University of Nebraska-Lincoln recruiters can claim a four-star success with Peter Throckmorton — even if he fails to set foot on campus next fall.
That wouldn’t make sense if Throckmorton, 17, were being recruited by Bo Pelini or another Husker coach. But the Washington, D.C.-area high school senior, who has family roots in Nebraska, is looking at UNL for academics. And he raves about the personal touch of his hosts during his “shadow day” at the College of Engineering on Feb. 4.
“After the visit, I said, ‘Wow, this place is so great. It’s unbelievable,’” said Throckmorton, who lives in Potomac, Md., and carries a 3.9 weighted grade-point average at Wootton High School in Rockville, Md. “It definitely solidified it as a place where I’d like to spend four years, if not more.”
Throckmorton, the grandson of Carl and Alice Throckmorton of Hastings, Neb., expects to choose later this spring among UNL, the University of Rochester (N.Y.) and the University of Denver (Colo.). If he chooses UNL, it will be due in part to the same kind
of friendliness he has known since childhood during his family’s annual visits to see Nebraska relatives.
“They were very much about ‘What can I do to make your life better?’” he said. “You’re not just a number. You’re the actual student. You’re a person.”
Statements like those make UNL officials smile. Even if Throckmorton goes elsewhere, said Admissions Director Amber Hunter, “anytime a student has a positive experience and shares it with others, that’s subliminal recruiting.”
Hunter said UNL put relatively little effort into academic recruiting before 1997. That’s when the university began requiring incoming freshmen to score at least 20 on the ACT and have completed four years each of math and English, three years each of social and natural sciences and two years of a foreign language.
Steadily rising tuition rates and Chancellor Harvey Perlman’s goal of raising enrollment from 24,000 today to near 30,000 by 2017 also encourage a more hands-on recruitment approach, Hunter said.
“It’s gone beyond the typical student visits and college fairs to making sure each student knows what the university has to offer in some way.”
Her office, for example, provides one UNL staffer for every 10 students attending Red Letter Days — an annual fall on-campus recruiting event since at least the 1970s — so visitors “don’t feel like they’re just herded around campus.”
Admissions officials hold some 150 public events statewide each year, including Honors Day at UNL in late February and the Big Red Road Show in Omaha in March. They track down answers for prospective students who call or email with questions. And when students ask to visit, Hunter said, they will arrange tours and meetings with faculty and staff members who can answer their questions.
Many of the university’s colleges schedule formal “shadow days,” Hunter said, though students can arrange similar experiences privately.
Though many late-visiting students already have been admitted to UNL, “until they set foot on campus in the fall, we still consider that we’re recruiting them.”
After being accepted to UNL in October, Throckmorton and his mother, Dr. Lori Minasian, set his campus visit for the first day of the College of Engineering’s annual “shadow week” Feb. 4 to 8.
Throckmorton, who is considering careers in automobile design or sports science, attended three engineering classes with Kara Woldt, a sophomore civil engineering major.
After eating lunch with Woldt, he and his mother toured the Abel Hall dormitory, met with a mechanical engineering professor and received a general campus tour. Their final meeting was with UNL Assistant Admissions Director Abby Freeman, who had emailed him regularly to set up his itinerary, and Maggie Jobes, the College of Engineering’s assistant recruitment director.
“They sat down with me and my mom to answer any questions we could possibly have,” including financial aid, class schedules and access to Husker football tickets, Throckmorton said.
Thanks to a friendly security guard who offered a tour, Throckmorton also was able to set foot inside Memorial Stadium for the first time. He started watching Husker football games at home as a boy with his father, Dr. Doug Throckmorton, a Hastings High School and Hastings College graduate who received his medical degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 1985.
After Throckmorton and his mother left the stadium through the north “tunnel walk” doors, they ran into star Husker running back Ameer Abdullah coming out of the weight room.
“I got his signature and told him I was a huge fan,” Throckmorton said.
Regardless of whether he chooses UNL, Throckmorton said, he relished yet another chance to experience a less pressure-packed way of life than he knows on the East Coast.
“Everyone’s working every hour of the day (here), all the hours that they can,” he said.
“When you go to Nebraska, you can sit on the porch and just relax. … It’s a home away from home.”