Synchronicity happens: A chance remark on a college visit, a pilot admissions program, and an article in the NYT the following day, launched my interest in enrollment management. Here’s how:
- During an open house I asked a professor about the difficulty of completing dual majors within four years. He responded, then added that a bigger problem the college faces is the number of students who complete their degrees in three or three and a half years* (due to arriving with a semester or two of college credits from AP, IB or dual credit courses taken in high school). What problem? Empty rooms in dorms; empty seats in classrooms.
- Same open house: the Admissions Dean explained a new program they’re piloting, the Semester Gap. Students accepted into the program would spend first semester in a series of off-campus programs (paying tuition to the college), then arrive on campus in January. He only talked about the advantages to the student, but for the college, this program could fill those empty rooms and seats (not to mention gaining the “gap” tuition).
- The next day, the New York Times ran this article: Admission to College, With Catch: Year’s Wait. Some selective schools send out letters of acceptance, rejection, or — a third option — deferred acceptance, if the student attends college elsewhere for a year and maintains a required GPA. The student gets the option of attending his or her college of choice, next year. The college gets to bring in students (with known GPAs) next year to fill the empty slots left by transfers or drop-outs. [Of course, the temporary college, where the student spins wheels for a year, doesn't like it.] The article is all about enrollment management, and this quote speaks to what I heard at the open house:
“We have a number of students who graduate midyear for a variety of reasons,” Mr. Caren said. “So the spring semester balances out very nicely and we can maintain the residence halls at fuller capacity.”
What does this have to do with admissions and helping our three students find and get into the colleges they want?
The more we understand about how admissions works and what framework the college (as a nonprofit business with income and expenses) works within, the better. None of this is new information to people working in higher ed, but it’s a useful perspective for non higher-ed parents.
*Some very selective schools require a full four year stay, regardless of when degree requirements are completed.