Wake Forest University

October 2011

Rethinking Admissions

Continuing the Conversation

Archive for October, 2011

Prices Rise but President Promises Help

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

rising-college-costsThere were two important stories this week about a fundamental concern for anyone interested in college admissions.  The first report, released by the College Board at their annual conference, detailed the alarming rise in tuition costs at the nation’s public and private colleges and universities.  Due to downturns in the economy and increasing costs for the institutions themselves, public school prices are now increasing at a higher rate than that of private schools.  The report also discusses the role of the federal government plays in the financial part of the admissions decision-making process.  Many families looking for help count on federal grants and the new tax credit available under the American Opportunity Tax Credit Act of 2009.  But in these difficult times, are those programs enough?  What about student debt over the long term?

Yesterday, President Obama announced a plan to address the debt issue.  His plan would allow for a cut in the monthly repayment minimum for federal loans and debt forgiveness after twenty years.  Additionally, the plan would offer loan consolidation for students that could cut their interest rate by half a point.  The bottom line is loan payments could drop by hundreds of dollars per month.

In terms of college admission, these news items may seem insignificant considering that more than 120 schools now have annual tuition fees topping $50,000.  But when it comes time for students and their families to make the decision about which school to attend, it is the dream of many to make the stress of the financial angle as insignificant as possible.  Whether by increasing need-based aid on the part of the schools themselves, expanding the availability of Pell Grants, or the new plans offered by the Obama administration, every bit helps.  In the realm of  Rethinking Admissions, choices should focus more on the educational reasons involved than on the pocketbook.  But matching what should be true and what is reality for most Americans still is a work in progress.

NYU Withdraws from National Merit Scholarship

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

New York University has become the latest in a movement of colleges to withdraw its support of the National Merit Scholarship Corp. Founded in 1955, National Merit funds scholarships for students who receive high scores on the PSAT and SAT, an amount that exceeded $50 million in the 2009-2010 year. With its exit, NYU firmly expressed its stance toward the use of standardized tests as a means of locating the most academically qualified students: “We simply do not feel that enrolling a larger number of National Merit finalists is a necessary way for us to attract the most academically qualified freshman class.”

In a time when colleges are becoming more deliberate regarding the use of financial-aid dollars, this and a slew of other issues surrounding the National Merit comes as a setback to one of the largest scholarship program across the United States. Could other national colleges and universities soon follow this trend?

Identifying Diversity in College Admissions

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

elmhurst-college_200x200As college admissions offices nationwide continue the commitment toward creating more diverse communities, conventional concepts of diversity are being challenged to include a broader, more inclusive spectrum of students. While many college applications implicitly allow for prospective students to distinguish themselves in a numbers of manners, Elmhurst College has gone a step further, asking its applicants directly: “Would you consider yourself a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community?”

With this question, optional as are several others, Elmhurst became the first college in the country to inquire about prospective students’ sexual orientation and gender identity. Met with cheers as well as some controversy, the college is glad to have made this decision because it was ultimately the right thing to do. Unaware of the national headlines it would make, Elmhurst College has brought attention to its unwavering acceptance of students from all backgrounds and has required many to reexamine our definition of diversity.

The Price of SAT Success?

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

students-arrested-for-sat-cheating-11093001One of the goals of this Rethinking Admissions blog is to highlight the need for change in the increasingly high pressure world of college admissions. The stress created by the admissions process on students and their families now starts earlier than ever. That pressure has led to ever more extreme measures being created, marketed, and attempted in order to exploit the fears of applicants anxious to gain an edge on the competition.

This latest story from New York is symptomatic of how far some will go in pursuit of that edge. It is also points out alternatives to such desperate tactics that can alleviate the pressure which increases every test season. As more colleges join the test-optional movement, it is possible that students may soon see the day when cheating on the SAT or ACT is rendered unthinkable.

Not Your Average Interview

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

yurtdisi-universite-egitimiThe idea of Rethinking Admissions is challenging. For every forward looking idea that can be incorporated into making the admissions process more humane, equitable, and effective, there is an old idea just begging for reconsideration. That especially applies to the idea of admissions interviews. As the number of applications has skyrocketed, the number of schools interviewing applicants has plummeted. That is, until recently when colleges and universities rediscovered the benefits of having a one-on-one conversation with prospective students. Colleges use the interview as a way to go beyond the written application and numerical data. Interviews add information that can make the difference when making the holistic evaluations admissions officers strive to make. Students also appreciate the opportunity to make their case for admission in person.

One university, however, never gave up on the idea of interviews. As this article by Alison Kershaw reveals, Oxford University has taken interviews into the realm of art. Forget standard openings such as “Tell us about yourself” or “What three words best describe you?”. Oxford makes sure that their interview will truly make you think: