Jim Amidon — It’s a very special time of the year at Wabash College. Even though winter made a furious return over the weekend, our eyes are on spring. There’s a certain kind of excitement that builds as February transitions to March. It’s a time when we get our first opportunity to see the future of the college.
While walking across campus last Friday, I saw a handful of guys in high school letter jackets. Most Wabash students don’t wear their high school coats once they get here, so what I was seeing was recruiting season moving into full swing. Over the weekend we welcomed a swarm of high school men for a multicultural recruitment program. Today more than 100 students who are ranked in the top 20 percent of their graduating classes are on campus for yet another visit program.
After this, it’s Honor Scholarship Weekend, Fine Arts Fellowship Weekend, and Lilly Scholarship Weekend.
Over the course of the next six weeks or so, we’ll host more than 500 prospective students. If history holds, about half of them will enroll next August.
The college’s future lies in these students. They are our future valedictorians, newspaper editors, and starting linebackers. They are society’s future lawyers, doctors, teachers, and businessmen.
So when I see a family being led around campus by an Admissions tour guide, I pay special attention. When I spy a high school student wearing a letter jacket, I try to see where he’s from, in what sport he’s earned letters, and how big he is. If I see someone who looks lost, I make sure to approach him to see if I can help.
The whole campus joins in this experience. Faculty and staff will welcome guests at receptions, open houses, and special programs throughout the day today and on into the spring. Alumni are making phone calls to prospective students in their area or whose interests are similar. Faculty open their doors to invite prospective students into their classes and offices. Admissions counselors and coaches are working the phones and email lines nearly round the clock. Students lead tours, host meals, and give up their beds to our prospective students.
Perhaps it’s because the recruitment process is so collaborative at Wabash that brings excitement to late winter. Dean of Admissions Steve Klein and President Andy Ford have long held the “we’re in this together” approach to recruitment.
It takes a college to recruit a freshman class.
And I think that’s why so many students who visit campus end up enrolling here. Typically we will enroll about half of the men who step foot on campus. Maybe they see that a college for men really isn’t a cloistered monastery. But I prefer to think that it’s good old Hoosier hospitality at work; a genuine desire to be at our best when we have guests on campus.
At Wabash, we don’t approach recruitment as a chore; we enjoy the opportunity to meet students and their families. When they leave, they so often tell us they had a wonderful experience.
It’s a community effort.
The word “uncertainty” comes to mind when I think about young men pondering college choices. They wonder whether they’ll be able to compete in class and in athletics; whether they’ll make friends; whether they’ll feel comfortable.
When they see the tight bonds of Wabash men and feel the overwhelming sense of community here, they begin to see themselves walking across the mall to attend class, lifting weights in the Allen Center, or singing a solo in Salter Concert Hall.
I’ve seen that look a thousand times — the look of a high school student standing on campus and suddenly realizing Wabash is for him. Every Wabash alumnus I know can tell you the precise moment they made the decision to attend Wabash. And it typically happens on a campus visit like the one we’re hosting today or similar programs in the coming weeks.
I’m excited about seeing those letter jackets and wide eyes today. And I’m even more anxious to catch a glimpse of a young man standing alone on the mall and staring at the Chapel or Center Hall. He’ll be pondering his future and hopefully seeing himself as a Wabash man.