Southern Methodist University and Texas Christian University on Friday announced that both are adding an "early decision" option to their admissions programs. Both institutions already have "early action" in which applications are evaluated early in the process. In early decision, applicants make a pledge to enroll if accepted. Both universities noted that early decision -- popular at colleges in the Northeast and the West -- is not common in Texas. Among private colleges in the state, only Rice and Trinity Universities had the options in place prior to Friday's announcement.
New data from the Association of American Medical Colleges show that while there has been diversification of the medical school student body, not all groups are showing the same kinds of gains. The percentage of medical school applicants who are white continues to fall (down 26 percent in the last three decades) such that 55 percent of 2011 applicants were white. Another 20 percent are Asian. Just over 7 percent of applicants were black. AAMC noted as an area of concern the gender split among black applicants, where 65 percent of first-time applicants are women. Other racial groups have much more gender balance.
The Graduate Management Admission Council, which runs the Graduate Management Admission Test, is today introducing Reflect, a new service to test the "soft skills" of students. GMAC hopes that business schools (and employers and other colleges) will use the test to identify students' personality-related skills, and to help students develop their strengths and compensate for weaknesses. The test will take about 45 minutes and cost $99, which could be paid by the student or by a college wanting to test a class or a cohort. The test consists of more than 500 short answer questions (many of them true/false or yes/no). Those who take the test will get a report on how they score in 10 areas (such as resilience, drive and collaboration) as well as strategies based on their skill level.
Joseph P. Fox, associate dean and director of M.B.A. programs at Washington University in St. Louis, said that his institution wants to try using the test in organizational behavior and leaderships classes. Via e-mail, he said this would be valuable because "year after year employers identify the fact that well-developed soft skills are of paramount importance in the hiring and promotion process. They take the technical skills, tools, and intellectual horsepower as the 'price of entry' into their consideration. But they make the tough (and final) choices based on the other so called 'soft skills.'"
In recent years, the Educational Testing Service has been encouraging the use of the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT, and ETS has promoted its Personal Potential Index as a tool in which applicants to graduate schools can be measured on some similar characteristics as those that will be measured in Reflect. But a GMAC spokeswoman said that Reflect was not appropriate as an admissions tool.
Catawba College has announced that some applicants no longer have to submit SAT or ACT scores. The option will be available to those with a high school grade-point average of at least 3.25. Those who opt not to submit SAT or ACT scores will need to submit additional materials, including an "extracurricular and leadership résumé," as well as a personal statement.
After string of reports of colleges submitting false data for rankings, U.S. News may ask each campus to have a senior campus official -- someone at or near presidential level -- affirm the accuracy of data.
The Common Application has released its new essay prompts -- which have been the subject of some concern because of the elimination of a "free choice" essay topic and the announcement that the length limit would be strictly enforced. The new essay prompts do stress that the length limit will be strictly enforced, but the stated limit is now 650 words, not the earlier pledge of 500 words.
Scott Anderson, director of outreach for the Common Application, said that the change to 650 words was based on "feedback from counselors."
While the prompts do not include the completely open option, the first one is quite broad and would appear to give students wide leeway to write about topics of their choice. The new prompts are:
"Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story."
"Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?"
"Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?"
"Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?"
"Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family."
U.S. News & World Reportannounced Monday that it will not change the ranking of Bucknell University even though the institution submitted false data on SAT and ACT averages for several years. When the actual numbers are used, U.S. News says, the changes are so small that they would not change the university's ranking. Bucknell is the fifth college or university to report having submitted false data. U.S. News has moved to "unranked" institutions where the false figures were so different from the real figures that they would have made a difference in the ranking.