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MC’s Regional Recruiting Strategy Pays Off with Increased New Student Enrollment

Hannah Richards, MC director of enrollment marketing and communications, said students are attracted to the Christian University because of the unconditional warmth and community they find on the Mississippi College campus.
Hannah Richards, MC director of enrollment marketing and communications, said students are attracted to the Christian University because of the unconditional warmth and community they find on the Mississippi College campus.

The daughter of a proud Mississippi College graduate, Merrin Meyer had always been aware of the academic and social programs MC had to offer. But the Jackson resident rarely traveled to Clinton.

Attending MC’s Front Row Experiences, a recruitment activity on the Christian University’s campus last fall that provided an opportunity for prospective students to see what life at the Christian University is like firsthand – solidified her decision about which college she wanted to attend.

“Primarily, all it took was a short tour of the campus and a meaningful conversation with a few admissions counselors for me to realize that I wanted to enroll here,” Meyer said. “My impressions of MC, after hearing about it from my Dad and talking to the counselors, were that it had a tight-knit community of likeminded individuals and that I would be challenged here, both in my faith and in my studies.

“I thought that it might take me a while to adjust to this completely new environment, but I took to it right away. In half a semester, I’ve met so many amazing people and I can’t wait to do life with them for the next four years. Because of this, I can say without a doubt that MC is my home.”

Ayesha Sanders of D’Lo had been attending a large, secular university when she decided a change in majors was in order. She had an eye for interior design, but unfortunately, her school didn’t offer it. A friend suggested she check out Mississippi College.

Sanders talked with an interior design major at MC and went to Transfer Day, one of the University’s recruiting events for transfer students. She decided to take the leap and move to the Clinton campus.

“The main factor was the quality of the interior design program here,” Sanders said. “I had heard nothing but great things and success about the program. Another important factor is making sure I felt at home on campus.

“The faculty, staff and students ensured I felt that way. They welcomed me with open arms and from the start, showed me they were willing to go above and beyond to assist my needs.”

After having settled in to campus life for more than a month, she said Mississippi College is everything the recruiters told her it would be.

“I know this is the place where God wants me,” Sanders said. “It has been a huge adjustment, but it has been so worth it. I love the Christian environment and being surrounded by people that encourage me in Christ.”

Despite the lingering COVID-19 pandemic that has had a negative impact on scholarly activities, institutions of higher learning across the country are riding a new wave of increasing enrollment as incoming and transferring college students appear eager to continue their academic journeys.

That’s especially true at Mississippi College. However, the University’s improving enrollment numbers aren’t just attributable to a declining worldwide pandemic, according to Hannah Richards, director of enrollment marketing and communications at MC.

“We see across the board that our students are not just attracted to the price point we ask or to the location we’re in, but to the unconditional warmth and community they find on our campus,” Richards said, “in conjunction with professors at the top of their fields who also make themselves available to students in a myriad of ways, on campus and off, in churches and in small groups.

“Students get to experience all of this when they come to MC for a visit, and I think it’s incredibly attractive.”

The “personal touch” of new student recruitment at MC extends all the way to the top. Last year, Dr. Blake Thompson, Mississippi College president, wrote more than 500 personal notes to students who attended one of the many regional recruitment events hosted by the University.

“He spent a lot of his off time and weekends writing those notes,” Richards said. “The part he plays in recruiting for MC is wonderful and very important to us.”

Traditional techniques of student recruiting were challenged by a pandemic that put a temporary halt to large gatherings, Richards said. In COVID-19’s wake, smaller, more regional events have proven to be a more successful fit.

“It (the pandemic) forced us to develop additional creative recruiting strategies,” she said. “We have a lot of confidence in how our recruiters have been connecting with students on a person-to-person level, because we couldn’t do college fairs and other regular recruiting activities last year.”

The deployment of recruiters to interact directly with prospective students in regional events and receptions is a relatively new technique that is paying rich dividends for the University. Richards said MC’s freshmen and new student classes are larger than even recent non-pandemic years.

“Our new student numbers are up, year over year,” she said. “A lot of that is due to our regional strategy. Our regional recruiters have proven to be an effective piece of the recruitment model, connecting with even more students on their home turf.”

Between January and April, MC’s Office of Admissions hosted about 800 prospective students in 18 recruiting events across the Southeast. Richards said the recruiters concentrated on four areas in particular: Birmingham, Memphis, the northern shore of Louisiana and the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

The recruiters invited small groups of interested students to dinner at local restaurants or coffee shops to meet with MC faculty members, students and admissions counselors and learn about life at the Christian University. Along with hosting academic Select Scholars Competition and Transfer Scholar Competition – events that attract 120 to 150 students vying for valuable scholarships – and receptions of up to 150 prospective students, the less-formal, individualized meetings are a hit with incoming freshmen and transfer students alike.

“The school does such a great job of reaching out to the freshman class, making them feel welcome, and encouraging them to connect with their peers,” Meyer said. “Recruitment is a great way to meet both freshmen and upperclassmen and is an enjoyable alternative to Greek life.

“Aside from the social aspect of life at MC, the courses are challenging but interesting and are taught by brilliant professors who legitimately care about their students as people. I would absolutely recommend MC to high school students.”

Sanders said she would highly recommend transfers looking for a more personal relationship with their professors and staff to strongly consider Mississippi College.

“My professors encourage me to be the best I can while still holding me accountable for my responsibilities,” she said. “MC hosts a number of different events that allow transfers to get involved. I’d encourage any prospective transfers to go to them and fully immerse themselves in the experience. It will pay off.”