Record Number of Prospective Students Flock to Campus

April 6, 2010

Despite a rainy start, Mary Baldwin opened its doors to a record number of prospective students March 26-28 for Future Freshman Weekend.

Nearly 200 students and their families explored academic programs, learned about the college’s Leadership Gateways, met with faculty, and inquired about financial aid opportunities. They included high school seniors, rising juniors, honors students, and young scholars who wanted to check out the college’s Program for the Exceptionally Gifted.

Director of Admissions Roberta Palmer said it was the largest number of student visitors in her 14 years at Mary Baldwin. She praised the entire college community for coming together to make the weekend a success — from well-placed parking signs to the professional line up of VWIL cadets.

“This has been a community success story,” Palmer said. “Every office was able to touch these families’ experiences.”

The jump in visitors for Future Freshman Weekend came on the heels of the news that more high school students have applied to the Residential College for Women at Mary Baldwin this year than ever before.

Among the prospective students on campus was Astrid Salarda of Houston, who nearly missed out on her long-distance visit to Staunton.

Wearing a Spencer Citizens button to signify her potential Leadership Gateway, Salarda described how Mary Baldwin admissions counselors personally reached out to her with frequent correspondence and an invitation to an event in her hometown for alumnae/i and prospective students. The personal attention was a welcome change from the counseling she is used to at her large public high school.

“I am amazed by how much effort everyone at Mary Baldwin is willing to put into me, just one potential student,” said the 18-year-old high school standout who participates in sports, is president of student council, is a member of Key Club and National Honor Society, and volunteers at a local hospital. Born in the Philippines, Salarda moved to the United States in 2001.

“Soon after my family moved to the States, I realized that education was my opportunity for a better life, that I had a chance to do something different if I grabbed every opportunity I could.”

It was at the Houston event that Salarda met Director of Alumnae/i and Parent Relations Jennifer Kibler ’91, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Catharine O’Connell, and Bob and Cynthia Wier ’68, who convinced her that a trip to campus was in order.

Salarda knew it would be difficult for her family to afford the trip from Texas to Virginia, but the Wiers stepped in and purchased her plane ticket, giving her the opportunity to explore what life would be like at Mary Baldwin.

“What really has set my experience at Mary Baldwin apart is that people genuinely care about who you are. After my first conversations with Britt [Carl, an Mary Baldwin admissions counselor], she said, ‘Don’t worry, we are now your support system. ’”

By the end of the weekend, Salarda had made her enrollment deposit. Her commitment was one example of why the weekend was an “unparalleled opportunity to convince students of the excellence Mary Baldwin has to offer,” O’Connell said.

Admissions activities through the weekend included a PEG prospective overnight on Sunday, which featured a panel discussion, a dinner, a concert at the Blackfriars Playhouse, and a talk with Dr. Kelly Mann ’99, a former PEG student who recently returned from relief work in Haiti.

“Our goal was to make that personal connection with students who are a great fit for Mary Baldwin and secure their attendance for the fall,” said Lynn Gilliland ’80, director of first- and second year experience.

— With reporting by Morgan Alberts Smith ’99, Dawn Medley, and Liesel Nowak

This article originally appeared in the April 6, 2010 edition of The Cupola.