The 14 accredited Adventist colleges in North America, including Walla Walla College, are working together to create a broader awareness of Adventist college programs and majors among Seventh-day Adventist students who are not attending Adventist high schools. A new Web portal, www.adventistcolleges.org, offers students and parents a central place to find answers about Adventist college options.
"Our church looks to its colleges to help disciple young adults and to equip them to be leaders in local congregations. The church also looks to us to supply a steady stream of leaders, pastors, educators, health professionals, as well as professionals in a variety of fields," says John McVay, WWC president. "Given those advanced expectations, we want to make sure all our young people are aware of what we offer as a system of Adventist colleges."
To better reach out to students and to understand what Adventist students are looking for, the colleges conducted focus groups on both sides of the country as well as a nationwide telephone survey.
In those conversations, the colleges discovered a general lack of awareness of the Adventist college options among students and parents, especially for those who aren't currently enrolled in Adventist academies. "Adventist students in public high schools have little formal contact with any of our Adventist colleges. We want to help these students understand all of the Adventist options available," says Victor Brown, WWC vice president of enrollment.
To achieve this goal, the colleges have sent more than 40,000 pieces of direct mail in a coordinated effort to reach Adventist young people attending public high schools, home schools, or other private high schools. The letters invite young people to visit a Web site and receive an online brochure outlining Adventist college options. In addition to the letters, the colleges also sent e-mails and made personal phone calls. Nearly 2,000 young people responded to these contacts and asked for more information.
This same effort is being repeated this year with updated materials, and with new names of sophomores, juniors, and seniors provided by church pastors and church clerks around the country.
"Together we have new opportunities to talk with young people that we haven't reached before, and who don't know much, if anything, about us," says Brown. "We're working collaboratively as a team of Adventist colleges to change that."
In addition to the college focus groups and phone surveys, several other research projects conducted among Adventist young people, including Valuegenesis and Avance (a study of Hispanic Adventist youth), have discovered that as many as three out of four college-bound Seventh-day Adventist students do not attend Adventist colleges. The ratios are the same at the high school level, with up to 75 percent of Adventist young people attending public high schools, home schools, or other private high schools.
The college research shows that Adventist colleges have unique values and opportunities that aren't found elsewhere. One of the main things that Adventist students told the researchers was that Adventist colleges offer the "faith factor"—the ability to find friends, peers, mentors and teachers who believe and reinforce a common faith. These students, whether they attended an Adventist high school or not, also felt Adventist colleges offered the chance to provide personal attention and meaningful interaction with professors that can't be found at a public college or university. Additionally, all groups of Adventist students viewed Adventist colleges as having excellent academics.
"Our Adventist colleges and universities have options for most of our Adventist young people," says Steve Davis, WWC director of student information, "and this new approach gives us some improved and expanded ways to introduce these options to our Adventist students in high schools everywhere."
Funding for this collaborative communication project is provided by the Association of Adventist Colleges and Universities, a consortium of the North American Division colleges and universities. Coordination and leadership for the project is provided by that group's Adventist Enrollment Association, made up of the enrollment professionals at these colleges.