Future Gamecocks

Future Gamecock, Oxford High's Anthony Green proudly holds up the sign that he received from JSU when he enrolled. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

Anthony Green had attended ceremonies for his fellow Oxford High School seniors to announce where they would continue their academic and athletic careers, but he never thought he would have the opportunity to announce his own college decision to the world.

Thanks to a new Jacksonville State University program, Green and other future JSU students had a “signing day” ceremony of their own. Jacksonville State admissions counselors recently visited Oxford and other area schools to present JSU-bound seniors with yard signs that read “Future Gamecock.”

“They don’t care just about the athletes,” Green said of JSU. “It’s cool that they show that they care about the academic side as well. That made me feel good knowing I was going there.”

With the program, JSU is aiming to boost the number of high school seniors accepted who actually show up as college freshmen in the fall, which of course boosts enrollment. JSU relies on student tuition and fees for more than 60 percent of its operating revenue.

Emily Messer, associate vice president for enrollment management at JSU, said the school closely tracks the difference in admissions and enrollment in classes.

“In the admissions world, we call that yield,” Messer said of the enrollment rate. “We definitely hope this gets that number up.”

Since 2015, the number of first-time college freshmen applying to JSU has doubled, from 3,092 to 6,108 in the fall semester of 2018, according to figures published in the school’s 2018 Fact Book. The number of those students accepted by the university has grown, too, from 2,059 in 2015 to 3,243 in 2018. But the number of those students who actually show up on campus mostly held steady, with just more than 1,000 first-time freshman enrolling for the fall term in 2018.

Messer said she saw other universities use similar programs with success.

“It’s the intent of the program to capture the excitement of those admitted students as they move toward their graduation to go ahead and announce their college decision,” she said.

Along with the signs, future students were encouraged to post pictures on social media to announce their college decision. Social media posts also entered students into contention for scholarships through a program called “Declaration Days.”

Messer said building programs that involve social media is vital for all university recruiting strategies, especially in the digital age.

“Social media is a necessity in today’s college landscape,” Messer said. “It’s how this generation of students grew up sharing information.”

Green, who will major in criminal justice when he arrives at Jacksonville State in the fall, said he was excited to have a chance to announce his decision. Green posted photos of himself and two classmates holding their new signs to his Twitter account, declaring their decision to attend JSU.

“It was super nice,” Green said. “Cocky was there and everything. It was fun.”

While she said creating publicity on social media for JSU is one goal of the new campaign, Messer said that she’s also glad students now have a way to show off their Gamecock pride.

“We obviously wanted to get students to share on social media, but these signs give them more of a physical representation of that too,” Messer said.

Contact Staff Writer Daniel Mayes at 256-235-3561 or danielmayesstar@gmail.com. On Twitter @DMayes_Star.