A conference room at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Chicago is overflowing with high school seniors and their parents. There are three other conferences like this occurring throughout the Chicagoland area at the moment. Each conference convincing its participants of the same thing: “Become a part of the University of Dayton community.”
The University of Dayton draws students from many of the 50 states as well as across the world. Besides Ohio, UD draws a majority of its students from Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. It’s worth the university’s time and money to host these conferences in Chicago because hundreds of first-year students who attend UD each fall are from the area.
The question is as follows: Why does a small Catholic university in southern Ohio, five hours away from downtown Chicago, appeal to so many students?
Erin Soroosh, a regional enrollment manager for Wisconsin and the north and west suburbs of Chicago, began her job with the university eight months ago and immediately noticed the outpouring of resources toward The Windy City.
“I was overwhelmed by the support in Chicago. The Office of Multicultural Affairs has visited and bussed students from Chicago to Dayton so they could tour campus,” Soroosh said. “There was an entire marketing campaign last semester in the loop. To have two full time staff is crazy and Chicago is the only city with two of us.”
A theme among Dayton students is the initial desire to attend a large school. However, when they visited campus they realized despite the size, it was home.
“We’re a little larger than say Duquesne, Xavier and Bradley, so we’re able to provide a bigger school experience, especially when it comes to variety of majors some students are looking for,” said Nate Perry, associate director of admission and financial aid at the University of Dayton.
Likewise, Soroosh finds the neighborhood aspect of UD appeals to many Chicago-area students. Soroosh explains this is because Chicago is split into distinct neighborhoods and the suburbs split into very distinct towns, having their own personalities respectively. Soroosh further explains how having 85 percent of students at UD live on campus deepens the draw.
“There are a lot of students who come to campus, and stay on campus,” Soroosh said. “Dayton students aren’t struggling to find things to do.”
To some, UD is the perfect distance from Chicago and features benefits students look for in big and small schools. Raymond Rigney, a junior from the north suburbs of Chicago, had two criteria for where he would attend college: a good engineering school and Greek life.
“I knew I wanted to join Greek life wherever I chose to attend college. I liked Dayton because we have Greek life, but it doesn’t define your college experience. It also gave me many leadership opportunities. Last year I was the recruitment chair for my fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa, and now I am the president,” Rigney said.
Kaleigh Stanton, a sophomore from the southside of Chicago, grew up in an area where they identify with the motto “Southside Irish.” If asked where she is from, Stanton will not say which street she lives on or which neighborhood in Chicago she is from, rather she answers what parish she attends. The Catholic Marianist values UD boasts were a large part of Stanton’s decision to attend the university.
Many students across the U.S. attend college fairs, information sessions and admitted student receptions. According to Perry, UD devotes year-round efforts toward recruiting students in the Chicago area; whereas, they devote a few months to cities in Ohio and about a month to Pittsburgh.
UD recruiting efforts in Chicago are even more concentrated, as they devote most of their attention toward Catholic high schools.
A challenge potential and current UD students face is accessibility. The city of Dayton does not have a train system that runs in Chicago. While flights from Dayton to Chicago are relatively cheap, most students and parents are not willing to pay more than $100 for a four-day break. Likewise, potential UD students face a four-to five-hour drive to get from Chicago to Dayton.
“We actually rely on the Chicago network to get students home from break or to visit campus,” Perry said.
The University of Dayton’s largest concentration of students from one area is Chicago. And it can be assumed Chicago students will continue to be a sizable contingent of UD students.