Wake Forest University


Rethinking Admissions

Continuing the Conversation

Posts Tagged ‘powerpoint’

Additional assessment options

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Sternberg’s PowerPoint presentation includes sample questions for how to determine intelligences other than analytical intelligence. Short story tasks, where an applicant chooses two titles out of twelve to write about; oral stories, where an applicant sees a collage of images and then tells a story about them; and cartoons, where an illustration is provided and the applicant writes a caption, were offered as activities to supplement analytical measurements provided by SAT/ACT scores.

Holistic vs mechanical assessment

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Scott Highhouse, professor of industrial-organization psychology at Bowling Green State University, challenged the current assumption that “holistic approaches” to college admissions is better than mechanical ones. “I’m not going to advocate for the SAT,” he said right off the bat, but for standardized procedures, whatever they might be. He is an expert in industrial-organization psychology – how you select and assess people.

A holistic approach sounds great, but hasn’t lived up to its expectations, he said. Why do people believe that an intuitive approach to assessment is superior to an analytical one? Because they have an erroneous belief in their ability to predict human behavior, he said. When looking at things such as high school grades and college GPA, you can measure a certain level of correlation. But when you add in human opinion to that equation the results are actually less reliable. Test scores aren’t perfect measures, but are not improved by adding a holistic approach, he concluded.

Educational experience varies according to discipline

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Panelist Steve Chatman presented findings from his study with University of California students that suggest those factors predicting success vary according to what discipline a student chooses. “Academic major impacts a students experience, and we deal with it very little as a profession,” said Chatman. He named a variety of studies that reinforce the idea that there is no such thing as one undergraduate education but many experiences which are filtered through a student’s choice of study. Chatman suggested that these findings should be considered when discussing to what extent SAT scores or high school GPAs predict academic success. Chatman is project Director, Student Experience in the Research University, Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley

Texas rethinks admissions

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Bruce Walker, vice provost and director of admissions at the University of Texas, gave one of the most interesting and impassioned presentations of the conference. He described Texas’ “top 10 percent solution,” adopted 10 years ago. That guarantees admission to every in-state student in the top 10 percent of their high school class to any school in the University of Texas system. What he called a “grand experiment” is a great example of what this conference is about. Texas took a bold step and is an example of redoing admissions within the culture of a big university. Now after 10 years, they have great evidence to support that change.

Walker said that has brought a lot of students into Texas colleges who otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance, he said. He showed a number of great slides that showed statistics of how well those students have succeeded. “Students in low-performing high schools, if given a chance, can succeed in a major college, even when social structures work against them,” he said. But most colleges spend their time and money recruiting students at the top end of the income scale, he said. “What would happen if they spent all that time and money recruiting low-income students?”

The probability of students enrolling in college increases as their family income increase, he noted. “It’s easy to recruit those students,” he noted. “Down at the bottom, there’s very little family social capital, so institutions have to make up for that. It takes more energy and assets to lift the poor to college… You can create an economic engine to change that family’s future forever. You begin to deliver social capital to people who never had it before.”

Information Laundering

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

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Jesse Rothstein, an economics and public affairs professor at Princeton, says his studies have shown that what the SAT is reveals is whether an applicant went to an elite school or not. In effect, the test stands in as a proxy…a way to offer information that admissions counselors can use to judge students that would normally not be legitimate to ask about. To a large extent by putting emphasis on the SAT schools are giving preference to wealthy students who attend better schools. Should the SAT be used in admissions? An important question for colleges and universities to address is how important is it to identify those students most likely to succeed while resolving diversity issues? If we don’t want to give preferences to kids from wealthy, white schools, Rothstein says we need to think about how the SAT is used for admissions.

SAT optional policy and applicant diversity

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009
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The number of college applications increase when an SAT optional-policy is adopted. Application rates from black, Hispanic students and lower income students also increase. The result is a more racially and socioeconomically diverse pool of admitted students in elite colleges and universities. Whether the pool is academically stronger could depend on which kind of SAT optional policy is adopted — the option where students who would otherwise be performing below the mean on an SAT will have the same chance as those who performed well or where no SAT scores are considered at all. These statistics were presented by Thomas Espenshade, a professor of sociology at Princeton on his talk on the diversity implications of the SAT-optional admission policies among selective institutions.

A case for the SAT

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Another panelist, Nathan Kuncel, from the University of Minnesota, suggested that SAT tests do correlate with success and that even small statistical relationships make a difference in finding good students. His findings stated that SAT tests do offer measurements that can predict success. Among other findings he presented, one listed ways that admissions counselors can be influenced by racial or ethnic bias, candidate attractiveness, gender bias, clothes, and even applicant scent. This means the SAT offers a way to assess applicants impartially. Highly structured admissions interviews could solve some of the problem; however, this approach also makes it easier to coach students through the process. This panelist suggested that the SAT should not be dismissed as unimportant when considering students for admission.

The SAT and GPA

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009
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Wake Forest economics professor Kevin Rask presented his research on correlations between the SAT and college GPA. Can high GPAs be correlated to something other than high SAT scores? About a third can be explained by just a student’s high school academic record. The extra benefit of looking at the SAT is about 5%. Even with grade inflation in high schools, the high school GPA is still a better predictor of success in college than the SAT. What do colleges lose if they drop the SAT: not much, he says.

Unintended consequences

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

John Douglass, senior research fellow at the University of California at Berkeley, offered an interesting look at the UC’s system’s attempts over the last 40 years to deal with the SAT. Decisions about test requirements are often based on politics and on marketing by the test industry, rather than on data on how valuable the test is, he noted.

Every university is different and should approach how they use test scores from the perspective of their own institution, Douglass said. He also warned of the “unintended consequences” that often result from admissions policy changes. Admissions policies are complicated and dynamic and an expressed purpose of a shift in policy does not always have the desired effect. In the end, admissions decisions, especially at larger schools that receive tens of thousands of applications, are always somewhat arbitrary.