Submitted by Paul Fain on October 16, 2015 - 3:00am
LinkedIn, the career-focused networking site, this week released new research on the decision-making process of prospective master's and M.B.A. students. The study, which was based on survey responses from 1,627 LinkedIn members, found that respondents had an average short list of only three institutions. About three-quarters of prospective students developed their short list before reaching out to a representative at those institutions. And 93 percent ended up enrolling in a college on the list.
Peer groups and professional networks are significant influencers on prospective students' decision about where to enroll, the study found, second only to an institution's website.
The University of Oxford has released a list of sample interview questions prospective students could face in advance of the Oct. 15 application deadline, Times Higher Educationreported. Oxford’s director of admissions and outreach, Samina Khan, said the university released the sample questions to dispel “myths” surrounding the interview process: “We want to underscore that every question asked by our tutors has a purpose, and that purpose is to assess how students think about their subject and respond to new information or unfamiliar ideas,” Khan said.
The Times Higher Education article includes explanations from Oxford professors of the reasoning behind the sample questions. The questions include: “Why is income per head between 50 and 100 times larger in the United States than in countries such as Burundi and Malawi?” (for philosophy, politics and economics applicants), “Do bankers deserve the pay they receive? And should government do something to limit how much they get?” (for economics and management applicants), “Why is sugar in your urine a good indicator that you might have diabetes?” (for biomedical sciences applicants), “Place a 30-centimeter ruler on top of one finger from each hand. What happens when you bring your fingers together?” (for engineering applicants), and “Can archaeology ‘prove’ or ‘disprove’ the Bible?” (for Oriental studies applicants).
The University of Massachusetts at Lowell is ending a requirement that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores. An email to high school counselors said that "we feel this more inclusive approach is fairer to students and will help more of them find a right fit at UMass Lowell."
The new program, a pilot, is only an option and students who wish may continue to submit test scores.
The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success -- a group of more than 80 colleges planning a new application platform -- was announced last week and quickly ran into considerable criticism. On Wednesday, in response to some of that criticism, the coalition sent a letter to high school counselors announcing that the launch of a key feature was being pushed back from January to April. The reason for the shift, the letter said, was "to allow for more time to engage and answer questions and for counselors to be closer to finishing their work with the current senior class." That feature was originally called a portfolio, a name that was dropped in favor of "virtual college locker." The locker will be a tool for high school students, starting in ninth grade, to save work they have done in any medium, as well as records of meaningful experiences they have. Many high school counselors have complained that the new locker will be complicated to produce and thus will favor wealthier students, who will receive more help.
Further, the letter reiterated and elaborated on past statements pledging to work with counselors as the new system is developed, and to make sure the new system helps low-income students.
Several critics of the new system said via email Wednesday night that they were pleased with the move to push back the launch of the locker, and with the promises to continue to consult with others, but that their larger concerns were unchanged.
Trinity College in Connecticut has announced that it is dropping the requirement that undergraduate applicants include SAT or ACT scores. "Research has proven that high school [grade point average] is a stronger predictor of success in college than are standardized test scores," says a statement from Angel Perez, vice president for enrollment and student success. But the statement also says that becoming test optional doesn't go far enough. So Trinity now plans to ask counselors and applicants to highlight qualities that may not be reflected in grades alone, and will consider evidence of such qualities as curiosity, optimism, persistence, grit and creativity.
The Assembly of the National Association for College Admission Counseling voted Saturday to amend its ethics code to state that colleges should "not ask candidates, their schools, their counselors or others to list or rank their college or university preferences on applications or other documents." The move comes amid criticism of the practice, which some colleges have used to make admissions or financial aid choices, rewarding those who seem most likely to enroll. Critics have said that the practice is particularly troublesome given that many applicants don't know how colleges will use the information. The Education Department in August said it would stop sharing this information with colleges.
W. Kent Barnds, executive vice president and vice president for enrollment, communication and planning at Augustana College, wore a sandwich board to the opening night reception at NACAC urging Assembly members to be careful about approving additions to the ethics code. In an interview, he said Augustana does not ask applicants where they are applying and to rank their choices. But he said Augustana does do some things that come close to that, and while he's been assured by NACAC leaders that he would not be violating the ethics code by continuing these practices (which are in place at many colleges), he was worried about seeming to possibly violate the policy.
For example, he said that Augustana asks, postadmission, if the college ranks first, in the top three or top five of an admitted applicant's choices. And Augustana asks applicants placed on the wait list "Are we your first choice and will you enroll if admitted?"
Barnds explained that the rationale for such questions is that they "help prioritize counseling outreach and ensure the others involved in recruiting are focused on those who are most interested." He added, "If we had limitless resources this wouldn't be necessary, but we have to try to be efficient when possible."
As director of admissions at the College of Holy Cross, one of the 80 colleges and universities that have joined to launch the coalition, I am delighted -- and encouraged -- to be part of this effort to improve and reform the college admissions process for all students.
In my 36 years in college admissions, I have seen the stress and angst of students during the college search grow exponentially each year. Many students are under enormous pressure (some of it self-imposed, much of it driven by a marketplace focused on rankings and test scores) to get into the “right” college. Too often, students don’t devote time and energy to truly thinking about who they are, who they want to become and how their choice of college can help them achieve their goals. In addition, too many talented students are opting out of or severely limiting their college search because of the perception that a college is out of their and their family’s financial reach.
The coalition’s online tools promise to alleviate both of those obstacles. That will benefit not only high school students in navigating their search, but also colleges like mine in recruiting and enrolling our classes. The tools will drive students to start the college search much earlier and help in finding a diverse set of colleges and universities that will invest in them financially and academically.
Providing a way to start building a digital portfolio early in their high school career will, I hope, encourage more and more students to give more time and thought to what they want out of college. I also am excited that the application process promises to be a resource for first-generation college students and those from underrepresented groups or low-income households. For example, a student from a low-income background can now use the collaborative platform to invite mentors, advisers, a parent and others to engage in a dialogue. They can provide feedback directly on the platform and let the student know if what he or she is producing is on the right track. I see enormous possibilities for students in these groups to be empowered by the options and flexibility this platform will provide. I also hope that starting earlier in the process will give them a college mind-set.
At Holy Cross, we use a holistic admissions process and evaluate every aspect of an applying student’s background, experience and achievement in order to work toward the diversity of a class and the campus community as a whole. Currently the admissions office evaluates students based on the four-year story they tell us through their transcripts, essays and interviews -- a file that is typically put together in a few months. The coalition tool will allow students to spend even more time and reflection on their applications. The new tool will give high schools across the country a free and sophisticated system that has not been available to them in the past.
At Holy Cross, we are committed to building a campus community that represents diversity in all respects, including cultural, ethnic, racial, socioeconomic and geographic. For us, diversity is a constant work in progress, and we seek students who will thrive in and contribute their talents and perspectives to our community. The coalition’s direction and tools will help us get even better at meeting these goals. These tools -- across the board -- will encourage students to think about college earlier in the process and also help them to find an alternative way to represent themselves beyond essays and SAT scores.
Holy Cross became SAT optional in 2006. Almost 10 years later, I can say with confidence that becoming SAT optional has brought our college very positive results. The first classes to be admitted under the new policy -- beginning with the Class of 2010 -- have been more geographically and ethnically diverse than previous classes. The percentage of ALANA (African-American, Latin American, Asian-American and Native American) students went from 17 percent in 2006 to 21 percent in 2010 to 24 percent this year.
As a Jesuit institution, Holy Cross places a high value on the unique combination of background, experience and personal qualities in each individual and the opportunity to learn from many life situations. As an alternative to the Common Application, I expect that the coalition’s application will work with our current admissions process in choosing future classes. That being said, it won't be without challenges for our staffing and processes. But we will use those challenges to create opportunities and adapt to the changing admissions needs. I eagerly look forward to reading the applications from students applying to the Holy Cross who opt to use the new platform.
Ann McDermott is director of admissions at the College of the Holy Cross.