May 30, 2013, 8:10 pm
Salt Lake City — Prospective students have a zillion questions for colleges, and they expect Google-fast answers. Yet no admissions office has enough of a staff to handle each and every query.
That’s why Tessa McSwain sees promise in live chats. At the Rocky Mountain Association for College Admission Counseling’s annual conference here on Thursday, Ms. McSwain, assistant director of admissions at the University of Colorado at Boulder, described her office’s recent experiments with two forms of online communication.
So far this year, Colorado has held five “group chats,” in which two or three admissions officers fielded questions about a range of subjects, including financial aid, housing, and on-campus dining options. Recently, two all-day chats attracted about 250 prospective students and parents, who received quick answers from real, live human beings on the other end of…
May 1, 2013, 3:26 pm
In an article this week, I describe the culture of College Confidential, the Web site many people love and/or hate. So far I’ve received several e-mails from readers who complained that my story was too negative (one anonymous soul informed me that my alma mater is a “joke”). Other readers suggested that the story wasn’t harsh enough.
Yet the most interesting response came from David Hawsey, a longtime admissions professional who helped create College Confidential in 2001. “It was founded for a different reason than people may think,” he wrote.
Mr. Hawsey, now vice president for enrollment management at Emory & Henry College, in Virginia, described his motivations for starting the free Web site: to educate the public about how colleges recruit and select applicants, and determine financial-aid awards. Back then, as the site’s primary producer of content, including responses to…
April 29, 2013, 4:59 am
Dominican University of California has been misreporting admissions data since 2001, the institution’s president announced last week.
In an e-mail to the campus, the president, Mary B. Marcy, said the university’s annual tallies of first-year applications had included incomplete applications, resulting “in the appearance of the university being more selective in its admissions process than it is.” Dominican reported an acceptance rate of 53.7 percent for the incoming class in the fall of 2011, for instance; the actual acceptance rate was 72.6 percent.
A recent internal review revealed the discrepancies, according to Ms. Marcy’s e-mail. The university, she wrote, has since notified the U.S. Department of Education of the errors. “I assure you that we will correct the error and take the necessary steps to ensure accuracy regarding future data collection and reporting,” Ms. Marcy…
March 24, 2013, 8:55 pm
Tina Fey as Portia Nathan, a fictional admissions officer at Princeton U., in the film.
On Saturday I went to see Admission with Aundra Weissert, the super-cool associate director of admissions at Washington College, in Maryland. Although we agreed this wasn’t a great movie (“expectedly Hollywood-ized,” she says), some moments resonated with her. The best scenes captured truths about the national bellyache known as the application process.
Several details about life as an admissions officer were just right. There’s a scene in which Portia Nathan (Tina Fey), a fictional admissions officer at Princeton University, is driving to a high school she’s never visited when her navigation system goes haywire. “Everyone in admissions has a story about GPS failure,” Ms. Weissert says.
In the movie, one of Ms. Nathan’s …
March 21, 2013, 3:13 pm
Yeats wrote that “loves comes in at the eye,” but Agnes Scott College is counting on the nose.
The women’s college, in Decatur, Ga., will soon mail a booklet containing scented pages to its 800 accepted applicants. The smell of pine accompanies a photograph of campus trees. A few pages later, an aerial shot of the Quad comes with a whiff of freshly mowed grass. The idea is to convey the experience of strolling through the campus, especially to students who have yet to visit.
RHB, a higher-education marketing company based in Indianapolis, proposed the use of scented varnishes as part of Agnes Scott’s yield campaign. At first, Laura E. Martin, vice president for enrollment, was skeptical. She recalled those infamous “scratch and sniff” books from her childhood: “I said, ‘Oh my God, is it 1979 again?’”
Ms. Martin’s younger colleagues were all for it, however. They considered…
February 26, 2013, 5:00 am
For months the College Board’s new president has hinted that change was coming to the SAT. Now he has made the organization’s intentions clear.
In an e-mail to College Board members on Monday, David Coleman said the group would better connect elementary and secondary schools with colleges and universities by developing “a more innovative assessment that sharply focuses on a core set of knowledge and skills that are essential for readiness, access, and success,” and that are “most important to prepare students for the rigors of college and career.”
The College Board, in collaboration with college and high-school officials, he wrote, will soon revise the nation’s most famous test so that it “mirrors the work that students will do in college.”
Although Mr. Coleman’s e-mail was short on specifics, he said the organization’s development of “an improved SAT” would be guided by three …
February 21, 2013, 12:05 am
The Common Application’s ranks will soon grow by 39 institutions, pushing its total membership over 500. The organization announced on Thursday that three new public flagships, including the University of Oklahoma, will join in 2013-14. Purdue and Temple Universities will also accept the popular application.
King’s College London and the University of Bristol are among the new international members. The addition of Modul University Vienna, in Austria, will extend the Common Application’s membership to seven nations outside the United States.
For the record, the Hogwarts Graduate School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will not be among the 527 institutions accepting the Common App next fall.
February 19, 2013, 5:00 am
This weary planet might not need yet another set of college rankings, but new models keep popping up. The latest is a rating of colleges based on their “desirability,” as determined by the choices applicants make.
In a new paper published by The Quarterly Journal of Economics, four researchers propose a method of ranking colleges according to students’ “revealed preferences”—the institutions they choose to attend over others that have accepted them. Using survey data from a national sample of high-achieving students, the researchers determined the winners and losers of each applicant’s “matriculation tournament.” They then used those outcomes to rank about 100 selective colleges. (Harvard University topped the list, but you already knew that; the University of Notre Dame nearly cracked the top 10.)
This model enabled the researchers to approximate the odds that an applicant…
February 5, 2013, 3:20 pm
College-application essays are a waste of time—except when they’re not.
This is what I’ve gathered from admissions officers who plow through thousands and thousands of words each year. Searching for insights in essays raw or polished, they might find a vivid sketch of a life or nothing at all. One essay informs a committee’s discussion of an applicant; the next essay evaporates from memory.
In an article today, I describe the Common Application’s new essay prompts, which will shape the responses admissions officers at 510 American colleges will read during the 2013-14 application cycle. An advisory panel of 15 college counselors helped create the prompts. They spent much time discussing wording and word limits (the new maximum is 650 words).
It’s fair to say they sweated the details in seeking prompts that were neither too narrow nor too open-ended. Why all the fuss?