Queally Center for Admission and Career Services

Despite challenges, UR sees record number of applications

January 28, 2021

University News

Despite a global pandemic making it almost impossible to recruit students in person, UR this year saw nearly 14,000 first-year applications for admission — a record number — with steep increases in regular decision and early action. Applications for the class of 2025 were up 1,900 over last year, an increase of 16%.

Gil Villanueva, associate vice president and dean of admission, said he’s seeing not only an increase in applications but a stronger applicant pool academically as well, based on high school performance and submitted test scores.

“And it's more diverse,” Villanueva said. “As always, the goal is to grow the applicant pool with strong, academically talented students from all over the United States and abroad. When you're recruiting all over the country and the world, the students are going to be diverse.”

It takes a whole campus community to attract bright, talented, and diverse students.
headshot of Gil Villanueva
Gil Villanueva

Associate vice president and dean of admission

Villanueva attributes the increase in applications in part to good marketing practices, including a push to tailor the Richmond message to students who will be a good fit to the University. 

“We segment prospective student information and personalize messaging based on interests,” he said. “Good prospect management allows us to make meaningful connections. That’s the big picture. We've done that over time.”

The Office of Admission, which has a focus on meeting students where they are, had to quickly adapt to virtual recruiting when the pandemic struck last spring.

“We converted many of our in-person physical recruitment activities to virtual formats in two weeks, when some schools took months,” he said. “It’s a testament to the talent in the office.” 

For example, members of the international team woke up at 2 a.m. to meet with students in China and India. During the summer and fall, staff also conducted virtual “group travel” recruiting trips with other highly selective institutions.

Villanueva said the recent increase was also linked to the temporary policy change to go test-optional for students entering in 2021, after much of the 2020 SAT and ACT testing was cancelled.

“What has not changed is Richmond’s compelling value proposition,” he said. “Students and faculty are at the center of everything we do. And our outcomes — what students do after graduation — are very impressive.”

Finally, he attributes the increase to the University’s ability to protect its community and with in-person instruction during the fall. “We took care of our own,” he said. “Prospective students and their families learned a lot about schools in terms of how they treated their people during this pandemic.”

Students and their parents, he said, gravitated to schools that stayed open and protected faculty, students, and staff.

“I tell everyone, it takes a whole campus community to attract bright, talented, and diverse students,” he said, “because what we talk about in Admission, what we promote, the stories we tell, are all coming from the University — and the alumni, of course. The minute Richmond stops what it’s doing, we have nothing to talk about.”