Prospective college students looking at Shepherd University may be disappointed to discover that acceptance now requires more than a pulse.
In past years, it has been said anecdotally that the only prerequisite for acceptance to Shepherd University was possessing the ability to breathe. According to a Board of Governors’ publication issued September 2013, the acceptance rate of the university in 2008 was 94 percent. The report shows a steady decline over a five-year period to the present figure of 74 percent.
According to Michael Konopski, interim-vice president of enrollment management, greater selectivity of potential students through means of lower acceptance rates generally leads to a greater retention of students moving into their sophomore year. The increased retention rate has been reflected in Shepherd’s academic statistics.
Konopski explains that selectivity and retention are both tools used to measure and compare the quality of colleges and universities. The lower the acceptance rate, and the higher the student retention, the higher the rating will be for higher learning institutions.
Since Shepherd has begun to be more selective in its admissions, there have been several improvements to its academic statistics. In the past year alone, the average Shepherd student grade point average (GPA) has increased from 3.27 to 3.34, and test score averages have increased as well.
Although acceptance to Shepherd is more competitive, students lacking qualifications for acceptance do not necessarily fall through the cracks. Associate Director of Admissions Kristan Price said, “We pride ourselves on never outright denying any student acceptance.”
According to Price, if a student doesn’t immediately qualify to attend Shepherd, the university offers counseling to help them take the necessary steps to gain acceptance. This includes counseling students at the community college level and helping students choose classes that can be transferred to the university. “I can’t say the system is flawless,” said Price, “but I am very proud of the work we are doing in admissions.”
Robert Parkinson, associate professor of history, speculates that the decrease in the acceptance rate is a response to the increasing emphasis on standardized test scores among universities since the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act. “Tests such as the SATs are becoming a much more important factor than GPAs. That being said, I haven’t really noticed a change in the caliber of students attending my classes.”
Price, however, believes that the trend of decreasing acceptance rates is merely Shepherd solidifying its status as a premier school. Price asserts that greater selectivity equates to a sharper competitive edge.
Students tend to agree and feel more confident, not only in their education but in the value of their Shepherd degree in the job market. Dustin Revell, a senior in the biology department, said, “I think the decrease in acceptance is generally a good thing. I’m sure a more competitive school looks better on a résumé.”
Shepherd’s decreasing acceptance rates are a result of the transition from college to university status and the movement to an institution that garners respect and prestige. Moving forward, the 10-year plan projected by the Board of Governors calls for significant expansion of the campus and further improvements to administrative functionality.