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Incoming Freshmen Explain Why They Chose UM

Last spring 10,987 students were enrolled at UM, which is 628 fewer students than a year ago. Fall 2018 enrollment numbers have not yet been released.
Rosie Costain
Last spring 10,987 students were enrolled at UM, which is 628 fewer students than a year ago. Fall 2018 enrollment numbers have not yet been released.

Incoming students and their parents are bustling around the University of Montana campus in Missoula this week getting ready for the start of fall semester on Monday.

UM has struggled with recruiting new students, enrollment is down nearly 30 percent compared to 2010.

I talked to some incoming freshmen about how they made the decision to come to UM.

Here’s Addie Slanger from Helena: “I liked the size. I liked - again, I saw the ranking for the journalism program. I loved the Davidson Honors College. That’s where actually first applied and I thought they had lots of resources here. And of course, UM has been on the decline lately. I think it also has to be a part of the natural flow of enrollment and MSU’s is sometimes up and UM’s is down and vice-versa, so I didn’t really let that impact my decision too much.”

Emily Greenlund, left, and Addie Slanger are freshmen at the University of Montana this fall.
Credit Rosie Costain
Emily Greenlund, left, and Addie Slanger are freshmen at the University of Montana this fall.

Chase Comes At Night, from Billings, also heard about declining enrollment:

“What I saw was kind of negative that influenced me was that enrollment was down.”

But it didn’t stop him from choosing UM over schools in Washington.

“The campus atmosphere is like no other," Comes At Night said. "They have a high number of Native American students attending and they’re expanding their campus at the moment too. So, there’s a lot more room for improvement here and it’s only positive from now.”

Chase’s friend, Marcos Lopez, had similar thoughts:

“Just like Chase was saying, the enrollment decreasing was a little bit of a concern and the university’s had a lot of leadership changes in the past few years. That was a little bit concerning but I still feel good about my decision for coming here.”

Here’s Daniel Sims, from Houston, Texas:

"I heard a little bit about the issues with the previous president and all that. And it made my parents a little bit worried but I’m pretty confident with a new president, I’m pretty confident that with a new president. I’m not too worried about that issue.

"I was accepted to Baylor University and the University of Houston. And I chose Montana, not only because it was cheaper than Baylor, It was a much prettier campus and I just thought I’d have more fun being here than anywhere else. It just - everything I saw about the University of Montana was that the faculty loved all the students and were there for all the students and it’s something that every college says, but from my experience here, Montana’s a step above everybody else."

That welcoming feeling described by Daniel was something Rafael Garcia also felt when he applied.

“I applied one week and the next week they were like 'Hey, you’ve been accepted.’ Which I thought was pretty cool they got back to me so fast. And it just made it feel like they were paying attention to the applications that came in.”

According to Emma Frost, she got a positive impression from UM even before coming to campus.

“They obviously sent out a lot of emails and brochures and stuff, and just the postcards themselves were so beautiful, they were drawing me in pretty much," Frost said. 

I asked her if those materials influenced her to come here.

She said, "Yeah, actually a lot, because they tell you about opportunities that you wouldn't hear of anywhere else. So, like with getting information from them just kind of draws you in more because they're being welcoming and friendly."

Here’s Rian Dahl, from Florence: "I probably wouldn't have heard about this school if it wasn't for the emails that I received. And I wanted to be able to go to school where it's like less students and more opportunity for me to actually get close to my teachers."

Some incoming students, like Alden Tonkay, from Three Forks have been getting recruiting information for a long time.

"Yeah, I've been getting stuff in the mail from them for years," Tonkay said. "Just different things trying to get me to come here. I did a tour of the campus several years ago and since then I've been getting stuff all the time. I thought this was just a perfect fit for me because I've just have seen so many positive things about their pre-law track here."

Others, like Olivia Schields, had to work a little harder to gain access to information.

"They didn't really reach out to the kids from my school, just because we're from Illinois, not a lot of kids would come out here, but once I signed up for emails and showed my interest in this school, the recruitment was really great. Actually I met with someone in Illinois who was working for UM."

She says once she visited UM, she didn’t bother to visit the rest of the colleges she was looking into. And her parents, Kelly and Mike, are pretty happy about her choice.

"We were just very impressed with everything they had to offer online," Kelly said. "The financial staff here was amazing to work with, with helping you, because we were first time college parents."

"As we walked around here and we saw this place, it was like, 'this place is home.'" Mike said "Now, Kelly and are totally jealous and envious of her life for the next four years," so we're pretty excited about it."

Rosie Costain is a former MTPR reporter.
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