It's called the "Wildcat Promise," a new University of Arizona early decision initiative to inform applicants if they have gained admission into the University shortly after they apply.
Students who applied for the UA early are beginning to learn about admissions decisions for the 2014-2015 academic year. Those students who applied before Nov. 1 will receive their admissions packets by Dec. 1.
Also, UA staff planned Nov. 1 visits Tucson area schools – with locations withheld for the surprise – to inform students of their acceptance into the University.
The UA's domestic freshman application deadline for the 2014-2015 term is not until May 1, 2014; Nov. 1 for students who plan to attend the UA during the spring 2014 semester.
However, the initiative was launched to encourage students to apply early, ensuring that they and their families would have more time to plan for the new academic year after learning that they had been approved for admission.
"Some students know that this is the place they want to commit," said Kasey Urquidez, the UA associate vice president for Student Affairs and the undergraduate admissions dean. "And parents and families also want to know where their student is going."
The process is not mandatory; but students who apply and commit to the UA early will get information about campus resources earlier and be at the top of the list for decisions related to new student orientation and campus housing.
Knowing such things, especially before the start of the new year, has become increasingly important for families, Urquidez said. "Everything can be taken care of before the holidays so that students can finish out the spring semester strong knowing they will be a Wildcat," she said.
On Oct. 11, a team began preparing dozens of boxes of letters – thousands of individual acceptance letters – to be mailed.
That day, UA aerospace engineering sophomore Ivan Almirudis, public health junior Janae Van Buren – both Honors College students – and Katelyn Raynak, a senior studying Spanish, joined to begin preparing the welcome packets for mailing.
And the moment you see it, you know you're in.
"When you get your packet, it's obvious; they know when they get it that they can relax, and it's very exciting," said Arezu Corella, director of undergraduate admissions processing.
The catalog-sized envelope is emblazoned with "Yes, you have been accepted!" Inside, students will find their acceptance letter next steps to becoming a Wildcat, including how to sign up for orientation and reserve on-campus housing. Those accepted into the Honors College receive more information about the college, while merit scholarship recipients receive additional details about their award.
Corella noted that 23 UA staff members, eight temporary employees and six students are involved in the full process, from processing applications to mailing the packets off to accepted applicants.
"This is very exciting for us, and we know that each envelope represents an individual," Corella said. "And even though we do not have a chance to interact with each person, we know that we are having an impact on their life."