Conservatory Meets Class of 2026 Enrollment Goals Despite COVID Challenges

In spite of the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19, the Conservatory nearly met its enrollment goals for the class of 2026. The overall target for the incoming class was set at 135, 85 being Bachelor of Music students and 50 being double-degree students. Director of Conservatory Admissions and Enrollment Management Beth Weiss explained that the enrollment currently falls slightly lower than the original plan.

“Since the last few admissions cycles exceeded enrollment targets, we wanted to be mindful of capacity,” she wrote in an email to the Review. “At present, we have enrolled 117, which put us within reach of our net-tuition-revenue goal.”

This year, the Conservatory planned to have auditions in-person for the first time since January 2020. While auditions were initially scheduled for the first week of Winter Term, a rise in campus COVID cases in the weeks before led to auditions being shifted to a remote format. 

“A lot of students only get to see campus in person during their audition,” said Assistant Director of Conservatory Admissions Florence Gill, OC ’03. 

In-person auditions are often an opportunity for prospective Conservatory students to see Oberlin’s campus and facilities for the first time and can be vital in giving them an impression of the Conservatory environment.

Although students were not able to visit campus for their auditions this year, they had a myriad of virtual options to connect with the school, including information sessions and faculty panels. While the short-notice change from in-person to remote auditions may not have been the format prospective students were hoping for, Weiss noted that the Conservatory saw an increase of campus visits from March to May 1.

“The shift to virtual auditions did not lead to application withdrawal,” she said.

“I think virtual in some capacity is here to stay,” Gill said. “If nothing else, it maximizes access.” 

Although virtual and recorded events are not always the preferred method of student engagement, they can create even more anticipation for campus visits. The class of 2025 completed their auditions virtually last year, and were not able to meet any of their classmates in-person until coming to campus in fall 2021. This year, with the additional programming, double-degree fifth-year and Conservatory Peer Advising Leader Jane Vourlekis has noticed increased attendance and enthusiasm from first-year students in her ConPAL sessions. 

“There’s a lot less isolation in this school year compared to the prior year,” she said. “The first two years I did [ConPAL], there was no pandemic whatsoever, but now that we’re in this pandemic, people are … designing a place for connection.”

While the Conservatory did not meet its goals for enrollment this year and faced difficulties regarding auditions, prospective first-years can once again form connections with each other and the Conservatory that was lost in the early parts of the pandemic thanks to the return of in-person campus visits.