Demand among students for a spot at the University of Nevada, Reno has never been higher.
In the fall, the University announced a record enrollment of more than 17,000 students.
And, if recent "Best and Brightest" prospective student recruiting events on campus are any indication, the swarm of students on campus does not appear to be subsiding anytime soon.
Last month, more than 400 students and parents from Las Vegas and several western states flocked to campus for an eight-hour whirlwind of activities, presentations and tours of what the campus has to offer. Three years earlier, a similar event had drawn about 100 participants.
Those who attended came away impressed, in ways that surprised them.
Chloe Lohmeyer, a senior at The Meadows High School in Las Vegas, said she had visited the University campus once before.
"I was really happy with the school the first time I visited here, and now, this time, my want to go here has been reinforced," she said as her visit was winding down in early February. Around her, the Grand Ballroom of the Joe Crowley Student Union was packed. "This visit really got me excited about my major."
Lohmeyer, who wants to major in physics, said she met with Department of Physics professors and students, as well as staff from the College of Science.
"The physics majors that I talked to today really reinforced to me that there's tons of stuff that you can do with a physics major," she said. "They showed some of the research that undergraduates are doing at this university.
"That really pumped me up to go here."
Blake Leavitt, a senior from Mesquite, Nev., said he was impressed by the day's activities.
"I liked it," said Leavitt, who plans to major in biology. "It was pretty much all the things I expected. I think (the University) is a good place to go to college."
Zara Fewsmith, a senior from Palo Verde High School in Las Vegas, said her recruiting trip had several important components: she was able to talk to professors and students about her major, she was able to visit the new Davidson Mathematics & Science Center ("It's one of the greatest in the country right now," she said), and she was able to experience the campus' residence halls.
"I really wanted to talk to the physics majors, because that's what I would like to major in," she said. I learned more about the Honors Program, and it was nice to see the residence halls. I turned in my application (for lodging) already but it confirms where I actually want to stay. Argenta is my first choice."
Lohmeyer agreed: "I loved Argenta. It's definitely my first choice. It's just the best."
Fewsmith said her interactions with physics faculty and students felt genuine.
"I met a fifth-year senior who's a math and physics major," she said. "It was really nice talking to him, hearing a student's perspective and listening to all the projects he's working on.
"That was one of the things that really impressed me. You get to work on undergraduate research programs while you're here, and you have a real opportunity to do projects one-on-one with your professors ... you don't get opportunities like that anywhere else."
Fewsmith, who is also a musician and enjoys writing and reading, said the presentations were well-rounded and if anything, made her want to find out more about all aspects of a University education. She was most impressed by a talk given by Jen Hill, an English professor and one of the campus' finest instructors.
"She was amazing," Fewsmith said of Hill. "I loved her speech."
The campus itself left a vivid impression as well.
"The campus is just so nice," Fewsmith said. "When you come to Reno, you realize that Nevada is such a big state, and the campus here is so different than anything you'd find in Las Vegas."
"I agree," added Lohmeyer. "It's definitely nice that there are four seasons in Reno, because in Las Vegas there are only two - it's either hot or cold there. There are real trees, real leaves, on this campus. You have such variety with the weather here."
Lohmeyer said the value of a positive campus visit cannot be underestimated.
Before arriving on campus, she said the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) was the clear leader as far as where she wanted to enroll in fall 2011.
Eight hours on the University campus, on a bright, sunny February day, though, had tightened the race considerably.
"Reno was my second choice," she said. "But today, I think I've bumped Reno up to equal with Cal Tech. If I had to pick my school today, I would have a struggle picking which one. I've had a great time and enjoyed what I've seen today."