Enrollment at Sterling College continues to grow. In 2013, 50 new students arrived in Craftsbury Common, forming the largest incoming class in recent memory. In 2014, the Office of Admission received 35 percent more applications than the year before, and Sterling grew again, adding North House as a residence hall. Now, inquiries for fall admission are up by more than 50 percent, and applications marked Early Decision are already starting to arrive.
Sterling remains a test blind college, where work ethic, passion for environmental stewardship, and desire to contribute to an interdependent community matter more than a test score. An interview is mandatory, as is an essay, but no test scores are included in a student’s file. Likewise, access and affordability remain top priorities—as enrollment has grown, funds devoted to financial aid have also increased by a whopping 61 percent from 2012-13, thanks largely to generous contributions to the Annual Fund.
With more applications arriving, how should Sterling select students? The answer lies in the collective wisdom and perspective of the entire Sterling community. The goal of the admission office is for alumni and friends of the college to have a hand in the recruitment and review of prospective students. By intentionally building a culture of referral, those who already know and love Sterling will be empowered to help shape the composition of future classes.
Anna Wilkins ’02, Outreach Coordinator of the Lincoln Land Conservation Trust, recently served as a reference for Tim “Timbo” Maddalena-Lucey ’16.
“Sterling is so unique that it’s pretty self selecting,” wrote Anna.
“You don’t just casually apply to Sterling like you would your local state college. When Timbo told me he applied and needed a recommendation letter, I spoke with him and heard in his voice how nervous he was about getting in, I knew it would be a good fit. I also realized how protective I felt about Sterling. The ‘feel’ of any college is about the collective personality of its student body. At Sterling, it’s that much more pronounced. One person can make a huge difference in the community (for better OR worse). (We used to joke that because there were only 80 students when I first started and each one of us was 1.25% of the student body, we were all greater than one person.) Because of this, I don’t take my recommendations lightly. I wouldn’t recommend just anyone and I was happy to recommend Timbo who I know to be a quiet, dedicated, and loving person. From what I hear, he’s found my second family is his second family also. It makes me so happy!”
Anna and Timbo both point to Sterling field studies as highlights of their experience.
“I am studying Ecology with an emphasis in Natural History and a focus on Alpine ecology,” explained Timbo.
“One of the best experiences I have had at Sterling was the month long trip to the Colorado Rockies with faculty member David Gilligan in the Mountains and Mesas field study course. I was able to spend a lot of time in the alpine meadows observing and botanizing the alpine flora and learning about the geology of the Rocky Mountains.”
For Anna, who majored in Wildlands Ecology and Management, field studies were also an important element of her Sterling career:
“I loved my time at Sterling and participated in almost all of the traveling semesters I could. ‘Sterling West’ and then the next year ‘Semester with the Sherpas’ which went to Nepal with George Gardner, were two definitive experiences for me. I also did the ‘Sustainable Scandinavian Systems’ trip as a student my senior year, and then as a teaching assistant the next two years. The travel abroad was truly energizing. For a long time if I wasn’t hopping on a plane or train for some trip come spring, I felt as if there was something not quite right. I was also in the first class to start at Sterling as a four year institution. We were part of the guinea pig generation which was a tough time for the administration but I think they handled it wonderfully. I’m so proud of where the College is now and where it’s heading.”
Some family members are also playing a role in recruitment, quite literally referring the next generation. When Ethan Featherston ’17 was looking at colleges, a viewbook sent by his aunt, Apple Faulkner ’84, caught his eye.
“I knew that Ethan had enjoyed the Alderleaf program out West, and was interested in pursuing college,” said Apple. “I thought Sterling’s combination of academics and experiential education could be right up his alley. I thought the scale of the community would appeal to him. Lastly, but perhaps most tellingly, it has always been a pleasure to go camping with Ethan. He’s ready to chip in with any work and is happy in the elements. I mentioned Sterling to him and his mother. Being fond of old-fashioned paper materials, the kind that can linger on a coffee table and be perused at leisure (unlike websites) I went ahead and had a viewbook sent to his house.”
Ethan is thriving at Sterling. He says, “Sterling College is, really, the only college for me. I know that I wouldn’t have been nearly as happy anywhere else.” •