Each year, nearly 4,000 new, first-year Carolina students arrive in Chapel Hill to begin their magical journey — one that they’ll eventually realize goes by much too quickly. What prompted each to apply varies, but many are sons and daughters or granddaughters and grandsons of Carolina alumni. At an early age, they were taught that the alphabet begins with UNC.
Your General Alumni Association understands how important admissions is to all alumni. We also know that admission to Carolina has become increasingly competitive. This year, more than 29,000 students — an all-time record — applied, and sadly, our colleagues in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions cannot offer admission to all.
We have long encouraged alumni to help the University by identifying and encouraging bright, hard-working, curious, engaged youngsters to apply to Carolina.
For many years, each March/April issue, Carolina Alumni Review has provided the latest statistics about undergraduate admissions and a feature article about an aspect of the admissions process. The GAA also co-sponsors with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions an annual two-day Alumni Admissions Forum designed for eighth- to 11th-graders and their families. This forum provides insightful, helpful information about the admissions process generally — purposely not specific to UNC.
Working with campus colleagues, the GAA hosts Admitted Student Receptions in the Triangle, the Triad, Charlotte, Asheville, Fayetteville, Wilmington and Greenville as well as Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and New York. UNC faculty, currently enrolled students, parents and representatives from housing and residential education, Granville Towers, academic advising, the Carolina Computing Initiative, scholarships and student aid, undergraduate admissions and the Office of New Student and Parent Programs address questions from admitted students and their parents.
Each spring, I write personally to each alumni parent whose child applies to Carolina. For those whose child was not admitted, I express our regrets and volunteer that my youngest brother also was denied admission but later transferred to Carolina and eventually earned not only his undergraduate degree but his master’s. I congratulate the alumni parents of students who have been admitted and note that the GAA will not only welcome them to Carolina but will provide rich programming to assist them as new students.
Our student ambassador group — the Order of the Bell Tower — annually collaborates with undergraduate admissions for Shadow Day — hosting North Carolina high school juniors for a daylong visit to Carolina. These students attend classes, visit academic departments, have lunch on campus, attend a student organization meeting and visit a residence hall.
Knowing how important scholarship support is for many entering Carolina students, the GAA has long worked with undergraduate admissions and the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid to provide need- and merit-based scholarships. Students who otherwise might not attend Carolina because of inadequate scholarship support are selected as GAA Scholars and Dibbert Scholars and annually receive $2,000. Many local Carolina Clubs provide scholarship support to entering students from their community. A J. Maryon “Spike” Saunders Scholarship is awarded annually. The Light on the Hill Society Scholarship board selects deserving African-American students for scholarship support each year.
Working with the Carolina Parents Association and many of our local Carolina Clubs, the GAA conducts local summer send-offs for first-year students. In collaboration with the Division of Student Affairs, the GAA hosts an annual move-in dinner for first-year students and their families. For nearly 40 years, the GAA also has hosted an Open House to welcome all new students and their families. During the New Student Convocation, I welcome all new, first-year and transfer students on behalf of Carolina’s 283,000 living alumni. At Convocation, OBT provides new students with honor code cards, with the honor code on one side and the alma mater on the other. OBT also publishes True Blue, Carolina’s official tradition book that includes fight songs, University history and space to document more than 80 traditions that should be experienced as a Carolina student. And with the opening of each fall semester, OBT sponsors a relighting of the Bell Tower.
The GAA’s focus on new students as future Carolina alumni continues throughout their undergraduate experience. At Fall Fest, the GAA encourages students to become student members. Each year, the GAA serves more than 4,000 student members. During the Week of Welcome, the GAA sponsors a Sunset Serenade provided by several student a cappella groups. Emphasis is given to affirming class identity, and each entering class now has its own class banner.
By encouraging prospective students to apply to UNC and, if admitted, to enroll and then working closely with these students throughout their undergraduate years, the GAA seeks to ensure they enjoy their unique, special Carolina journey — one that motivates them to become engaged, supportive alumni. After all, they are students for only a few years, but they are alumni for life.
Yours at Carolina,
Douglas S. Dibbert ’70