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Rethinking Admissions

Continuing the Conversation

Posts Tagged ‘college admissions’

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.

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:

How the SAT lost its dominant position

Monday, September 20th, 2010

How did the “Avis” of college standardized testing overtake the “Hertz” of the field? That’s the question Bob Schaeffer addresses in his Washington Post blog post on how the ACT caught up with the rival SAT, the dominant college entrance exam for the past 80 years. A new report shows that for the first time ever, the same number of high school seniors – about 1.5 million — took each test this year. But that’s not because the ACT is a better test than the SAT, says Schaeffer, who is the public education director of FairTest. In fact, neither test is as good at predicting college academic performance as high school grades, he writes. Both tests also have similar problems with biases against minorities, he adds.

There are actually three key reasons why the SAT lost its dominant position, Shaeffer says. For starters, the ACT is more “consumer-friendly” because it does not deduct points for incorrect answers and has always allowed students to decide which scores colleges receive. In contrast, the SAT still has a “guessing penalty” and implemented its “score choice” this year. In addition, the ACT content better reflects high school classroom work and includes subjects such as science, not covered in the SAT. Last but not least, the writing section is optional in the ACT in contrast to the mandatory writing section in the SAT. It’s not surprising therefore that all colleges that still require applicants to submit standardized test scores now accept the ACT as an alternative to the SAT.  This is good news for students who now have two equal choices in college admissions exams. But, according to Schaeffer, it’s even better news that more and more universities are dropping admissions exam requirements altogether. These so-called test-optional policies, he says, offer students the best alternative of all.

Did you feel the ground move, or was it just me?

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

By Tamara Blocker

I write today from the annual SACAC conference being held in Jacksonville, FL.  As I stroll around the hotel attending sessions, drinking coffee and chatting with colleagues – old and new – I find the conversations shifting in a new direction.  The opening session keynote was given by Ted O’Neill, long time Dean of Admission at the University of Chicago.  He has long been admired for his student-centered approach to admissions and spoke very directly about the frenzy of admissions today.  As he spoke of the evolution of standardized testing and its invalid role in admissions, I noticed hundreds of heads nodding in the room, not just mine.  As he spoke of US News & World Report rankings and its tendency to make otherwise good and honest admissions people “behave badly” I heard a buzz across the room.  As he spoke of the ability of students to apply to too many schools too easily, I think I felt the ground move – really.  Former Dean O’Neill wondered aloud, when will the frenzy end?  Soon, I hope.

As I moved through sessions I found some of the same…vendors sharing how they could cut the information session time dramatically to move prospective students in and out of the Admissions Office and on the tour quickly.  I heard about ways to funnel more students through our respective recruitment pools to yield more applications.  I heard about uses of social technologies and ways to converse with prospective applicants even more.  More, more, more!  Is that what it is about – just more?  What about better?  What about the right students for our respective institutions? What about getting to know our applicants and determining their fit for our own institutions?

I also heard about personalized tours based on student’s academic interests.  I heard counselors expressing their interest to sit in on classes and hear from faculty on counselor tours.  I heard colleagues stand up in sessions and express their concern over standardized validity studies presented.  I heard about direct mail efforts based on areas of academic interest.  I heard many, many good conversations centered around the purpose of our work – the student and academics. 

I think I can feel it.  The admissions frenzy – I think I feel it beginning to shift – or is it just me?

Tamara Blocker is Senior Associate Director of Admissions for Wake Forest University. She submitted this blog post from the Southern Association of  College Admissions Counseling’s annual conference in Jacksonville, Florida.

For Those on Waiting List, April is the Cruelest Month

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

April has been called the cruelest month on the calendar for college-bound seniors. It’s the time when admissions letters arrive in mailboxes, elating some and dashing the hopes of others. But those on the waiting list of the college of their choice say, for them, the news may be cruelest of all. “I’d rather have a yes or no,” says Ashley Koski, who was put on Duke University’s waiting list along with 3,382 applicants. “I can’t make plans and be excited like the rest of my friends.”

 According to the New York TimesDuke’s waiting list is almost twice the size of the incoming freshman class, and much larger than it was last year. Although the university is uncertain how many of the 4,000 applicants it accepted will actually attend, it estimates that only about 60 applicants will be admitted off the waiting list.

 The uncertain economy has led many other schools to take the same approach. MIT for example, saw applications increase by 6 percent and increased its waiting list by more than half to 722. The Times reports. The waiting list at Dartmouth is 1,740 and Yale’s is right at about 1,000. But of the selective schools that make their numbers public, Duke’s waiting list is the longest.

 Christoph Guttentag, Duke’s dean of undergraduate admissions, said the list is so long in part because they received so many applications this year. “What we could have done, had we had another week,” he said, “was to look at everybody on the waiting list and say, ‘Do they all need to be on?’  “Of all the priorities,” he added, “that was not in the top two or three.”

Is Truth Stranger than Fiction? You Decide

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Getting inAs any parent of a college-bound high school student can attest, truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction. In the process of applying to colleges, many families have experienced enough ups and downs to literally fill the pages of a book. Author Karen Stabiner has used some of those real-life stories as inspiration for her new novel, “Getting In,” which tells the story of five fictional high school seniors making the journey toward college.

 As the The College Insider columnist for The Huffington Post, Stabiner has plenty of material on which to draw. According to a review in the New York Times, the book presents “an unflattering and hyped picture of competition and cruelty among high school students and parents, with threats exchanged over valedictory standings, bribes extended to prospective colleges and lavish gifts presented to admission counselors.” One of the overriding messages in the book is that parents are overly involved in their children’s experiences and need to learn to let go. As for students, they finally learn that growing up is even more important than “getting in.”

College Admissions: The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Your essays are written, your recommendation letters are mailed, and your college applications are submitted. Now what? Well, college admissions counselors suggest there are some things you can be doing while you’re waiting for the fat envelope. U.S. News & World Report talked to a few of them, and here’s what they suggest:

  •  Follow up with your high school: You requested your transcripts, but were they actually sent? This is a busy time of year for high school counseling offices, and it’s important to check so you don’t accidently fall through the cracks.
  • Market yourself to colleges: Now is the time to visit to the school of your choice and see if you can get an interview with someone from the admissions office. But once you’re there, be considerate of people’s time.
  • Consider your options: If you really like a school, but are undecided about your major, consider choosing a program with lower enrollments.
  • Think about finances: Now is the time to complete those lengthy financial aid forms, and talk to your parents about your options. Don’t wait until you’re accepted to apply for financial aid.

Those are some do’s, and you can find more tips here.  What about the don’ts? Greg Roberts, dean of admissions at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, says that’s pretty simple. Don’t “send mountains of unessential supplemental information, or e-mail or continually contact the admission representative during the time when they are reading applications 60 hours per week.”