"Tell Them an Alum Sent You"

Through a special feature of the Saint Mary’s admission process, potential Gaels have an “inside track” that benefits both them and the College when they apply for admission.

Gina Meneni ’99, assistant director of admissions, directs the Saint Mary’s Alumni Admission program, which uses the help of alumni to reach out to high school students who may be particularly suited to a Saint Mary’s education. One element of the program is the alumni-endorsed application.

Alumni who spot students they believe are well suited for admission to the college can direct them to the online application found on the College web site. If a graduate’s name is entered, the application is marked as “alumni-endorsed.” For the applicant, there is an immediate benefit: the $55 application fee is automatically waived. But there are more advantages, for both the applicant and Saint Mary’s. High school students who learn about the alumni-endorsed application are likely learning more about the College from someone who is personally familiar with Saint Mary’s.

“This way, the student has a local contact, separate from the college, to connect with,” explains Meneni. “Also, the alum offers the student a kind of ‘proof ’ of what a Saint Mary’s degree can accomplish.”

The benefit to the College is an important one as well, Meneni says. Because a graduate is, in effect, recommending a student, the admissions office is able to reach students more likely to succeed here. Also, SMC is not able financially to visit all areas of the United States where alumni live, so this program extends the reach of the admissions office to hard-to-reach areas. “These are quality students that we may not otherwise reach,” Meneni notes.

Martin Breen ’64, of Tustin, is one alumnus who has urged a few high school students to use his name when applying online. He sees it as reflecting one of the College’s strengths.

“The key to Saint Mary’s College,” Breen explains, “is that it’s dependent on good personal contact by representatives of the college. You need that. It’s the trademark of Saint Mary’s.”

The alumni-endorsed application was initiated in 1999 at the urging of Vice Provost for Enrollment Michael Beseda, says Dorothy Jones, dean of admissions. Almost 18,000 letters were mailed to alumni of the undergraduate program and the School of Education, Meneni says. Because many of the latter are teachers and educators, Meneni explains, they have contact with large numbers of potential students. This fall the application became available online for the first time.

During the application process for the class that entered in fall 2005, the admissions office received 217 alumni-endorsed applications, and of these 149 were admitted. Students admitted through the process have a higher rate of enrollment, according to admissions figures.

Jones is very pleased with the alumni-endorsed application because of its impact on the student and the College. “The alum-endorsed application has been quite successful,” she said. “The student’s affiliation with an alum who took the time to share the application with them has a positive impact on their decision-making.”