Friday, February 1, 2019

Colleges harvest signals of interest in more ways

Congested markets--those in which there are more potential transactions than can be easily processed--promote signaling, and the search for signals, about which transactions to pursue.  College admissions is a famously congested market, particularly since it became easy for students to submit many applications. So all but the most elite colleges have long searched for signals of "demonstrated interest."  The WSJ has an update on how technology is changing that search.

The Data Colleges Collect on Applicants
To determine ‘demonstrated interest,’ some schools are tracking how quickly prospective students open email and whether they click links  By Douglas Belkin

"Enrollment officers at schools including Seton Hall University, Quinnipiac College and Dickinson College know down to the second when prospective students opened an email from the school, how long they spent reading it and whether they clicked through to any links. Boston University knows if prospective students RSVP’d online to an event—and then didn’t show.
"At Seton Hall University, in South Orange, N.J., students receive a score between 1 and 100 that reflects their demonstrated interest, said Alyssa McCloud, vice president of enrollment management. The score includes about 80 variables including how long they spent on the school’s website, whether they opened emails and at what point in high school they started looking on the website (the earlier the better).
"In 2017, 37% of 493 schools surveyed by the National Association of College Admission Counseling said they consider demonstrated interest to be of moderate importance—on par with teacher recommendations, class rank and extracurricular activities. It carried less weight than grades, class rigor or board scores.
"Colleges also have low-tech means to help determine demonstrated interest. Last year, one third of students who applied to American University either visited its Washington, D.C., campus or attended an information session about the school, said Andrea Felder, assistant vice provost for undergraduate admissions. Two thirds of those admitted took part in either the campus tour or offsite information session.
"Mary Hinton, a senior at Dickinson College, benefited from demonstrated interested without knowing it. After she toured Dickinson in high school, she sent a thank-you note to her tour guide, at her mother’s suggestion.

Now a tour-guide herself, Ms. Hinton has learned those notes are forwarded from tour guides to admissions officers. Her advice to prospective students about thank-you notes: “Write them. It just takes a minute and it can make a difference.”

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