Sunday, March 8, 2009

College admissions decisions: signaling and waiting

Right now, American high school seniors who have applied to colleges are mostly waiting to hear where they will be admitted. (The major exceptions are seniors who applied and were admitted to a college through a single-application, binding early admissions program, in which they agreed in advance to attend if accepted.) Once the colleges make their acceptance decisions, it will be their turn to wait, to see which students will accept their offers. Because of the recession, there is more uncertainty than usual: In a Shifting Era of Admissions, Colleges Are Sweating.

So colleges are trying to determine which students are likely to come if admitted, and the signals that students send (and have sent) in this regard may turn out to be important in admissions decisions.

"Typically, they rely on statistical models to predict which students will take them up on their offers to attend. But this year, with the economy turning parents and students into bargain hunters, demographics changing and unexpected jolts in the price of gas and the number of applications, they have little faith on those models.
"In response, colleges are trying new methods to gauge which applicants are serious about attending: Wake Forest, in North Carolina, is using Webcam interviews, while other colleges say they are scrutinizing essays more closely."
"Colleges consider an amalgam of factors, comparing them to past trends, to predict whether a student will attend, including, for example, what high school he went to; the strength of his grades, scores and recommendations; how much financial aid he has been offered; and whether he plays the cello or wants to study ethnobotany or economics. (If he is a she, the equation looks different still.)
They consider how many phone calls, Web hits, campus visits and applications they have received. "

Hat tip to Neil Dorosin of the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice (IIPSC).


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be great if a central administrative body processed college applications? Students would rank colleges in the order of their preference, colleges would rank applicants in order of their preference, and a central body would use this data and something like a deferred acceptance algorithm to match students to colleges.

Every student would match with the one college highest on their preference list that has an open spot. Whether or not a college is a student's 1st choice would cease to be relevant once the match is made - it's the best choice that student would get.

Thanks for the hat tip Al.

mjohns2 said...

The financial aid package offered by a school is probably one of the more significant factors in choosing what school to attend. With your central planning committee they would only have one option.

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