, a defining feature of the Wesleyan experience. Having served Wesleyan—now for more than 30 years, Thornton recently announced that he will retire at the end of the Spring 2019 semester. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

To listen to Cliff Thornton speak with prospective students and parents is to feel included, even if you’re eavesdropping.

Thornton is associate dean of admission at Wesleyan, covering a wide geographic and socioeconomic range: the South Central U.S. from Kentucky to Louisiana, Manhattan, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Caribbean. Having served these communities—and Wesleyan—now for more than 30 years, it makes sense that he would demonstrate an ease and fluency in his relations with so many different people from such different backgrounds. He’s had a lot of practice.

But something unique about Thornton, which by many accounts has been true from the beginning of his time at Wesleyan, is how his holistic approach impacts students. To hear him tell it:

“Alumni will often start out by saying to me, ‘You probably don’t remember me, but I graduated from Wesleyan in 1995….’ And I always remember them. That’s why I’ve continued to do this work. I’ve had the privilege to witness their growth and success,” Thornton said.

“Working in admission is good in two ways. First, it’s great to be in an educational environment and to believe in the mission. Second, if practiced correctly, it’s a lot like teaching. It might surprise some to hear this, but at the end of the day I don’t consider it my job to make sure a student comes to Wesleyan. My job is to help them make an informed decision. Particularly with underrepresented populations, this is a big challenge. As Dr. Cornel West has said of the African American community: What we often suffer from is a poverty of information. That’s a driving force for me—making sure students have the right information to make such a crucial decision.”

This approach bears itself out in Thornton’s work on a daily basis. In a recent information session with a large group of prospective students and parents, he was clear that the session should be a conversation. Hearing and helping the group talk through their questions and concerns was as important as presenting to them. Fifteen minutes in, students and parents alike were openly talking about their college search experiences (good and bad), and were responding to and assisting one another. Thornton and senior interviewer Shana Laski ’19 served more as facilitators than lecturers. By the session’s end, the prospective group left informed and enthused—well-educated on what Wesleyan had to offer, and clearer about what they wanted and had to offer in turn.

Thornton’s unique understanding and approach at least partially derives from his own educational background. Prior to joining Wesleyan in 1985, he was an adjunct professor and actively considering a PhD. While dating someone who was already enrolled in a doctorate program, he was exposed to the “torturous path” of attaining that terminal degree, and was bumped from his adjunct role by another professor with a PhD.

“I lost my taste for wanting to be a professor,” he said.

Early Decision Applications Up More than 16%

Wesleyan received 742 applications for early decision this fall, an increase of 16.6 percent over last year. The increase of more than 100 applications provided Wesleyan with its biggest pool ever in early decision, according to Nancy Hargrave Meislahn, dean of admission and financial aid.

Additionally, Wesleyan received the most ever applications from international students, up 75 percent. Other diversity measures were also strong, with a 44 percent increase from students of color in the United States and a 56 percent increase from African American students.

“These results are most gratifying,” Meislahn said. “Potential applicants hold Wesleyan in high regard and to have so many see Wesleyan as their first and only choice should make us all proud.”

The early decision application increase follows a substantial jump last year in applications overall. For the class of 2020 entering this fall, 12,026 students had applied, marking a 22 percent increase over the previous year and a 10 percent increase over the previous all-time high three years ago for the Class of 2017.

The new Hamilton Prize has added excitement to the fall admission season, with many applicants expressing interest in the prize, a four-year full-tuition scholarship.

The Admission Office released early decisions to applicants on Dec. 10.

“We have every confidence these first members of the Class of 2021 will contribute to the vitality of the Wesleyan community. Early decision students form the heart of the class at Wesleyan and this heart is healthy and strong!” Meislahn said.

Wesleyan to Consider Undocumented/DACA Status Applicants as Domestic Students in Admission Process

Wesleyan University announced that it will begin considering undocumented and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status applicants who have graduated from a U.S. high school as if they were U.S. citizens or permanent residents, beginning with the class entering in fall 2017. This policy change has important implications for admission and financial aid for these prospective students.

“Supporting these talented and deserving young people is the right thing to do, and is consistent with Wesleyan values and our commitment to equity and inclusion,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth.  “Many of these students were brought to this country at a young age by their parents and have lived here most of their lives. They ought to have the same access to a high-quality college education as any other student from this country.”

President Roth Joins Campus Tour

In a moment of serendipity, Wesleyan President Michael Roth found his walk to work coinciding with the path of an Admission tour group. With his red umbrella aloft, he walked into the crowd of prospective parents and students near the steps of North College. He listened for a while before blowing his cover by asking “Does anyone have any questions for the president this morning?”   Members of the group captured the moment on their smartphones.

In a moment of serendipity, Wesleyan President Michael Roth (pictured at far left) found his walk to work coinciding with the path of an Admission tour group on April 12. With his red umbrella aloft, he walked into the crowd of prospective parents and students near the steps of North College. He listened for a while before blowing his cover by asking “Does anyone have any questions for the president this morning?”
Members of the group captured the moment on their smartphones.

 

Wesleyan Receives Record Number of Applications for Class of 2020

The Office of Admission received more than 12,000 applications for the Class of 2020. 

The Office of Admission received more than 12,000 applications for the Class of 2020.

At a time when many are decrying the demise of liberal arts colleges, Wesleyan has received its largest application pool ever for the Class of 2020. As of Feb. 1, 12,026 students had applied, marking a 22 percent increase over the previous year and a 10 percent increase over the previous all-time high three years ago for the Class of 2017.

“We’re very pleased by not only the sheer number of students who can see themselves at Wesleyan—amongst the highest of any liberal arts college—but also by the highly talented and diverse nature of the applicant pool,” said President Michael Roth. “I’d like to believe this is evidence that we’re about to see a resurgence of pragmatic liberal arts education in this country.”

Wesleyan Partners with Say Yes to Expand Educational Access

sayyesContinuing its long-standing tradition of expanding access to higher education, Wesleyan recently announced a new partnership with Say Yes to Education.

Say Yes works with students from low-income and other background historically underrepresented in the nation’s colleges and universities from partner locations including Buffalo and Syracuse, N.Y., Harlem, Hartford, Conn. and, most recently, Guilford County, N.C. Students have access to full-tuition scholarships as well as a wide array of supports and services—academic, social, emotional, medical and legal—to help them successfully navigate the path to college readiness.

Diversity and Talents of the Class of 2019

The Class of 2019 gathered for the traditional panoramic class photo Sept. 2.

The Class of 2019 gathered for the traditional panoramic class photo Sept. 2. (Photo by Rick Culliton)

On Sept. 3, Meg Harrop '19 met with her academic advisor, Professor of Economics Richard Grossman, to discuss her fall semester pre-registaton enrollments and educational goals. The individual faculty advising appointments are part of New Student Orientation for the Class of 2019. 

On Sept. 3, Meg Harrop ’19 met with her academic advisor, Professor of Economics Richard Grossman, to discuss her fall semester pre-registaton enrollments and educational goals. The individual faculty advising appointments are part of New Student Orientation for the Class of 2019. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

By 9 a.m. Sept. 2, vehicles brimming with backpacks, boxes, books, bedding, microwaves, clothes, laptops, lamps and dorm decor descended on Andrus Field. Members of the Class of 2019, with help from their families and fellow students, moved into their student residences and immediately began New Student Orientation (See photos and a video of Arrival Day here).

Meg Harrop ’19, who is on the women’s soccer team, said her transition to Wesleyan has been “incredibly welcoming, smooth and comfortable.”

“There are only about nine other students in my hall, but everyone has such different backgrounds and interests, and the orientation activities helped me learn something new and meaningful about each of them,” she said. “Everyone is excited to get to know each other, so everyone seemed comfortable approaching new people and knocking on other hall mates’ doors. I can’t wait to meet new people in my classes and get to know my professors!”

Students in the Class of 2019 were selected from some of the toughest competition the Office of Admission has ever seen.

“Our new students are superbly prepared—by traditional academic measures as good as it gets. And, particularly well prepared to work across the entire curriculum of arts and sciences,” said Nancy Hargrave Meislahn, dean of admission and financial aid. “The range of talents, cultures, family backgrounds in this group is remarkable. In many ways, this may be the most diverse class ever enrolled at Wes—and that’s saying something!”

Members of the Class of 2019 moved into their student residences on Sept. 2.

Members of the Class of 2019 moved into their student residences on Sept. 2. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

In 2014-2015, Wesleyan received 9,905 applicants for first-year fall admission into the Class of 2019. Of those, 2,181 were admitted and 758 expected to matriculate.

The Class of 2019 is 44 percent male and 56 percent female. International students make up 11 percent of the entire class and come from more than 40 countries including Brazil, Cuba, Ethiopia, Nepal, Zimbabwe and the United Arab Emirates. More than 100 students reside outside the U.S., and 80 are citizens of other countries.

Forty-two percent of the students (including international) are self-identifying students of color, the highest percentage in at least five years.

“This is as cosmopolitan and international a class as Wesleyan has seen,” Meislahn said.

Seventeen percent of the Class of 2019 are first-generation college students. Thirteen percent have a Wesleyan alumnus/ae or student relative.

The Class of 2019’s top projected majors are economics, biology, psychology, film studies and English while 13 percent are undecided.

Fifty-one percent of the class is receiving financial aid.

“We think we’ve assembled a remarkably engaged and talented group of new students—the next generation who are committed to making a difference wherever in the world they are, here at Wesleyan or beyond the university,” Meislahn said. “The variety of talents and commitments to school groups, civic and religious organizations, politics and the arts that these students bring bodes well for the life of this vibrant community called Wesleyan.

 

Students Gain Skills, Help Departments While Working on Campus this Summer

More than 185 Wesleyan students are employed in various campus departments over the summer. Of those, about 78 are work-study eligible. Students earn money that can be contributed to the cost of their education, while learning skills that will benefit them in the classroom and beyond. Employers benefit from students’ skills, insight and enthusiasm.

Andrea Vargas ’17 is spending her summer working as a student assistant for the Office of University Events and Scheduling. She also holds this job during the academic year. “I use a computer program to process information about campus events. We handle all the logistics for events, and right now I’m planning for faculty lectures that will be held next fall.”

Andrea Vargas ’17 is spending her summer working as a student assistant for the Office of University Events and Scheduling. She also holds this job during the academic year. “I use a computer program to process information about campus events. We handle all the logistics for events, and right now I’m planning for faculty lectures that will be held next fall.”

Wesleyan Hosts Conference of Community-Based Organizations

Attendees at this year's conference represented community-based organizations across the country. (Photo by Kora Shin)

Attendees at this year’s conference represented community-based organizations across the country. (Photo by Kora Shin)

On May 7-9, the Office of Admission held its annual conference for educators and directors of community-based organizations (CBOs), bringing together high school guidance counselors and directors from about 20 groups nationwide.

The conference was founded in 2003 as a way to build closer relationships between Wesleyan and CBOs at a time when the Supreme Court was considering the landmark Grutter v. Bollinger case on the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action policy and many in higher education were feeling uncertain about the future of affirmative action, explained Cliff Thornton, associate dean of admission and co-organizer of the conference.

Meet Wesleyan Tour Guide Greg Tavarez ’16

Greg Tavarez '16

Greg Tavarez ’16 is a Wesleyan tour guide and admission intern.

As part of an ongoing series on student employment, we speak to a campus tour guide. All Wesleyan tours are given by students, and the Office of Admission employs up to 50 student tour guides at a time.

According to Ashleigh Corvi ’13, assistant dean of admission and coordinator of the tour guide program, “The goal of our tours is to highlight the unique characteristics of Wesleyan, and interweave these ideas into a personal narrative. We want our tours to be a mix of facts and personal anecdotes and experiences. The stories our students recall are what resonate with visitors, especially the prospective students. This tour model, which we believe is effective, would not be possible without this student perspective.”

Tour guides are selected from a group interview setting in order to ensure they are comfortable presenting and answering questions in front of a group. According to Corvi, the Office of Admission

Wesleyan Makes Tests Optional in Admissions

Both the SAT and the ACT tests will be optional for high school applicants to Wesleyan University starting next fall, President Michael S. Roth announced this week.

The tests, given annually to about three million students in 170 countries, have been part of the Wesleyan admissions process for many years. Wesleyan has required either the SAT with two subject tests, or the ACT. Now the university joins several hundred institutions, including many of its peer colleges, in making the tests optional.

While students’ academic records will continue to be most important in Wesleyan’s admissions decisions, as they always have, applicants may choose whether or not to submit test scores.

“We’ve always been most concerned about the day-to-day work of our applicants, in a rigorous academic program,” said Nancy Hargrave Meislahn, Wesleyan’s dean of admission and financial aid. “This option provides students more control over their applications, how best to present themselves to the admission committee.”

University administrators are unconvinced that the 88-year-old exam—or the “younger” ACT —always accurately reflects college potential, and believe that it can unfairly advantage privileged applicants.

“We’re skeptical about the value of the SAT in predicting college success,” Roth said. “Scores don’t necessarily add much to student applications; what’s more, we believe they can skew the advantage toward students from privileged backgrounds, or those who can afford test prep.”

Meislahn cited compelling new research from 33 colleges and universities with score-optional policies that finds little difference in academic success between those who submit scores and those who don’t. Score-optional schools also have seen a more racially and socio-economically diverse pool of candidates.

“Wesleyan is committed to diversity and inclusion,” she said. “We’re actively recruiting students from under-served communities, students of color and first-generation scholars. We believe that making test scores optional will provide more access.”