A call to Jewel Hopson’s cell phone reveals that she’s taking her new role at Xavier seriously.
“Hey, this is Jewel,” the marketing major answers in a sweet, soft-spoken voice. “I’m not answering my phone, either because I’m sleeping and it’s turned off, I’m in class or I’m studying in my room—trying to be that successful college student.”
The daughter of Keith Thompson, an Army sergeant stationed in Iraq, and Allison Thompson, a postal employee who works the night shift, Hopson plans on becoming the first in her family to graduate from college.
The Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, native is also one of 878 students who make up the current freshman class, the largest in Xavier history. More important, however, is the exponential increase in quality: With a class grade point average of 3.58, these first-year students continue the freshman trend as the “smartest” class of record. In fact, 26 freshmen ranked No. 1 in their graduating high school classes and 29 percent ranked in the top 10 percent. So why the sudden increase? Basketball, for one.
“The run for the Elite Eight was helpful,” says Jim McCoy, vice president for enrollment services. “It put a lot of information out there in March when we needed to.”
McCoy, however, is quick to note that the increase in students primarily owes itself to programs previously set in motion that are now starting to pay off. This includes full-service visits to campus—sitting in on a class, meeting with an admission counselor, spending a night in the dorms—and a better, more aggressive and more strategic use of financial aid to attract more first-generation, minority and specific career-related students.
“We’re beginning to mold the class, to shape the class,” McCoy says. “That’s something we have not been able to do in the past. The number, type and quality of applicants are what drives all this.”
McCoy adds that the University has also appointed a faculty ambassador in every academic area who acts as the eyes and ears within his or her department and works with the office of admission when potential students visit the University. In turn, Xavier has instituted more visitation programs, such as scholarship dinners, to bring more people to campus.
“We are progressively hosting folks,” McCoy says. “In other words, trying to make as much hospitality as we possibly can—what I call ‘academic hospitality.’ Which is to say, ‘How do we meet their needs?’ ”
The result of the hosting efforts: 70 percent of the students who visit campus end up applying for admission, says Marc Camille, dean of admission. “Of those who visit campus and are accepted for admission, 40 percent enroll, versus our normal yield of 25 percent,” he says.
For Hopson, this translates into one of the main reasons she chose Xavier over contenders such as Syracuse, Ohio University, Spelman and LeMoyne. “I came down for an overnight visit after winning a scholarship,” Hopson says. “It was so homey, and they made me feel very comfortable.”
As a member of a record-breaking class, however, Hopson has a lot of expectations to live up to from both her parents and the University. When she’s not in class, studying or sleeping, she sings in the Gospel choir and leads informal line dancing workouts in her dorm. And while she takes time to enjoy herself here, she’s dedicated to trying to be that successful college student.
“Academically, it was very competitive to get in here,” Hopson says. “I felt it an honor to even get the acceptance letter.”