Northern Michigan University’s March 17 Wildcat Weekend open house for prospective students and their family members or guests was the largest in NMU history. Total attendance was 982, which included 430 students. Hosting such a large and important recruiting event requires significant involvement by faculty and staff members and student volunteers. More than 230 were on hand, contributing to the program’s success.
“One cannot overstate the value of a visit to a college campus as a student and family move through the college exploration and decision process,” said Gerri Daniels, director of Admissions. “The value of an event like Wildcat Weekend is the synergy and energy that occurs when there are so many positive people helping to show NMU off to our visitors. Our yield from Wildcat Weekend is that 60-64 percent of those who attend the event enroll at NMU. This is higher than yields for other activities and higher than the 30-33 percent yield of all those admitted becoming enrolled.”
Wildcat Weekend is held each March and October. The past two have drawn the largest number of visitors. Daniels said she attributes that to word-of-mouth recommendations and general increased interest in NMU fueled by two factors: expanded and improved marketing and communications; and people hearing about new academic programs, innovative approaches and campus facility updates.
Wildcat Weekend launched in 2005-06, with 125 prospective students attending and only a few popular academic programs featured. It has since evolved to include sessions for every academic program. There also is an information fair for those who want to explore multiple degree options and obtain information about ASNMU student government and NMU Athletics. A panel led by current NMU students offers insight on the college experience in Marquette.
“We learned that not every guest wants to do every activity offered, so we moved from a prescribed schedule to more of a menu approach,” Daniels said. “It's important for families to connect with the entire community and not just their admissions counselors, and we wanted to celebrate everyone, not just admitted students. So over time, we changed our approach from the “Admitted Student Lounge” to a "Meet your Admissions Counselor" lounge to "Ask a Wildcat" and included current students available for conversation. In this lounge, we provide a free NMU t-shirt and ski free pass to all Wildcat Weekend student guests. They also get to draw for a possible additional raffle prize.”
Each March event includes private meetings with financial aid counselors. All Wildcat Weekends offer tours of the residence halls and other campus facilities. Attendees are also encouraged to explore the area’s cultural and recreational opportunities.