Sunday, June 14, 2015

College admissions, as seen by the Chronicle of Higher Ed

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a long roundup of thoughts on college admissions: College Admissions, Frozen in Time

They describe the admissions process this way:

"Like a machine Rube Goldberg might’ve built if he’d been really, really mean. For colleges aspiring to greater selectivity, the system’s undeniable inefficiency is by design. Each year, four-year institutions everywhere spend a fortune buying tens or hundreds of thousands of high-school students’ names from testing and other companies, and bombard those "suspects" with letters and emails. The hope is that, as they move through the recruitment funnel, enough of them become interested "prospects," then, ideally, applicants, at which point the bulk of colleges, tuition-dependent and not world-famous, scramble to admit and enroll a certain number (to meet their enrollment and revenue goals), while the wealthiest, choosiest institutions use elaborate criteria to whittle down vast numbers in an intensive exercise known as crafting a class. That’s an artful term for how colleges satisfy their many interests, for this much tuition revenue and that much diversity, this many legacies and that many goalies, and enough engineering majors to keep the program strong.
These days, students file more and more applications to hedge their bets on where they’ll get in and, unknown until very late in the process, how much it’ll cost them. Meanwhile, colleges only increase the suspense for all involved by chasing more applicants and placing great numbers of them on wait lists, drawing out a months-long process even more."
"In the fall-2013 cycle, the average institutional yield rate was 36 percent, down from 49 percent in 2002, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. "
"Some futurists want to automate college matches. Yet the recruitment process, tedious though it is, allows for personal interactions that help applicants form crucial opinions of colleges. When institutions make it easier and faster to apply, it can be hard for one party to know how seriously to take the other. "
"In 2011, for instance, Washington Monthly published an article proclaiming "the end of college admissions as we know it," about ConnectEdu, a website designed to match students and colleges. The platform, with its powerful algorithm, would transform the admissions process much like has changed dating. Such a shift would benefit less-savvy applicants in particular, the article said: "Everything you’ve heard about getting in is about to go out the window."
ConnectEdu filed for bankruptcy three years later. Though the reasons were complicated, one lesson was clear: Just because an entrepreneur has a big idea and a high-tech plan doesn’t mean the status quo is crumbling. Although other companies still provide similar matching services, the traditional process endures."
"To deal with the uncertainty of vast applicant pools, colleges might embrace anything that helped them identify candidates with genuine interest. A company called InitialView, which conducts brief interviews of foreign students and transmits the video to U.S. colleges, now allows those applicants to assign a virtual "star" to the two institutions they most want to attend. The company is considering a similar service for the domestic market."
"Right now, parents complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in the spring of their child’s senior year of high school, after typical application deadlines have passed, often estimating their tax information for the previous year.
But a proposed policy change would allow future applicants to use two-year-old tax data to complete the form, giving families an earlier, clearer picture of their college bills. That way cost could fold into students’ college search like never before, perhaps prompting them to apply to fewer places. Mr. Boeckenstedt says. And the change could shake up the traditional admissions calendar, in which applicants find out how much they’ll have to pay at each college shortly before the May 1 deadline for choosing where to go."

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