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College Applications: “Less is More” Movement Picks Up Steam

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

This blog has been dedicated in part to spreading the message that less can be more when it comes to college applications. (“College Applications: More Isn’t Better”   and “College Applications: More Isn’t Better – Part II”). Therefore it comes as no surprise that the Huffington Post characterized Wake Forest University as “one of the few schools trying to calm the admissions water” in its article headlined “Can Less Mean More in College Application Race?”

After the decision was made to make the SAT and ACT optional for applicants, Wake Forest did see a 16 percent increase in the number of application. But applications then plateaued at 10,500 – well below the 40,000 applications that some other universities receive. “We began saying to anyone who would listen that the number of applications do not really denote the quality of the school,” Martha Allman, Wake Forest’s dean of admissions told the Huffington Post. “We want serious applications.”

The Wake Forest admissions process is designed to tap into the student’s practicality, creativity and wisdom. It is modeled after the Kaleidoscope Approach pioneered by Robert Sternberg, former arts and sciences dean at Tufts University. Interestingly, Tufts applications have also plateaued at around 15,000 but more of those students who are accepted are actually enrolling.

Despite these promising trends, the article notes that there other universities are making it easier for students to apply. For example, Trinity, Colby and Middlebury have all dropped essay questions from their supplement to the Common Application. “It feels like we are at a moment where colleges could say, ‘You know, we need a little bit more of you in this folder,'” Lee Coffin, admissions dean at Tufts said in the article. “There are very few places saying that, though.”

Ann Wright, the College Board’s vice president for the Southwest region, believes a tipping point may be in store.  “I do think there’s always a tipping point,” she told the Huffington Post, “where it’s just too much and you begin to see not just a few people but a lot of people recognizing things have gone too far.”