Penn State in Puerto Rico

Justin Vorbach with a student at a high school visit in Puerto Rico.

Justin Vorbach with a student at a high school visit in Puerto Rico.

Representatives from several Penn State campuses visited Puerto Rico in August to meet with prospective students and the Puerto Rico chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association. Justin Vorbach, an admissions counselor at Penn State Beaver, shares his experiences from the trip:

It’s been a little over a week since I’ve been back on the mainland from my recruiting trip in Puerto Rico. The trip was long and exhausting, but it was a rewarding experience that I believe will benefit the University for years.

This year, Undergraduate Admissions sent four Penn State admissions staff members to represent the University. Danielle DeStefano from Penn State New Kensington spent the first leg of the trip by visiting high schools. She visited eight schools in two days and spoke with hundreds of potential students.

I flew to San Juan on August 15 to join two of my colleagues from University Park, Kelly Praskovich and Ed Escalet. Upon arrival, I quickly became acquainted with the cultural differences between daily life in the mainland and Puerto Rico. The overall way of life on the island is much more laid back. The length and pace of meals was much slower; it wasn’t uncommon for dinner to last two to three hours. The biggest difference that I noticed was the temperature change. For this trip, I traded my suit and tie for a pair of khaki shorts and a Penn State polo because on any given day it was over 90 degrees outside and even hotter in some of the schools we visited.

On August 16, Kelly and I joined up with the Puerto Rico chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association for a local chapter get-together. I was excited to find out that our meet-up was at a hotel located right on the beach. Local Penn State alumni and prospective students visited throughout the afternoon to reminisce about their days at Penn State and get more information about the University. We also had a surprise visit by two current Penn State students from the Czech Republic that were on vacation in Puerto Rico days before the start of the Fall 2013 semester. Needless to say, it was an exciting event for everyone.

The next evening, Ed, Kelly, and I hosted a Penn State prospect reception at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in San Juan to educate prospective Penn Staters about everything Penn State has to offer. The event was a major success and we spoke to dozens of prospective students.

The rest of the week was extremely busy. Each day, around 6:30 a.m., I boarded a coach bus with over 80 other admissions representatives from across the country and traveled to schools. I spoke to an average of 80-100 students at each school and visited about four to five schools each day. It seemed like students in Puerto Rico knew a lot about Penn State. Our table was one of, if not the most, visited table at every school. The majority of students that I spoke to were interested in studying medicine, law, business or engineering. I also answered a lot of questions from students interested in playing baseball or volleyball for Penn State.

In the evenings, Ed, Kelly and I attended college fairs. There were three fairs throughout the week – two in San Juan and the other in Ponce. These fairs were by far the busiest I have ever attended. At any given fair, we’d speak with over 300 students in a span of three hours. For this trip, we used tablets to get information from students, instead of our typical information cards. This was the first time Penn State admissions has used tablets to capture this kind of information. Several students and parents complimented us on the use of the new technology. We enjoyed it because it streamlined the process and made it faster for students to give us their information so that we could follow-up with them when we returned to campus.

By the end of the fair on August 22, we ran out of all of our materials and only had our tablets on our tables. We flew home the next day with empty bags and hundreds, if not thousands, of prospective student contacts. It was an amazing experience and I’m already getting email inquiries from Puerto Rican students starting to apply to Penn State for Fall 2014!

To the Puerto Rican students we met on the trip: keep the questions coming! To all other interested students: find out if we planning a visit to a location near you by reading our recent blog post: Penn State Visits You!

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