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Rethinking Admissions

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College Admissions in the 21st Century

Friday, May 17th, 2013

In an age when reality television and social media provide unprecedented access toward fulfilling virtually all areas of human curiosity, the college admissions process remains, in large part, shrouded in secrecy. There are rarely, if ever, exposés about this industry (yes – industry, as it has become) or even a mere behind-the-scenes look into the ways that college admissions officers go about making decisions. For as forthright and transparent as many colleges believe their admissions brochures and websites appear, there is still a great deal of uncertainty for prospective students and parents as to what the entire process entails.

So Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management at De Paul University, has some ideas. And they’re radical.

The central focus behind these ideas is to make the college admissions process more easily navigable for all parties involved. He proposes a national database to which prospective students and colleges subscribe whereby each could select matches according to certain criteria. The colleges’ criteria would be listed publicly so that students would have more realistic expectations about their chances of admission. Obviously, it becomes more difficult when advertising and matching for the “intangible” attribute students possess.

Boeckensted’s point is that the college admissions process needs change and that change must be drastic to have any realized effect. If we agree that the system is “broken” then we should all be encouraged to continue “rethinking admissions.”

Read more here.

Class-based Affirmative Action in College Admissions

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

The United States Supreme Court is expected to soon deliver its ruling regarding the use of race and ethnicity as considerations in college admissions. Many believe that a majority of the Court’s nine members will vote in favor of altogether banning or drastically altering the criteria around which race can be utilized as a consideration.

However, a new study to be published this summer suggests that the use of class-based affirmative action may prove useful in helping colleges to build a more diverse student body – from both racial and socioeconomic perspectives. Whereas previously class-based affirmative action was thought to decrease the number of minority applicants who were admitted, the University of Colorado at Boulder has presented data from elaborate experiments it conducted to show that racial diversity did in fact increase. The UC Boulder experiments included “disadvantage” and “overachievement” indices, a modification from previous experiments, to identify and reward students who performed at high levels amidst significant adversity. Additionally, the UC Boulder study used class as a “primary” consideration, though it was not considered at the same level as classroom performance or standardized test scores.

The UC Boulder data also reinforced that low-income applicants experienced no increased rates of admission in cases of race-based affirmative action. Many colleges may soon adopt models similar to UC Boulder’s as it proves to have greater societal support (as compared to race-based affirmative action) and can be more effective toward goals of improved diversity on college campuses.

Read more on Inside Higher Ed.



Essay urges College Board to end – rather than tinker – the SAT

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Earlier this month, we  told you about College Board’s decision to redesign the SAT with the stated goal of focusing it toward “the core knowledge and skills that … are most important to prepare students for the rigors of college.” This announcement marks only the second time in the test’s 87-year existence that a change of any sort were to be made (the other in 2005 when analogies were dropped). Joseph A. Soares, professor of sociology at Wake Forest University, who is also one of the leading voices in the test-optional movement, points to several factors that continue to render the SAT inadequate. After its initial makeover in 2005, the SAT produced even greater disparity between different racial, socioeconomic and gender groups than those previously witnessed. Furthermore, educational policy, including the “common core” standard which has been adopted in 45 states and the District of Columbia, continues to provide better predictive analytics than the SAT/ACT. And let’s not dismiss the role that the test-optional movement has played; nearly a third of the nation’s colleges no longer require the SAT or ACT.

Read more of Joseph Soares’ essay here.

The SAT is Getting a Makeover

Friday, March 1st, 2013

This week, College Board president David Coleman announced that the SAT will undergo a transformation geared at refocusing the test toward the “core set of knowledge and skills” he considers essential for all college-bound high school graduates. In doing so, Coleman hopes to make the SAT a more relevant tool in preparing and evaluating students each step of their educational journey, beginning as early as kindergarten. College Board is expected to release more details about the coming changes to the SAT over the next several weeks.

The Washington Post includes  more details on the transformation here.

What If College Admissions Was Modeled After the NFL?

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

In an increasingly competitive college landscape, there’s a growing push for colleges to employ methods that could reduce the cutthroat nature of the competition among all parties involved. This isn’t to suggest that all competition is bad, but that perhaps there is a more cooperative means by which the goals of seeking and providing higher education can be met.

Look at the NFL. Part of the League’s success stems from common “admissions” practices, shared resources, and other standardization measures like salary caps that allow for equal competition between franchises, regardless of the market or other factors. In his new research paper, Dr. Jerome A. Lucido suggests that colleges might serve a more productive function in society [if they were to adopt similar philosophies]. Additionally, they might begin to reconsider notions about the most effective ways to educate young people – instead of the often narrow focus toward improving in the rankings. He later goes on to make parallels between SAT test prep services and PEDs that serve to enhance candidates’ credentials.

The Chronicle’s Eric Hoover discusses more of this unexpected relationship that exists.

The Meaning of Merit

Friday, January 18th, 2013

As college admissions officers continue the search to find meaningful metrics to evaluate students, the definition of ‘merit’ has transformed. With less emphasis on standardized tests, admissions processes have become increasingly more subjective, opening themselves to greater legal scrutiny. In light of ongoing affirmative action proceedings, college administrators have joined forces with lawyers to restructure admissions policies to include broader descriptions of merit. Insider Higher Ed takes a deeper look at this evolving process.



Keeping Track of Campus Visitors

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

The campus tour is one of the most important aspects of the search process as it facilitates an unmediated experience by which prospective students (and parents) examine various colleges. For the colleges, it provides an even greater opportunity to lure students in through documentation of the visit as well as continued correspondence throughout the admissions process. With several thousand visitors annually, how can colleges monitor who comes to campus?

QR Codes.

The Chronicle details how this technology is making it easier for colleges to manage these relationships (and data) with only a mere scan from your smartphone.

How to Choose a College

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

With college admissions deadlines finally in your rear-view mirror, hopefully you’re feeling content about the schools to which you applied. Consider the criteria you used in finalizing your list of colleges. Your major, the size, opportunities to study abroad and conduct research were probably among the many traits that attracted you to these colleges. For others still, diversity, job placement, and overall rankings are the most important factors. The New York Times provides a host of other consideration students might use in determining the right fit. So what’s right for you?

State of College Admissions

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

New data released this week from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) in its State of College Admission Report reveals high levels of uncertainty about various aspects of the college admission process. It addresses issues such as an increasingly robust [and savvy] applicant pool as well as changes in recruitment and evaluation trends across the nation. The Chronicle’s Eric Hoover, suggest that “accelerated admission” might reflect the most significant of these changes.

The Costs of Early-Admission Program Are Many

Monday, November 19th, 2012

With early decision deadlines at hand, admissions officers debate the merits of early applications. Louis Hirsh, a former director of admissions at the University of Delaware, shares his thoughts with the Chronicle of Higher Education.