College casting wide net to attract students

From the The Brunswick News

Danielle Siekkinen is buckling down for a busy season.

That can be expected from someone whose job is selling prospective students on the virtues of College of Coastal Georgia.

Siekkinen, who earned an education degree from the college in May, is a recruiter, or, as the college refers to her post, a regional admissions counselor.

"I really like the travel involved with the job," Siekkinen said. "It really is the busy time of year now."

Siekkinen operates out of an office on campus in Brunswick but spends much of her time attending college recruitment fairs at high schools or visiting with families to talk about attending Coastal Georgia.

As one of three student recruiters for the college, the most ever employed in the school's 50-year history, Siekkinen hopes to be a part of spreading the institution's reach to new places.

"In the past we pretty much focused on our local areas," she said. "Now we are going all over the state."

Widening the scope of recruitment is necessary to meet the growth goals of the college's strategic plan. This year, the recruitment staff is hoping to bring between 600 and 650 new freshmen to campus and a total of 1,200 new students, overall.

Those numbers will contribute to what college leaders hope will be about 4,000 students at the college by 2015.

But with Coastal Georgia only in its fifth year offering baccalaureate degrees, bringing in more students often means telling people about the school for the first time.

"We get a lot of people asking us what is and where is College of Coastal Georgia," Siekkinen said.

With the school's proximity to two publicly accessible islands and their beaches, its growing slate of degree programs and its newly renovated campus, it does not take long to generate interest, she said.

Once interest is generated and prospective students begin telling their friends and families about the college, its popularity will grow, according to Aerial Merritt, the school's Atlanta-based recruiter for the northern region of the state.

"The goal is to spread the word and to get as many students excited and enrolled at the college. It's really a grassroots effort," Merritt said.

Now in her sixth year as a recruiter, Merritt, having previously worked at Georgia College and State University, said her expectations for Coastal Georgia's potential popularity in the metro Atlanta area are starting to develop.

"I just knew the families in metro Atlanta would respond well to the area. So many of them have vacationed at the coast for years," Merritt said.

She has developed a network with other college recruiters that has proved beneficial. If a school does not have a program, like coastal ecology for example, Merritt said it will steer students her way, knowing that Coastal Georgia does.

The network has allowed her to help several students who never thought they would go to college find a home at Coastal Georgia.

"Someone explained to me one time that we are in the business of changing lives," Merritt said. "It is hard work and I am rarely at home during the travel season, but the job is very rewarding."

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Release Date: 10/10/2012
Source: The Brunswick News

By MICHAEL HALL