The University of Oregon is pulling out the stops to enroll the “top young minds” for fall term.
The plan is to bump up the academic caliber toward making the UO an academic powerhouse.
Before the spring college decision-making season is through, UO recruiters will have contacted the high-achieving students in its sights from two to seven or eight times, said David Van Der Haeghen, assistant director of admissions for top scholar recruitment.
“We try to communicate with them more often than not, but we don’t want to overwhelm them,” he said.
UO academic recruiters find those students at recruiting events around the country, from student inquiries, and from lists of top scorers it sometimes buys from the College Board national testing agency.
On Friday, the UO made its biggest appeal of the year at an invitation-only event for about 100 top-shelf high school seniors and their parents. They came from as nearby as Eugene and from as far away as New York and Georgia.
To get an invite, the students had to have at least a 3.65 GPA and a minimum 1150 SAT score or a 26 on the ACT.
For Friday’s event, dubbed Scholars Recognition Day, invitees had to have already applied for admission to the UO and been accepted — way ahead of the regular deadline for applying, which is Wednesday. These young minds start early and play the field.
The UO’s purpose on Scholars Recognition Day is to convert admitted students to enrolled students.
“This is what we call a `yield’ event,” Van Der Haeghen said.
“It’s an opportunity for us to look at the creme de la creme of our applicant pool for the next fall and to really roll out the red carpet — and to look that student and that parent in the eye and say, `We think you can get a fantastic undergraduate education here at the University of Oregon.’ “
The recruitees got discounted tickets to Thursday’s UO men’s basketball game and a shoutout over the loudspeaker.
They toured the campus and housing, attended an information fair featuring university departments, took part in academic breakout sessions and had a sit-down lunch in the Erb Memorial Union Ballroom with a “distinguished academic — someone who’s a professional researcher, who’s knowledgeable and very intelligent — to get to know them in a context that isn’t the classroom,” Van Der Haeghen said.
Parents love that part, he said.
The biggest lure may be the promise of the year-old Apex or Summit merit scholarships, which provide all high-achieving students with $3,000 or $5,000 per term, and more for students who are facing steeper out-of-state tuition. Income is irrelevant with these scholarships; they’re for every high achiever, rich or poor.
“In the past, they did more very small awards across the board to many, many, many students of just $1,000 or $2,000,” said Randy Bernstein, principal at South Eugene High School. “They are making it more attractive for that high-end student to consider the U of O.”
The Robert D. Clark Honors College also draws top students, he said, because it has the feel of a small, private school within a large university.
Virginia Farkas, coordinator of the College/Career Center at South Eugene High, said she has seen instances of smart students swayed by the new UO scholarships.
Before the UO introduced the Summit and Apex scholarships, it was cheaper for students to attend university out of state, Farkas said.
The scholarships are having an effect on the UO, too. In the first year they were available, the UO saw record-high achievement from its entering freshman class — with a class average GPA of 3.6 (out of 4.0) and a class average SAT score of 1677 (out of 2400).
The university wants to see itself in the ranks of the academic crA~ eme de la crA~ eme.
“We have to continue to change and enhance the image that people have of the UO,” Van Der Haeghen said. “The UO doesn’t have the same name recognition that you get when you hear the name Stanford or Harvard or Yale, right? But at the same time, we would put our faculty and our undergrads up against faculty and undergrads from any other university of our shape and size and feel very confident.”
Bernstein, at South, said the academic achievement numbers appear to be headed in the right direction — although the improvement has got to be more than image, he said.
The UO will get two more chances to beguile the best and the brightest at Top Scholar Duck Days in March and April, when recruiters will reiterate the same theme: “We want you to come to the U of O. We want you to be a Duck,” Van Der Haeghen said.