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Posts Tagged ‘Tufts’

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.”

A Kaleidoscope Approach to Admissions

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

sternberg bookBack in the day when standardized college admissions tests were created, most applicants were white males in the middle- to upper-middle-class. Today, applicants are from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. That’s one of the reasons why Robert J. Sternberg, the new provost of Oklahoma State University, is urging college admissions deans to go beyond standardized test scores and high school GPA and consider a wide range of qualities when ranking applicants.

The admissions strategy Sternberg is espousing is called the “Kaledioscope” system, and it has been used successfully at Tufts University where he served as dean of arts and science for the last five years. We first wrote about the system on this blog last year.  Now Sternberg has outlined the details of the experiment in a new book called College Admissions for the 21st Century (Harvard University Press)

In an interview with Inside Higher Education , Sternberg said the Kaleidoscope system is based on the view that a college education should produce leaders who will make a positive difference in the world. That’s why questions are based on a theory of leadership called WICS, which stands for wisdom, intelligence, creativity, synthesized.

In a nutshell, the system entails assessing applicants’ creative, analytical, practical and wisdom-based skills. For example, applicants might be asked creative questions like “write a story with a title such as ‘The End of MTV’ or submit a creative video via YouTube. Or in assessing analytical thinking, the question might be: ‘What is your favorite book and why?’ An example of a practical item would be to explain how you would convince a friend to change their viewpoint on an issue. A wisdom-based question could be to explain how you would take a current passion and transform it later to serve the common good.

While the responses are rated holistically, they also are based on rubrics. In addition, the system’s ability to predict college success has been validated statistically, Sternberg said. Furthermore, while traditional standardized tests show “substantial ethnic-group differences, Kaldeidoscope measures do not,” Sternberg said, adding that the measures are designed to supplement traditional assessments, not replace them.

Measurements like the ones in the Kaleidoscope system reflect 21st century thinking, in contrast to standardized tests, which have remained largely unchanged for the last 100 years, Sternberg said.

“Those who work for testing organizations might see this constancy of measurement as a positive thing. But imagine if other technologies, such as in telecommunications or medicine, were largely stuck a century in the past!” he said. “The problem, as I see it, is that the skills measured by traditional tests are quite narrow and do not adequately reflect the full range of skills needed for college and life success.”

College Admissions Offices Embrace YouTube

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

YouTubeSince its debut nearly five years ago, YouTube has offered a forum for everything from video blogs to amateur music videos. Now it’s also become a tool for college admissions. Tufts University started accepting one-minute videos as part of the application process for high school students this year, and both admissions counselors and the general public can view them on YouTube.  Submissions have included everything from flying elephants  to rap songs  to Q & As. Oh, and students also showcase their dancing and jump roping abilities, among other things.

Tufts admissions department told ABC News  that the videos are not required, but provide an additional piece of information about the applicant. “We’re not judging it on the qualities of the production values,” says Lee Coffin, dean of admissions at Tufts. “We’re not looking for Oscar-winning short films. What we’re really hoping to get out of these videos is another part of the puzzles that make up this 17-year-old person.

“We’ve seen some awful videos,” he adds. “Some are charming in how awful they are. But we chuckle and move on.”

Meanwhile, Yale University is using YouTube to lure prospective students with a video that’s reminiscent of the hit movie, “High School Musical.”  The brainchild of Andrew Johnson, a 2006 Yale graduate who works in the admissions office, the video was produced on a shoestring budget but has turned out to be a big hit. Even though the 16-minute video has only been online for a little over a month, it has already logged nearly 500,000 views.

“I figured the worst case would be a low-cost ‘nice try,’ ” said Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel told the Washington Post. “The outcome went beyond the best case I could imagine. It’s campy, clever and extremely entertaining, especially when you consider that the audience for it is generally subjected to an unending parade of admissions videos that all look the same.”