Morgan Thoem, Campus Carrier reporter
Nolan Davidson, Campus Carrier editor
For the first time in Berry history, the college is placing prospective students on a waitlist for the incoming class of 2025.
A record number of students applied to Berry throughout this year’s admissions cycle, with an increase of over 1,000 applications from past years. The college still hopes to maintain its small student body, meaning freshman class enrollment is limited to its usual 580 to 620 students. Berry’s new waitlist provides admissible students with what Andrew Bressette, vice president of enrollment management, calls a “parking spot,” which is a system that allows admissions and enrollment teams to take their time in assessing applicants, while also monitoring the size of the incoming class. The first round of waitlisted applicants will be notified with offers of admission on Mar. 20, with more following in mid-April and mid-May.
To decide which students from the waitlist are offered admission, Berry is using a multifaceted approach – meaning there is no single criterion that determines guaranteed acceptance. Students are assessed holistically, considering a range of different factors including potential majors, academic quality, diversity and engagement. Berry is seeking “right-fit students,” a buzzword among faculty that encompasses students who are not just all- around high quality, but also embody the college’s value of educating the head, heart and hands.
According to Glen Getchell, vice president of admissions and enrollment engagement, the waitlist opened an opportunity to devote extra time and effort to selecting these “right-fit students.”
“We look at the whole package,” Getchell said. “We’re trying to make the decision of whether there would be a mutual relationship that benefits the student if they came to Berry, and whether Berry can offer them what they’re looking for.”
This academic year marks the first admissions cycle experiencing the completed rollout of Berry’s new marketing plan, which is one possible factor for the spike in applicants. The rebranding was a years-long process aimed at refining Berry’s image and growing overall awareness of the college.
Bressette and his team found that many people had a vision of Berry that was 20 to 30 years old, which largely influenced the rebrand.
“Berry had a certain reputation and a certain brand, but so much has changed for the positive in terms of academic quality, the student experience and graduate outcomes,” Bressette said. “So, I think the centerpiece of this new branding is how do we get the story of the ‘Berry of today’ out into the marketplace.”
Intending to accomplish new branding goal, the college conducted in-depth market research focused on discovering what sets apart the “Berry of today” from its past reputation. This research identified key differentiators for prospective students – such as academic excellence, the LifeWorks program and mentorship – which the marketing and communications team then emphasized through the rebranding. Admissions strategies were also a major focus to help discover the most effective ways Berry could market its new image to prospective students.
Nancy Rewis, vice president of marketing and communications, believes these changes to admissions, specifically new technological aspects, were integral to this year’s waitlist.
“In addition to all the great work with the admissions team, counselor outreach and marketing, we have implemented a new marketing automation software,” Rewis said. “We’re able to use data to help inform our strategies, as it relates to outreach, targeted marketing, and digital advertising, which has been extremely helpful.”
This also happens to be the first year Berry’s application has been test-optional, a decision that arose from the lockdowns caused by COVID-19. Due to a combination of both the pandemic and the new marketing plan, Berry underwent a period of rapid innovation. One benefit stemming from COVID-19 is that the college significantly personalized admissions, from outreach to on-campus visits.
Getchell sees a place for this innovation in Berry’s future, even after the pandemic precautions are lifted.
“Where we go from here is continue to learn from what we’re doing and, once COVID-19 restrictions ease, fight the urge to go back to normal,” Getchell said. “We have to continue to take what we’ve learned and our new ways of doing things and see if there is a way to incorporate that going forward.”
Over two years ago, the college began the process of implementing massive changes in marketing and admissions, and the waitlist is a marker of success for the Berry community. For faculty and staff, this waitlist represents everything the institution is striving to achieve: quality students, brand recognition, strong Berry culture and an even more impressive reputation. Challenge lies with the growth in Berry’s applicant pool, which consists of chiefly high-quality students, making decisions even more difficult.
For Bressette, the waitlist is a bittersweet testament to Berry’s merit and place of pride within its community and beyond.
“This has caused us to have to reflect on what we do and why we do it,” Bressette said. “These are not easy or trite decisions; these are people’s lives and dreams we are wrestling with. That is a very serious obligation, and I think making sure we continue to do that right and give every student the full consideration they need is important.”