Chatham’s largest first-year class ever; new programs, test-optional standards promote growth


A dessert reception at President Dr. David Finegold’s house. First-year students and others gathered to mingle in late August. Photo Credit: Lily Kubit

Taylor Broz

The fall 2021 semester has brought on a Chatham University milestone: the attendance of the largest incoming first-year class to date. Campus is now bustling with more people than ever thanks to new fields of study and a more accessible application process.

Admissions counselor Cassidy Atteberry-Leahy said that “more students are interested in small liberal art schools.” 

While this could be a response to the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the risk of infection, it could also be a positive response to more personalized and tailored education that smaller schools, like Chatham, tend to offer.  

Atteberry-Leahy also said that new academic programs like neuroscience, music technology, music business and immersive media have only expanded the interest in Chatham.

These new programs were a main push for first-year student Dahlia Saenz, a music technology student, to attend Chatham — in combination with small class sizes and campus wide activities. 

While deferment and questions of taking a gap year could be real considerations for some students, Saenz said continuing school during the pandemic gave some sense of normalcy and “skipping out on school would’ve made matters worse.” 

Saenz said that Admissions created a welcoming environment with an in-person tour and a Zoom session with her academic advisor. “I like that they tried their best to make it a good experience while still having to adhere to COVID protocols,” Saenz said. 

The admissions process has also broken barriers to become more accessible for prospective students. Standardized testing has become less of a requirement in the collegiate world, especially after the pandemic.  

“The world has gone test optional. Our application process is more holistic than ever,” Atteberry-Leahy said. “We want to help students have better access to higher education and this is just one way of doing it.”

The largest incoming class may speak to the potential Chatham has to expand its programs and greater campus community.