Katelynn Singleton, Campus Carrier staff writer
Berry has received a significant increase in the total number of students who have applied for the fall 2021 semester, forcing the Admissions Office to adapt quickly. The application as a whole has also adapted due to the effects of COVID-19. Now students are required to complete a section describing how the pandemic has impacted them. The application is also now test optional.
In previous years, Berry has averaged around 4,000 applications per year. This year, however, Berry received just under 5,000 applicants, which is about 800 more than last year, according to director of admissions Glenn Getchell. This large increase has forced the admissions office to make some adaptions.
According to assistant director of admissions, Trevor Ehrenheim, there is a cycle that the admissions office goes through each year. The “application season” is in the fall and is focused on receiving applications and reading them to make decisions on admissions. The following spring semester is known as “yield season”, where applications aren’t being read as much, but the admissions team is trying to connect with students who have already applied in order to communicate all the things that Berry has to offer the student. This year, Ehrenheim says that with the increased number of applications, the office is still having to read applications into this semester.
“It changes a lot of the way that you have to consider who you’re going to admit,” Getchell said.
The standard to accept students has had to change slightly. If admissions followed the same standard of previous years, there would be more students admitted than Berry could support. Additionally, “if the same percentage of students that admissions typically admits accept their admission, then the class is suddenly 100 students more than you need it to be,” Getchell said.
The admissions office has seen how pandemic has affected incoming students and has adapted the application to allow each students an equal opportunity. Ehrenheim explains that there was a new section added that allowed students to explain how the pandemic affected their family and their educational experience. This allows for students to explain any circumstances that the application team might not be able to gather from the standard application. Ehrenheim stated that he believes this question will remain on the application for a couple of years.
“There’ll be ripples of this pandemic for years and years to come, so I see that part of the application sticking around,” Ehrenheim said.
Berry has also gone test-optional, allowing students to only submit their transcript, and not any SAT or ACT scores. Many students were struggling to take the SAT and ACT due to the pandemic, with test dates being frequently rescheduled or canceled. Students now only have to submit their transcript and the application. Both Getchell and Ehrenheim anticipate the application to remain test-optional in future years.
While specific parts of the new application may remain the same next admissions season, it’s difficult to tell if the entire process will remain the same. Admissions usually use data from previous years to aid in their process, but with the uniqueness of this year, it’s difficult to tell.
“It’s like you have two paths that you can follow if the applications come in at the normal rate and if all of a sudden we have an abundance of applications,” says Getchell.
The increase in applications is due to multiple factors. Berry has undergone a multi-year effort to reimagine its marketing and advertising. The admissions team also works hard to demonstrate the community that exists at Berry.
Ehrenheim says a significant part of that is that families see students on campus cooperating with the COVID-19 rules put in place. Students have shown that they want to be on campus and in the community together, and especially during the pandemic, which resonates with a lot of families. Families also are able to see the effort that Berry has made to keep students on campus and safe, which shows how much the school cares about its students.
“A lot of families are looking for a place where they can still have a community experience, so it means a lot to them that Berry is still striving to do classes in person and still house students on campus,” Ehrenheim said.