Wake Forest University


Rethinking Admissions

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Posts Tagged ‘admissions’

Test-Optional Movement Picks Up Steam

Friday, May 28th, 2010

As two New Hampshire schools join the growing list of colleges and universities to make the SAT and ACT tests optional for applicants, they are being applauded for their foresight. Both St. Anselm College and Southern New Hampshire University announced their decision to go test-optional this month. “The national movement among schools to place more emphasis on a student’s academic and extracurricular contributions in high school and less on standardized tests is a welcome trend in education,” wrote the Nashua Telegraph,  in an editorial. In explaining the Saint Anselm decision, the dean of admission said it was based on empirical evidience. “Six years of data show that, at Saint Anselm, the best predictor of academic success is a record of academic achievement in rigorous high school coursework,” Nancy Davis Griffin said in a statement . “By becoming test optional, we hope to reach qualified students who may not have considered Saint Anselm.” At Southern New Hampshire University, the president said the decision is in keeping with the school’s philosophy. “We have built an admissions process around knowing students personally and holistically. Standardized tests offer one vantage point and we’re happy to add the results into the mix, but we know so much more about a student by the time we accept or deny, including their academic abilities, that not having the test scores means very little,” said SNHU President Paul LeBlanc. FairTest, a Boston-based group, is among those praising the trend after conducting research on colleges and universities that have gone test-optional. In its report on the issue, the group said: “The successful experience of schools included in these case studies, and those of the hundreds of other institutions that have de-emphasized standardized tests in admissions, make it abundantly clear that there is ‘life after the SAT’ (or ACT).”

Do College Reputations Drive Rankings or Is it the Other Way Around?

Monday, May 17th, 2010

There’s no doubt that some students are unduly influenced by college rankings published by national magazines, regardless of the criteria used to come up with the lists. But new research suggests that faculty can also be heavily influenced by rankings, even when it comes to opinions on academic offerings in their own field. Nicholas A. Bowman, a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame, and Michael N. Bastedo, an associate professor of education at the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, examined the effects of The Times World University Rankings after they were introduced in 2004. The first year, faculty members and administrators were asked to list up to 30 universities around the world that they considered leaders in their areas of study – science, technology, social science, medicine and arts and the humanities. In analyzing responses in subsequent years, the researchers found that the widely publicized rankings helped form a consensus about the perceived prestige of certain universities. In other words, institutions that fared well in the first year did significantly better in the second year as well.  Based on their findings, Bastedo and Bowman conclude that  “clearly, rankings drive reputation, and not the other way around,” with the reputations of institutions appearing to change “in concert with the introduction and widespread use of a particular rankings system.” This is not the first time research on college rankings has led to this type of conclusion. In a paper published in February in the American Journal of Education, the same researchers examined the U.S. News & World Report rankings and similarly concluded that colleges’ reputations are influenced by rankings.  Read more about the faculty study in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Do’s and Don’ts For Campus Tours

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

By Jennie Harris 

visit_tour_655x230Every summer our parking lots runneth over with families arriving from all over the country. This is no average summer road trip. They are packing up the car and charging the iPods on a quest to find out a little bit more about the colleges and universities that interest them (or their parents).  To all of you who are planning trips this summer, we welcome you. We are eager to share the nuances of our respective schools. We know you have a lot of information at your fingertips with pamphlets and websites—maybe you’re even following your favorite schools on Twitter—but nothing can take the place of the all-important campus visit. Often, a two-hour experience on campus can make or break the decision to apply.

As the adviser for the Wake Forest University Ambassadors-in-Admissions, I’m lucky to have a lot of interaction with our current students as well as prospective ones. We have over 100 volunteer tour guides who go through an interview process and an entire semester of training to be able to show you around Wake Forest University.  Last Thursday, we had our end-of-year dinner and awards ceremony. While stories of the best and worst tour moments of the year (including a gem that we’ve nicknamed “Snakes on a Tour”). we began to discuss the subject of Do’s and Don’ts for visitors. What makes a great tour? What can ruin it for everyone? We want to share some of the highlights as you prepare to visit campuses across the country.

Parents, take note. A lot of their advice is directed to you!


  • Ask questions! Our guides are all great conversationalists, but a one-sided conversation is never quite as fun. As one guide commented “I’d rather get asked about my favorite baseball team than get no questions at all.”
  • Can’t think of one? Ask why the tour guide chose that school. This was the most popular piece of advice. Ideally, it is the only “I don’t know”-proof question. If a student says they don’t know why they picked the school they attend…I’d take it as a bad sign.
  • Overwhelmingly, our guides want you stick around after the tour. Hungry? Don’t wait until you’re back on the road– try the food in the eating halls. You didn’t see the gym on the tour? Ask your guide to show you where it is. You didn’t see the Scales Fine Arts Center? Go check it out. People watch! Can you see yourself here?
  • “Focus on how a school feels rather than sheer numbers.  “Whatever college you attend, how the campus feels and the vibe the student body/buildings/teachers give off are far more important than petty rankings or other statistics.  As a college student, numbers will fade, but how you feel walking around your campus remains as long as you are there.” – Andrew
  • Let the prospective students ask the questions! Believe it or not, we hear more from parents than students on tours. While guides will do their best to answer everyone’s questions, they like hearing from the students who could be their classmates in the coming years.
  • Be okay with the answer “I don’t know.” If a tour guide doesn’t know the answer to one of your questions, it is likely they know who will and can point you in the right direction.
  • Pay attention to the fit! It is something you will hear a lot of in the coming years, but it can be a hard thing to define.“I always end my tours with the most helpful piece of advice I received when I was deciding between certain colleges. I did all of these online quizzes, “Where’s your perfect college?” and “Which college is the perfect fit for you?”  In these quizzes they asked me if I preferred rural to urban communities, or over 50,000 students to less than 5,000. At the time, I had no idea the answer to these questions. But the most helpful token I would like to pass along is to take what you love about high school and mirror that love in your college experience. It may only be one or two particular things you appreciate, but they will still be important to you in a few years. Because despite the fact that you will change immensely over the next two years as you enter and adjust to college, the things that are important now, you will still value them in the future.”- Megan


  • Please don’t give your (or your student’s) statistics to a student tour guide and ask what their chances are of getting in to that institution. Sure, they can give you median SAT ranges and the percent of students who were in the top 10% of their class- but they’re not privy to the decision process. While they’re not voting members of an admissions committee, they know it is holistic and there’s no such thing as a shoe-in on numbers alone so it is a nearly impossible question for a student guide to answer.
  • Don’t ask how they are financing their college education. It’s a very personal question and not one that everyone is comfortable with answering in front of a crowd of 15 strangers. A good rule of thumb for any sensitive topic? If you wouldn’t feel comfortable answering the question or you wouldn’t feel comfortable with someone asking your son or daughter that question, don’t ask it.
  • Please don’t hog the tour guide. If you have developed an extensive list of questions, try to ask them at the end of the tour.“As a tour guide, it’s much easier to deal with people who have a lot of questions after the group has dispersed than to deal with somebody constantly haranguing you as you’re trying to convey information that the rest of the group probably wants to hear anyway. In this regard, it’s actually kind of funny to see other visitors’ reactions to the aggressive questioner.” – Justin
  • There are visitors out there who love to play “gotcha” with tour guides. If you have tough questions to ask, again, please wait until the end of the tour. If a student guide doesn’t know the answer, or if you are not satisfied with their take on topic, by all means ask someone in the Admissions Office.
  • Don’t wear high heels on a college tour. Going along with this– check the weather.  Many schools, including Wake Forest, will keep extra umbrellas around but it is always a good idea to plan ahead.
  • Don’t wear clothing representing another school, especially one of our rivals! I feel like this is a no-brainer, and yet, people do it all the time”- Amanda. Parents, it’s okay to be proud of your alma mater—just keep in mind our students are proud of theirs as well and we’d hate to do battle in the middle of the library.
  • Speaking of alma maters—alumni parents, please do not “hijack” the tour. We understand that you’re giddy at the idea of having your son or daughter follow in your footsteps, but a university is a living breathing thing. Schools are constantly changing in many exciting ways, while striving to keep the principles and ideals of the institution intact. The student giving the tour is just as much a part of the university as you were as a student, and their time and experience just as valuable.
  • Don’t forget your guide is a student at the school you’re visiting. Odds are, if they’re willing to go through all of the training and spend time showing you around, they love it there. What may seem foreign or unnecessary to you could be their favorite thing about the university.
  • “While AP credit from high school does apply to a lot of people, it’s not a good idea to refer to it in terms of “getting out of unnecessary classes”. We offer very good classes here, and the students/parents should be thinking about furthering their education, rather then trying to skip out on something that could have really benefited them.” –Allison
  • If it seems quiet on campus, keep in mind they are students first…often both classes and tours start on the hour and a vibrant active campus can seem a little less so at 10 am.   “We aren’t hiding from tours. People are just busy, or in class, or napping, or eating, or are in the library.” – Sarah.
  • Don’t get intimidated by the superhuman tour guide who seems to be involved in every club and honor society available. “I know when I was touring, one guide seemed to do everything and I started to doubt my ability to not only be admitted to but also succeed at that institution. It put momentary doubt in my mind. It’s easy to fall into that trap of insecurity while that tour guide is clearly a wonderful model for the institution”- Vini.
  • Don’t ask students and/or faculty and staff members to pose for pictures—if you do, at least refrain from orchestrating photo shoots. Recently, a mother asked a member of our dining staff to put specific ingredients together, as if he was preparing them, and dictated how to hold the spatula so she could get the best picture. Her son look mortified and it slowed the tour down.
  • Don’t ask a student to compare two schools. While that might be the decision you’re facing, it can be difficult for a student to draw conclusions about a school they know nothing about because it wasn’t in the running for their college search.
  • Don’t be rude! Common courtesies apply on campus tours. Please don’t talk on your cell phone for the duration of the tour (or the information session for that matter!).

Above all—do have a good time with the tours. There are lots of schools out there—and it’s likely there is more than one school where you can be happy. Get excited about this next chapter of life.

 And as for “Snakes on a Tour”? A long story short—don’t cross a school off of your list just because a black snake comes out of the woods. They’re commonly found in most states, and as we all learned, they are harmless.  If it is a deal breaker, take it as a sign that you’re better suited to an urban campus…

Jennie Harris is adviser for the Wake Forest University Ambassadors-in-Admissions.

Post-Enrollment Recruiting Takes on Urgency

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

At this time of year, most of the admissions news focuses on the acceptance and rejection letters that are landing in mailboxes across America. But there is also another admissions ritual under way that is not quite as well known. Selective universities are busy quietly wooing admitted applicants to try and persuade them to enroll. The Chronicle of Higher Education  reports that post-admission recruitment is taking on a new sense of urgency as enrollment outcomes have become more difficult to predict. Because of the economic uncertainty, small universities with high price tags are having to invest the most time and money in the “science of small gestures” in order to get a good yield.

 “It’s more important than ever because the stakes are higher,” Robert J. Massa, Lafayette’s vice president for communications and acting dean of admissions and financial aid told the Chronicle. “College is more expensive, and there’s much more competition for students.” Lafayette, for example, is recruiting students with telephone calls, email messages, and campus events. This year, all accepted applicants have also received a follow up letter from distinguished Lafayette alumni inviting them to contact the sender personally if they have questions about the school. Current students are in on the act too. The admissions office has recruited students to make calls between 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. to about half of the admitted pool.  Among them is Hamish MacPhail, a freshman who received a phone call of his own last spring. “I was already sold on Lafayette,” he says, “but the call just kind of backed up everything that I already felt about the place.”

A College Prep Counselor's Top Ten List

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

college prep imageCollege prep counseling is a large and growing industry with many counselors charging anywhere from $95 to $375 for their advice. But SmartMoney.com suggests that parents and their high school age children consider a few key points before shelling out money for the services these counselors offer.

In an article headlined, 10 Things College-Prep Advisors Won’t Tell You the personal finance magazine, warns that many college prep counselors have no special credentials. While there are two major national associations for independent college counselors, neither offers formal accreditation. One of them, the IECA, questions the qualifications of many of those offering college prep advice.

“There are thousands of people calling themselves educational consultants. Most of them don’t have educational training or commitment to ethical practice,” says Mark Sklarow, executive director of IECA. “I hear almost every day from someone who says, ‘I got my daughter into Swarthmore, so now I want to help others do this.”

Since SAT scores and sophomore and junior year GPAs are often the two key deciding factors in college admissions decisions, parents who hire a counselor when their student is a junior in high school may be too late. And as for the all-important essay, hiring a college counselor to help may actually work against an applicant. Dan Saracino, assistant provost of admissions at Notre Dame, told the magazine he can spot a professionally-edited essay a mile away. “The essays that are not done in the authentic voice of the student are readily apparent,” he says.

But there’s no need to be discouraged. The magazine also points out that most high school counselors will do the same job as a professional counselor for free. “In many cases, paying for advice might be unnecessary, since the counselor at your teenager’s high school probably provides similar counsel–free of charge.” The only exception would be high schools where guidance counselors are assigned more than 50 or 60 students each.

No More Senior Slump

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Now that college admissions applications are in and graduation is just a few short weeks away, many high school seniors may be tempted to start slacking off. But with a growing number of colleges now making admission contingent on final grades, senior slump can have serious consequences. According to the Associated Press, many universities now have a policy of checking with high school guidance counselors to see how students are doing just before mailing acceptance letters.

“We have a policy to do 100 percent verification to ensure that final high school transcripts are received and reviewed,” said Matt Whelan, assistant provost for admissions and financial aid at Stony Brook University in New York, told the AP. “While it has been the exception, unfortunately, I have had the experience of sending letters to students informing them that because they did not successfully complete high school, they could were no longer admitted, and we rescinded both admission and financial aid.”

While harsh action based strictly on academic grounds remains the exception rather than the rule, most universities do not hesitate to rescind their offers if students are involved in serious incidents involving violence, cheating or alcohol or drugs.”The colleges cannot afford to take students who are immature socially and morally,” says Don Dunbar, author of the book, “What You Don’t Know Can Keep You Out of College.”

So does that mean senior slump has gone away? Not entirely, says Andrew Selesnick, principal of Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, N.Y., an affluent suburb where 90 percent of the students apply to college. I don’t want to give the impression that it’s gone away. It’s not like it’s not there. We do see some drop-off in terms of performance and attendance, but we don’t see a lot of kids who go from 60 to zero.”

How to Cope with College Rejection Letters

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
Expect the best, but prepare for the worst. That’s what your mother might advise as you wait for your college acceptance (or rejection) letters to arrive in the mail. Of course, college-bound students are not the only ones feeling anxious these days. Parents are too. Jennifer Stanley recently blogged that though she is used to rejection in her work as a writer, nothing prepared her for the pain she felt when her son was rejected by multiple private schools.

Writing for Psychology Today,  psychotherapist F. Diane Barth says both students and their parents can expect to go through three distinct stages if the dreaded college rejection letter does arrive:

  • Accepting that rejection hurts. There’s no question about it. A rejection letter feels very personal. Even though many of the top universities are overwhelmed with applications and must reject plenty of good students, it doesn’t lessen the hurt if that student happens to be you. Understand that your feelings are reasonable, even if they are not accurate.
  • Understanding meaning. If a rejection letter does arrive, reflect back on what you expected to accomplish by attending that particular school. Did it seem like the only way to reach a particular goal? Did it have special meaning for you or your family? As you reflect, keep in mind that no particular school holds the key to a student’s future, even though it may seem that way right now.
  • Changing direction. Anyone who has been through a major disappointment knows that it can often lead to new personal strength and an increased capacity for problem-solving. Take time to grieve over the rejection, but then think about what’s next. Make a plan and take action.

Barth shares that she herself was rejected by several schools during her college career. But looking back, she can see that the rejections had their benefits. “I believe that these failures were crucial to my development into the person and the therapist I am now. I learned from these experiences that while rejection really does hurt, it can lead to intellectual, personal and emotional growth. “

Failure Insurance for Students? Why Economists Think it May Work

Monday, January 11th, 2010

What if students applying to college knew that they could enroll in the school of their choice, and receive a tuition reimbursement if they later discovered it wasn’t a good fit? That might be possible some day if the insurance industry adopts a type of policy that two economists have outlined in a working paper. In Insuring College Failure Risk, Satyajit Chatterjee, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, and A. Felicia Ionescu, an assistant professor of economics at Colgate University, explain why such a policy makes sense.

At the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, the economists presented mathematical models, which show that “failure insurance” might be a useful component of the federal student loan program. The models theorize that students’ college decisions are driven by their finances, their views on future earnings, and the amount of “disutility” that they expect from the academic work. If structured correctly, the failure insurance would ease student anxieties over debt, while giving them an incentive to stay in school. The economists explained how it would work in a Q & A with the Chronicle of Higher Education.

You’re Accepted, and So Are You, You and You!

Monday, January 4th, 2010

One acceptance letter to an Ivy League school is enough to get any family excited. But imagine receiving four acceptance letters all in the same day. That’s what happened to Ray, Kenny, Carol and Martina Crouch, quadruplets at Danbury High School in Connecticut. All four had applied to Yale under its early admission guidelines. The New York Times reported in an article (http://bit.ly/5g5h8X ) that each one received news that they had been accepted on the same day, a quadruple first for Yale.  None of the Crouch sibling has decided yet if they will be attending Yale since they have until May 1 to make up their minds. Plus they have yet to hear from the nearly 30 schools that they have applied to collectively. As for Yale, they are hoping to see all four Crouches on their campus next year.  “Their applications were terrific, and we simply hope that they will all decide to come!” Jeffrey Brenzel, the dean of admissions at Yale, told the Times in an email. Asked if Yale had any policy on admitting members of the same family as a package, Brenzel said, “We don’t feel an obligation to render the same decision on siblings in the same year.”

Cutting College Admissions Expenses

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Every parent is all too familiar with the high cost of sending a child to college, but many people do not consider that the admissions process can get expensive too – unless you adopt some cost-cutting strategies. Jean Chatzky, the Today Show’s personal finance expert, reports that the average family spends $3,500 preparing and applying to college. But she has a number of tips for bringing that cost down. For example, are you interested in a campus tour? Narrow down your choices through virtual online tours. Then when it’s time to travel on site, see if you can combine the trip with your family vacation or business meeting. Another cost-cutting strategy is to avoid applying to literally dozens of colleges, which can get expensive in application fees alone. Ask your child’s high school counselor to narrow down the choices to schools that are both academically and financially feasible. Last but not least, consider the costs of standardized test-taking and preparation. By planning ahead and preparing well in advance, you can avoid many of the extra fees associated with testing. Or consider a university that has opted to go test-optional, Chatzky suggests. That way, you can send in your scores only if you do well, and avoid the angst – and expense — of taking the test again and again if your score is average or below.