Monthly Archives: June 2011

The College Side of Admissions: Enrollment Management

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.

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Which Colleges Offer Which Majors?

Rugg's Recommendations on the CollegesFrom the overstuffed shelves of college books, sometimes you find one that was written and published to answer just one question:  Which good colleges offer a major in _____ [fill in the blank]___ ?

Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges by Frederick E. Rugg answers that question.

  1. The first section offers thirty-nine ‘Recommended Undergraduate Programs,’ as Rugg puts it: “quality departments at quality colleges.” Under each of these major programs (Ag to Zoology), the recommended colleges are broken down by selectivity (most, very, and selective) with codes indicating the size of the school.
  2. The second section offers sixty-eight ‘Miscellaneous Majors.’ I heard of this book from a friend (and librarian); she had used it to research colleges offering Musical Theatre majors.
  3. The third section lists SAT, ACT and recommended majors for all the colleges mentioned in the book.

This description seems rather basic — a book of lists — but I found it surprisingly useful for building a list of colleges to research. Plus, how many books offer up a photo of the author as Sherlock Holmes?

N.B., My copy came from the library; Rugg’s website indicates the updated editions are published in .pdf form only.

Title:  Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges

Recommend? Yes. Useful for basic department research.

Stars (out of 5):  4


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17 College Interview Questions from William & Mary

Last summer we drove for hours (and days) to visit colleges in Canada. With interviews set up at all three campuses (U of Toronto, Queens, McGill) Mod Squad Pete had to spend a few of those car-hours trying to answer our questions.

Photo courtesy of: Stephen Salpukas, College of William & Mary.

Without saying, “I don’t know.”

It was painful for all of us (including the two other Mod Squad members who didn’t have to interview for anything). By the time he got to the third interview, he almost thanked us for the help.

Actually, I may have imagined that.

Last week the folks (see photo) at Admit It! — the Admissions blog from The College of William & Mary — offered up this list to help students prep for their college interviews, including:

If you were to have a personal mascot, what would it be?

Here are two more:

If there was a newspaper article published about you in the past year, what would the headline be?

If your teachers had three adjectives to describe you as a student what three adjectives would they use and why?

The college’s challenge:  to get the student beyond the “I dunno” and to get the kid to think, talk, and expand on his or her thoughts. Not for nothing did they append most of these questions with:

[if you’re not asked why, the “why” is implied]

[the “why” is implied]

[What’s the “why”?  Oh yes, it’s implied]

[Do I even have to mention the “why” again?]

Thanks, Admit It! And I’m sure Mod Squad Pete thanks you, too.

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3 Aspects of the ‘Tech Revolution’ and College Admissions

Steve Cohen, in his College Admissions blog for Forbes, details the impact technology changes have had on college admissions.

N.B., Some of the tools are for the high schools and colleges, one for the students requires a fee, and Cohen has a vested interest in another tool. Still, worth reading.

Three bits on tech changes and tools, here:

1. The Common App. While we knew the Common App simplified the process for students to apply and to apply to more colleges (too easy?), the year over year data is dramatic. Columbia University, which just accepted the Common App for the first time this year, received 35,000 applications in 2011 (6.9% acceptance rate) up from 26,000 applications in 2010 (9.2%).

2. College Essay Organizer. The Common App requires one essay, yet many selective schools using it also require their own supplementary application with additional essays, “short-takes”, program specific essays, etc. For a fee, College Essay Organizer [CEO] will help keep all those different essay requirements straight, including finding the common aspects among the various requirements, possibly streamlining the writing process. Could Mod Squad Pete do that with a spreadsheet? Probably. Would he? Probably not. He’s more likely to just sit down and write essays.

3. Zinch. Developed by a Princeton student to help applicants highlight their talents, Zinch offers the high school students the opportunity to create an online profile — more like a “pubescent Linked-In” than Facebook. Colleges can target specific students, using more detailed data than their usual source (buying bulk names from CollegeBoard) and at a lower cost than current direct mail campaigns, working toward their goal of a well-rounded cohort. Students may be able to create a connection with their colleges of interest, since they control which colleges receive their profiles.

Specifics on the ROI for colleges make this sound attractive for their use, which might make it an effective tool for students.

And the tag line? “I am more than a test score.”

Anyone used the CEO or Zinch yet?

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Still a High School Junior?

The end of junior year feels fuzzy, moving from black & white targets to gray. Early May AP exams — the two weeks when high school juniors across the country take their CollegeBoard AP Chemistry or AP US History or AP whatever exams at exactly the same time — provided the hard target for most of the year. Post-exam projects maintained momentum for another week or so.

Then: inertia crept in.

While the junior, aka Mod Squad Pete, watched good friends finish their senior years and prepare for graduation (and multiple end of year wrap-ups, barbecues, bonfires, and parties), his willingness to plan for next week — let alone next year — vanished.

A mild intervention (“mild” is my word, not his) over Memorial Day weekend resulted in tasks organized by headings:  before school ends, for the summer, for college. Each day or so, he knocks another one off the list. Yesterday, he put one back on.

The ‘Before School Ends’ tasks included:

  • Make requests to teachers for recommendation letters…
  • …Which also involves finding out how to contact a teacher no longer at his school.
  • Complete Guidance Counselor’s questionnaire (so she can write her letters during the summer).
  • Complete course selection for senior year (has been discussed for months; absolute deadline: June 10).
  • Learn music for Middle School graduation. (The school invited M.S. Pete, an alum, to play the processional and recessional.)

And the progress report:

The Middle School grad took place last week; that one is complete. We didn’t attend, but teachers complimented him (as they would).

The questionnaire response has made it through a couple of drafts; it’s near done and sounds more like him with each iteration.

One teacher accepted his request for a recommendation; M.S. Pete needs to write the second teacher.

We signed off on the course selection last week — and yesterday he decided to write his counselor to ask to meet and discuss a possible change. Great:  His idea, we discussed pros and cons, and he can make the decision with her.

Three more days, then the ‘Summer’ list kicks in.

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