Without the option of merit-based scholarships, Penn cannot lure outstanding athletes or writing prodigies with money — but recruited students do find value in community.
Although the Athletics Department’s formal recruitment and the Kelly Writers House’s informal recruitment processes are very different, each faces the same challenge: With no scholarship money given for merit, there is no way to ensure that recruited students will continue to participate in the activities that originally earned them a spot at Penn.
Penn’s athletic recruitment is required to follow the external rules of the NCAA and the Ivy League — for example, coaches are not permitted to call prospective students until after a certain date. But unlike athletic recruiters at colleges that offer athletic scholarships, Penn’s coaches must search specifically for athletes who are likely to follow through on their commitment.
“There are no consequences, financial aid or otherwise, if a student-athlete decides to no longer participate in varsity athletics at Penn,” Deputy Director of Athletics Alanna Shanahan said in an email. “Through the recruitment process, coaches attempt to determine a prospect’s interest level in participating in college athletics for all four years.”
But for most athletes, the community they gain from their sport is so strong that the time commitment is well worth it.
“Coming into Penn, being a freshman is a lot easier because you automatically have these people as your friends,” Wharton freshman and recruited swimmer Carolyn Yang said. “It was really nice having that community here.”
Yang said her high school swim team was highly competitive and dedicated to individual success. But she feels that Penn’s swim team has a higher emphasis on teamwork.
“Here, if you do well, everyone’s genuinely happy for you,” she said. “Swimming isn’t even for myself anymore. It’s honestly for the team.”
Yang added that she definitely plans on swimming for the rest of her college career and that most of her teammates feel the same way.
While athletic recruitment is more visible, organizations like the Kelly Writers House exert their own pull in the Office of Admissions. Since the Kelly Writers House’s recruitment process is less formal than that of the Athletics Department, faculty must work even harder to keep the students they recruit involved. However, as with sports teams, the community provided by the Kelly Writers House is often enough to make students want to stay.
The Kelly Writers House makes students feel at home even before they arrive at Penn with individualized attention. Associate Director for Recruitment Jamie-Lee Josselyn calls the process “proactive rather than reactive” — instead of waiting for students to contact the Writers House, the Writers House seeks out exceptional writers.
Josselyn said she discovers prospective students at writers’ conferences, workshops and through various writing prizes. Once a student is in contact with the Writers House, they are encouraged to submit writing samples and ultimately apply to Penn, with the aid of a recommendation letter written by Josselyn.
Once recruited students are admitted, they are personally encouraged to stay involved. “A goal is often to really keep the conversation going on the matriculant side just as it started on the applicant side,” Josselyn said.
But even if students choose not to remain involved at the Kelly Writers House, Josselyn believes that their presence still enhances the Penn student body. “Even if the Writers House doesn’t itself see a direct effect from every one of those people, I think Penn will see that effect,” she said.
College freshman Zoe Stoller, who became acquainted with the Kelly Writers House after meeting Josselyn at a writing workshop, said that it was a significant factor in her decision to apply to Penn.
“It made me feel immediately like I had a place to come to at Penn and a reason for wanting to be here,” she said. “You’re signing up to have a family that will always be there.”
Stoller said that one perk of the Writers House recruitment is having Faculty Director of the Writers House Al Filreis as her academic advisor. This semester, Filreis helped Stoller get into the
College sophomore Madeline Penn, who is also advised by Filreis, was hooked by the Kelly Writers House when she sat in on his “Modern & Contemporary American Poetry” class as a prospective student. Later, she was able to enroll in the class herself.
“That really put the cherry on top for me. That was the deciding factor why I wanted to come here,” Penn said.
Dean of Admissions Eric Furda believes that Penn’s various recruitment processes, formal and informal, are important in shaping a diverse class.
“The reality is if we’re going to represent a place as complex and dynamic as Penn, all of these things are going to culminate in the type of applicant pool that we have,” Furda said. “That’s beneficial to the broad Penn community.”
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