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How Are We Doing With Recruiting?

First-year cadets take a break during the Fall Caldwell March.
First-year cadets take a break during the Fall Caldwell March.

By Lt. Col. Dave Williams ‘79, U.S. Army (retired)

I ask myself this question — how are we doing with recuriting? — quite frequently, and others ask me the same thing quite frequently. I usually resort to my line that I borrowed from former Commandant of Cadets Lt. Gen. Howard Lane many years ago: “We have done well, and we can do better.”

The reason I fall back to this is that you can drive yourself crazy chasing numbers and trying to build trend lines that may or may not actually exist. Variables that are well beyond the control of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets make recruiting predictions a guessing game.

Each year, the applicant pool for Virginia Tech sets, or at least moves the needle, on the numbers of students offered admission to the university. That one variable can enormously help or hurt all the good work of the cadets and alumni recruiters. 

Mix in variables such as the effectiveness of our printed material, our website, the number of college fairs we can reach, even the number of conversations we have with potential cadets, and you have the formula for nothing more than a hazy picture of the future. 

The best advice I can share with alumni recruiters is stick to it and keep telling the Corps’ story. As we have discussed in this column before, every year stands separate and alone. 

My friend Charlie Cornelison was right all those years ago when he likened recruiting to the Huckleberry — the train pulls in at mid-August and drops off the new cadet class and then leaves Blacksburg completely empty. It is up to the Corps, the commandant’s professional recruiting staff, and alumni recruiters to fill those cars between August and the deadline for regular decision admissions, which is Jan. 15, 2019 – five months!

This year, Virginia Tech’s Admissions Office asked Corps alumni for help with college fairs with a new electronic format for signing up. If you were paying attention to your email, you may have seen a “tail wag” from the Corps’ canine ambassador Growley II headlining the need for alumni recruiters.

The campaign was highly effective. In a matter of a few weeks, the number of Corps alumni supporting college fairs far exceeded the volunteer level of individual alumni chapters, and this semester we helped with more college fairs in one semester than we did in the entire previous year. Keep your eyes open for future emails as the spring out-of-state college fair season will begin to heat up after the first of the year.

My thanks to all of you who faithfully tell the Corps’ story year after year. To those of you who want to get involved, please do so. 

So how did we do this year? We had 397 freshman cadets and a Corps that started the year at an enrollment of 1,127 — the largest the university has seen since 1966. We did well, very well.