Release Date: September 7, 2016
It’s tough to characterize a whole class of nearly 4,000 students with attributes like ambitious, intellectually curious and driven. Suffice it to say that UB's incoming freshman class is all of those — and more. They’re recordbreakers.
Applications to UB were up 10 percent from last year, and the university is on target to meet and exceed its enrollment goals for first-year students, according to Lee Melvin, vice provost for enrollment. “Right now, it’s looking like a record freshman class,” he says.
Fast facts about the UB Class of 2020:
UB’s official enrollment figure could change and won’t be tallied until the enrollment census in mid-September. UB’s total enrollment is expected to be approximately 30,000 this academic year.
Libby Walker is one member of the record incoming class.
She wasn’t initially considering UB, but decided to check it out upon the recommendation of her high school guidance counselor.
The aspiring actress from Manhattan attended an informational event in New York City last spring, where she met Jose Aviles, UB’s associate vice provost and director of admissions. A few weeks later, she visited campus and was amazed that, when she ran into Aviles again, he remembered everything about her.
Then, she met with Vincent O’Neill — an associate professor in UB’s Department of Theatre and Dance and the artistic director of Irish Classical Theatre in Buffalo — who invited her to sit in on a few classes and gave her a tour.
“The connection was there immediately,” says Walker, a freshman enrolled in UB’s bachelor of fine arts program in theatre. “That Jose remembered me, and Vincent giving me a tour of Irish Classical Theatre — the fact that UB is a big school but everyone I met took all this time with me made such a big impact.”
Interest in UB has been building steadily as the university introduces new programs designed specifically for student achievement and enhancing the academic environment. These include Finish in 4, which is helping students graduate in four years, and Heart of the Campus, an ongoing initiative to make a new “learning landscape” where students can learn everywhere on campus, including the Silverman Library which underwent a $7.2 million, high-tech renovation.
An innovative new general education program — named the UB Curriculum, which is centered on developing students’ skills in critical thinking, ethical reasoning, global learning and communication — began this fall.
“UB’s academic strength is enhanced through educational innovations such as our new UB Curriculum, experiential learning and significant global opportunities,” says Provost Charles F. Zukoski. “Prospective students see this and realize that UB is a place where they are offered world-class education that leads to personal growth and success.”
And as momentum continues to build around the city of Buffalo’s renaissance, students and their parents have taken notice of the many opportunities the region and UB have to offer. UB’s recent athletic success — the men’s and women’s basketball teams both made the NCAA Tournament last season — has given a bump to UB’s visibility.
UB is telling its story in a more compelling way, and to a broader audience, thanks to the new brand strategy launched in the spring, Melvin adds.
At open houses and other events, UB admissions counselors are emphasizing UB’s status as a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, its focus on providing research opportunities to undergraduate students, and its location and proximity to other major metropolitan areas.
Ugochinyere Ejiogu, a freshman math major from Queens, New York, decided to apply to UB based on its research profile and then “fell in love with the campus” after an initial visit, he says.
Ejiogu visited UB as part of a program geared toward underrepresented students, during which he got to experience what life is like at the university. Now, he’s looking forward to seeing where his education will take him.
“As a math major, people assume I want to be a teacher, but I actually don’t know what I want to do yet,” he says. “I’m using this time to experiment with what I want to do, whether it be finance, engineering or even teaching.”
As UB has continued to attract more students, university leaders have been strategically planning for future enrollment. Toward that end, this year’s growth was anticipated.
UB saw an increase in student enrollment from just about every region of New York State this year compared to last: Eastern, 35 percent; metro New York City, 13 percent; and Central New York, 21 percent. There was a small decline in the number of students from Western New York, while the number of out-of-state enrollees has remained constant.
“We worked very hard to identify prospective students for whom UB is a good fit, and who would succeed here,” Melvin says. “The process actually started last summer with the admissions office developing a strategic plan to increase applications by increasing visibility throughout the state and beyond.”
That led to a noticeable increase in students attending events like open house and visits by UB admissions representatives to high schools locally and across the state.
“Through these targeted efforts, we’ve been able to generate an audible buzz about the University at Buffalo,” Melvin says.
In addition, the number of incoming students who earned the university’s Presidential and Provost scholarships this year increased to 30 percent from 25 percent. “We awarded approximately 1,000 more awards this year, and that has helped create excitement about the university,” he says.
UB isn’t simply growing its enrollment — it is increasing the pool of intellectually impressive students it is admitting, Melvin says, pointing to the university’s holistic admissions review process, which considers a prospective student’s full portfolio, including high school course rigor, GPA, recommendation letters and intellectual curiosity — going beyond just SAT and ACT scores.
“We’re recruiting for UB: We’re admitting students who can succeed here and who want the breadth of experiences a comprehensive public research university can offer,” he says.
That variety was among several reasons Alexandra Dombrowski, a Presidential Scholar from Clarence, New York, chose UB. “There are tons of study abroad trips, internships, research opportunities and interesting classes that other colleges can’t offer,” says Dombrowski, who plans to study biology and possibly pre-medicine.
“I’m expecting and hoping to have an education filled with real-life experiences and learning by doing. UB seems to focus on research, internships and volunteering, not just learning in the classroom.”
Dombrowski is determined to make the most of her undergraduate education, despite having a rare genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos, which affects her muscles and several organs. “I’m worried I won’t physically be able to handle college or medical school, but I won’t know until I try,” she says. “I am really grateful that I’m able to go to college and that I chose UB because I can tell it is the perfect place for me.”