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Record number of students apply for admission to SUNY ESF

College students gather under a tent as they gather their items to move into a residence hall.
Scott Willis
SUNY ESF students unload their belongings and prepare to move into their dormitories at Centennnial Hall Aug. 21, 2023.

Dozens of first-year SUNY ESF students and their families pulled up to the curb outside Centennial Hall Monday to unload what they need to start their college careers.  The new students are among more than 400 moving in this week, along with another 200 or so transfer students. A record 3,500 applied for admission to ESF for the fall semester, a 50 percent increase over last year. Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Kitty McCarthy says ESF seems to be an increasingly good fit.

“This generation seems very interested in the environment in ways where they can make a difference.”

Jordan Strasser from Alden, a rural town east of Buffalo. She says a lot of colleges and universities don't care about the environment like ESF does, and that's what she likes about it.

“If I could do something, I would like to be able to," Strasser said. "Seeing everything on the news concerns me and I would like to change that.”

Students stand in front of tables under tents while college staff check them in,
Scott Willis
Students check in before moving in to Centennial Hall Aug. 21, 2023.

Vern Drayton is from Orlando, Florida, though he was born on Long Island. He originally wanted to study computer science, but switched to environmental science.

“My concentration is in earth and atmospheric science, so I want to do something with either climate or I want to do something with like natural disasters.”

Both Drayton and Strasser say they like the intimacy of the small campus, even though it’s adjacent to the much larger Syracuse University. And, both admit they’ve become more environmentally conscious as they’ve gotten older. Associate Provost McCarthy says that’s a pretty typical path.

“We're finding that more and more high school students have an opportunity to do something with the environment, either through a class in their high school," McCarthy said. "Also through organizations or some work that they might be doing to support environmental activities in their own home areas.”

McCarthy says about 75 percent of students are from New York State, though they are seeing more come from out of state. She says a combination of interest in the environment plus efforts to increase their visibility have resulted in ESF ending up on the radars of more students. Classes begin August 28th .

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at