Admission is rolling out an application fee waiver for applicants referred by alumni.
Illustration by Katie McBride

Recruit a Spider

September 14, 2021


Penny Hu, ’23, knew what she wanted when she was thinking about where to go to college. Something big enough, but not too big. Near a city, but not in it. Definitely liberal arts.

Richmond had flashed across her radar but not jumped out. That changed on the Saturday of her SAT exam at her school, Linden Hall in Lititz, Pennsylvania. In the classroom where she took it, she saw a gigantic Spider flag on the wall and UR paraphernalia all around her.

The room’s teacher, Damien Hondares, ’17, became her mentor soon after and helped guide her decision to become a Spider. It was all part of his master plan when he started teaching shortly after graduation — “I’m going to be a walking, talking advertisement for Richmond,” he thought to himself.

With experience, he’s learned that the best way to help prospective students like Hu is to do what he did with her: Listen to what they want and give advice accordingly.

“Let’s not put unhealthy pressure on students so you’re not adding stress to their plate but are there as a caring figure they can trust,” he said.

Listening is key, agrees Laura Venos, ’04, a college and career specialist at McLean High School in northern Virginia. “When I’m helping students, I try to get them to think about criteria that’s important to them. Certainly if I start sensing some Richmond-like criteria, I’ll definitely recommend it.”

Her advice for alumni talking to young people about college focuses on being supportive. “You always want to honor the student’s stress and the pressure they have — just offer, ‘How can I be helpful?’” She finds that the answer is often just by talking about her own experience.

When Richmond is the right answer, alumni can offer encouragement with a new, tangible incentive: an application fee waiver. For the first time this fall, applicants can have their $50 application fee waived with the recommendation of an alumnus. Tell the student to select “Alumni waiver” during the application process. Fifty bucks might not sound like much, but every little bit helps students applying to multiple schools. It may be the nudge that a promising prospective Spider needs.