USF Continues to Adapt as Needs of Prospective Students Change

Joliet, Ill. – As local and regional high school students continue their return to the classroom for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began last spring, many school officials are hoping to end this long, strange year on a high note of success and adaptation. For senior students, namely those planning to head to college this fall, the year continues to present them with a series of challenges during their final chapter of high school that has required an enhanced level of adaption, namely regarding the pursuit of what comes next for them following graduation.

“Students are scrambling to finish senior year and graduate. In many cases, this continued adaption is resulting in senior students waiting a long time to choose a university, and most are still unsure about when and how to finish applying to schools. USF continues to adapt as the needs of prospective students change,” said Eric Wignall, University of St. Francis (USF) Vice President for Admissions.

“May 1st used to be a major deadline facing students making the decision of which school to choose. That deadline just does not mean that much this year. We have seen a number of applications this spring from students who just recently started their college search,” he added.

Wignall said USF understands students’ late start to the process and offers that admissions counselors are on campus and online waiting to answer questions and offer students the guidance they are seeking.

“When rising cases of Covid-19 shut down campuses last spring, most colleges were finishing their annual admissions cycle. At USF, we quickly changed to online tools and shifted our open houses and campus tours to online virtual sessions. We also utilized online scheduling tools to allow students and families to easily pick a date and time to speak with a live counselor. While Covid-19 presented an immense hurdle, we were persistent in our efforts to connect with students as personally as possible,” he said.

USF initiated an alternative test-optional admission route last May, as well, with the hopes of using the best and fairest criteria for evaluating every student’s potential.

“After talking with health professionals, we planned for a very different sort of year. Going to test optional was just one step. It was obvious to us that the College Board and ACT would not be able to open enough testing sites, so we quickly announced USF wouldn’t require test scores,” Wignall said.

Instead, USF now considers students’ respective academic performances and participation in rigorous, college-preparatory programs. Students still, though, will be required to demonstrate English proficiency before admission.

“Our admissions standards were changed to focus more on high school grades and activities. We look for students who are leaders in high school both in and out of the classroom while also demonstrating a commitment to community service. Ultimately, our objective is to encourage a wide range of high-achieving students like to consider USF,” Wignall added.

Students are still able to submit their standardized test scores if they choose to do so.

“If you believe your test scores are indicative of your academic achievement, then we are happy to consider them as part of your application. However, if you have a strong academic record demonstrated by above-average grades in challenging courses, but do not feel your test results are a good reflection of your academic performance, you can choose not to submit them,” Wignall said.

Wignall concluded that, while the pandemic has presented students and their families with a variety of challenges, there is no better time than now to get started because of the long-term value that a degree from USF carries with it.

“High school students looking at college, along with their parents, are right to be cautious about investing time and money into an educational program, especially in light of the challenges Covid-19 created over one year ago and that still exist today. It is our goal to show students and their families that a college degree can be worth millions of dollars over the course of one’s career. Our aid packages and scholarships help to greatly offset the cost of that investment, so we want to demonstrate to these students the importance of acting now because a USF degree is very accessible to them. Once that dialogue with them begins, we are confident they will agree and will want to be a Fighting Saint in the fall,” Wignall said.

Students interested in learning more should visit for more information and to connect with a USF admissions counselor.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 51,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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Eric Ruiz Honored by IACAC

Joliet, Ill. – Each spring, the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling hosts an annual conference during which the organization recognizes the contributions of its membership. Eric Ruiz, the director of undergraduate admissions at the University of St. Francis (USF), was recognized at this year’s event on April 21 and 22 with the Molly K. Arnold President’s Service Recognition Award for providing strong and consistent leadership to IACAC.

“Being honored with this award is super humbling. Every year at the IACAC conference, I sit in awe as I cheer on the recipients of these awards. The Molly Arnold Award has always had recipients who I’ve looked up to. I’ve always thought to myself how amazing these people are, how hard they’ve worked, the level they were at inspired me so much! These recipients aren’t just doing their job description and helping students, they are creating paths, changing lives, changing culture, making a difference. It’s a level I’ve always wanted to get to,” Ruiz said.

“One of the coolest things I heard today, ‘he’s just a good human being.’ I mean, I’ve always wanted to be a good human being, but it was really awesome to hear that. I may not consider myself to be quite at the level as the other recipients or the past recipients of the Molly Arnold Award but I am in awe that maybe, just maybe, I may be viewed that way by whoever nominated me,” Ruiz added.

Ruiz, who joined the USF admissions team in 2007, is also a past winner of the James A. Alexander Newcomer Award (2011) and the Inclusion, Access and Success Service Award (2015) through IACAC.

“I am happy but in no way surprised by Eric’s selection for this award,” said Eric Wignall, USF’s vice president for admissions. “He truly is helpful in his advice to counselors, his guidance to new members, and his service to the organization.”

“Whether he is leading a training session or taking part in professional development workshop, Eric is a natural leader and very often that ‘person who gets things done.’ His help to counseling professionals helps them guide and serve more students. It’s the kind of person he—the kind of professional he is. He is a phenomenal representative of the University of St. Francis,” Wignall said.

About the Molly K. Arnold President’s Service Recognition Award

The Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling’s President’s Service Recognition Award was inaugurated in 1999, to recognize members with more than five years’ service who have provided strong and consistent leadership to IACAC. More than one award may be given each year. In 2010, the IACAC Executive Board renamed the award in honor of Molly K. Arnold.

About the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling

According to their website,, the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling “is an organization of counseling professionals dedicated to serving students as they explore options and make choices about pursuing postsecondary education. IACAC members are counselors, admission or financial aid officers, active retirees, or students who are concerned about the future of education in the State of Illinois and in the nation. IACAC is committed to maintaining high standards, which foster ethical and social responsibility among those involved in the transition process.”

Visit for more information.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 51,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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University of St. Francis Admissions Policies Respond to COVID Challenges

In one of several moves prompted by the COVID-19 crisis, the University of St. Francis has temporarily relaxed its admissions policy to become a test-optional school.

“USF will not require students to supply results from an SAT or ACT test as part of admissions this year. We know quite a few students had their testing dates cancelled, and the crisis has totally upended the traditional high school senior year for many students,” said Eric Wignall, vice president of admissions at the university.

“It makes sense that we respond with an alternative pathway and open the door as wide as we can to otherwise-qualified students who want to earn a college degree at St. Francis,” he said.

Students can still submit test scores as part of the college admissions process, which may qualify them for additional scholarship funding, but they are not required to do so.  The university requires high school graduates to have above average grades in a college preparatory curriculum, and some programs – like Nursing – have higher entry standards.

“USF is a community of learners with a focus on supporting our students. It’s part of the mission of the school,” Wignall said. “Opening new pathways for people to come here, on-campus or online to begin or finish a college degree—that’s why we are here.  It just makes sense.”

“We also know that most students are challenged by the cost of tuition.  Quite a few high school students tell us they are changing their college plans as a result of the crisis, looking for more financial aid and planning on attending a college closer to home,” Wignall said.  “We have quickly responded to those concerns.”

Wignall described the university’s increased scholarships available to both traditional and transfer students coming from community colleges or the military.

Another new program this year is the Will County Access Initiative, created for lower income, high achieving local students. “The Access Grant is a full-tuition scholarship for students who can live at home and commute USF.  It covers all of their tuition, and living at home saves even more money.  It’s a sizable investment in the students who need our support the most,” Wignall said.

The Will County Access Initiative was announced just weeks before the Illinois stay-at-home order went into effect. Aimed at Will County’s diverse high school graduates, the scholarship was supported by the USF’s Board of Trustees and several donors.

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Test optional university

High School Juniors and Seniors Invited to Discover USF Day

Joliet, Ill. – Are you a high school student who wants to know what sets the University of St. Francis (USF) apart from other colleges and universities? Visit open house st. francis

Plan a visit to USF as part of its Discover USF Day on Monday, Oct. 14 to find out!

High school students, and their families, are invited to learn firsthand what makes the USF college experience different—including welcoming students and teachers, distinguished academic programs that prepare students for passion-filled careers, a welcoming student body and an expanding campus.

During your visit, you can learn about admissions opportunities, ask questions during a student panel, take a student-led campus tour, and enjoy an interactive presentation entitled, “A Day in the Life of a USF Student”.

Two Discover USF Day sessions are scheduled for Monday, Oct. 14 (one at 10 a.m. and another at 2 p.m.). Visit for more information and to RSVP.

USF will host a second Discover USF Day on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020.

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves over 4,000 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work.

There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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