Prospective students and their families converged on campus Friday, Nov. 10, for Explore Occidental to familiarize themselves with the college. The event was the second preview day this semester — the first took place Oct. 17. Vice President of Enrollment and Dean of Admission Vince Cuseo oversaw the event, and Admission Coordinator for Campus Events Emma Goldstein ’16 organized it. Explore Occidental offered free events to prospective students and families, including academic panels with professors and students, a panel of recent graduates, an overview of admissions and financial aid as well as multiple campus tours.
“This is a sort or preliminary pre-application opportunity for prospective students to gain a sense of what Occidental is like, and whether it’s going to be an appropriate place for them to go to college,” Cuseo said.
The purpose of the event was to have prospective students and their families gain a thorough and authentic sense of Occidental’s current students, faculty, staff and alumni, according to Cuseo. Cuseo said that the admissions office believes they met their own goals, but that they routinely send out surveys to visitors after their events for feedback to incorporate into their future programming.
Cuseo said that the admissions office consistently receives confirmation from visitors that members of the Occidental community are helpful and kind. According to Cuseo, the culture that prospective students and their families experience from being on campus is the highlight of the event.
“[What makes this event great is] the articulateness, genuineness, candor and warmth of the entire Oxy community, especially our students,” Cuseo said.
Cuseo said that he and his team marketed the event to students all over the country and that they made additional outreach efforts to students from the West Coast. Shuttle service was also provided from the Highland Park light rail stop for local prospective students and their families who may not have a car to get to campus. Prospective students from over 17 states and Washington, D.C., attended Explore Occidental. Many prospective students took advantage of the opportunity to stay overnight with a current student, according to Cuseo.
Cuseo said that Explore Occidental is the first recruitment event for the Class of 2022, which follows the unusually large first-year Class of 2021. According to Cuseo, the school unintentionally exceeded their target of 530 students for the incoming class by 34 students.
“The most challenging part of our job is trying to predict the raw number of students who will actually take us up on our offer of admission,” Cuseo said. “It’s a little bit of a guessing game, so you admit ‘x‘ to get 530 students. For us, we admit over 2,000 students because they have lots of choices, they’re not just looking at Occidental.”
Cuseo and Charlie Leizear, senior associate dean and director of first-year admission, said that exceeding their target of students for the incoming class is actually a good sign for the institution. They believe the higher-than-usual numbers are not only a result of the admissions office’s more aggressive recruitment efforts, but also a sign of the rising profile of the college. The college received more early decision applications than usual, indicating that more students apply to college with only Occidental in mind, according to Cuseo.
“Our location is very attractive to many students, being in Los Angeles,” Leizear said. “More and more students are excited by the opportunities that exist in cities, and Occidental is pretty unique when you think of small liberal arts college in cities, and I don’t think you can discount President Obama, and the effect that has on the profile of the college.”
According to Cuseo, Occidental aims to provide a wide variety of college experiences in order to compete with other schools.
“For students, particularly in this day and age, they’re looking for that kind of overall four-year experience, where they have the intimacy and rigor of a liberal arts college, but also tremendous access to one of the world’s most influential cities,” Cuseo said.
The culture of community is also influencing student’s decisions, according to prospective student Kuala Tulula. Tulula, a high school senior from Pacific Grove, California, originally toured Occidental after receiving a letter from Occidental’s track coach her sophomore year of high school.
“A lot of what I want to do revolves around community,” Tulala said. “And I really like Oxy’s central mission and how much they emphasize the value of community. As soon as I got out of the car, I felt included. They had the Oxy team members up with the big orange paws.”
Tulala is interested in majoring in Urban and Environmental Policy (UEP), but expressed an interest in maintaining an open mind and to explore her interests during Explore Occidental Day.
New to the event this year was the Young Alumni panel. The panel featured recent alums speaking about their transition to life after college and their time at Occidental. In addition to the panel, admissions also added a casual reception at the end of the day for prospective students to mingle with Occidental faculty and recent graduates.
“[We wanted to] have our visitors leave with a sense of the many people who have an influence on student well being,” Cuseo said.