20% decrease in undergraduate applications during the pandemic

Madisyn Morin, Reporter

California Lutheran University has seen about a 20% decrease in undergraduate applications since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, Cal Lutheran would receive about 5,000 incoming applications per year for prospective first-year and transfer undergraduate students.

“If you think of what their day-to-day experience is like, it has changed dramatically” Director of First-Year Admission Ineke Dyer said in a Zoom interview. “The high school senior is trying to do classes online, but now instead of thinking of college, maybe they’re having to help their younger siblings.”

Dyer said recruitment has moved to a completely virtual format. Prior to the pandemic, the Cal Lutheran admission team was traveling all over the country to get in touch with prospective students. Dyer said having to use virtual recruiting methods may contribute to lower admission numbers.

“It is more challenging to make those relationships with students when we are not seeing them in person,” Dyer said.

When it comes to students who may lack support or guidance from their high school counselors, the Cal Lutheran Undergraduate Admission team has tried to be proactive.

Michael Elgarico, dean of Undergraduate Admission, said he feels it is important to make sure Cal Lutheran is distinguishing itself from other schools during this time. The admission team is trying to capture the attention of prospective students the best they can.

“We’re ready to move forward as an institution,” Elgarico said.

Elgarico said it is hard for future students to get a feel for the school when they can’t actually visit. Dyer said they have created a virtual campus tour for students looking at Cal Lutheran, although Elgarico said it is still very different from the true experience of being on campus in person.

“It’s been challenging trying to replicate that energy and excitement, because that’s what we do so well,” Elgarico said in a Zoom interview.

Dyer said the admission team was able to release admission decisions three weeks earlier than previous years and the team hopes this will be to Cal Lutheran’s advantage, taking some weight off the students’ shoulders and initiating the financial aid process earlier than usual.

Along with the early release of decisions, the admission team decided to change the application so SAT/ACT test scores are optional.

Dyer said she thought it was no surprise that the application rate was lower for the fall of 2021, and she feels it has been important for Cal Lutheran to plan ahead and know what to expect.

“When you can plan for that and anticipate that, that helps kind of set the expectations,” Dyer said.

Elgarico said they are planning multiple events within the next few months to engage prospective students. He said he is hopeful and that as Ventura County moves up in reopening tiers, the admissions team will seek more opportunities to engage safely with prospective students.

“We want to be at the ready because one of the things that we have realized, many students and their families are eager to visit campus,” Elgarico said. “I think that we have done quite a bit to prepare to receive visitors on a limited basis, but at a point where we can offer a range of opportunities.”

Elgarico said it is a group effort to bring people back and open campus to prospective students.

“Making sure that they know that there is a place and space for them once they come to campus,” Elgarico said, “we are positioning ourselves to hit the ground running, and we never stopped.”