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.