All posts by Eric Hoover


Does Your Admissions Office Have ‘Cultural Intelligence’?

Chicago — The modern admissions office doesn’t need a good student-recruitment plan—it needs many of them. After all, what resonates with one applicant might not matter to another.

At the ACT’s Enrollment Planners Conference here on Friday, two admissions officials described how class and culture affect students’ college choices. The discussion was based on Inside the College Gates: How Class and Culture Matter in Higher Education, a recent book by Jenny M. Stuber.

Generally, upper-middle-class …


5 ‘Dirty Words’ Admissions Offices Should Embrace

Chicago — Brian Wm. Niles didn’t cuss, but still a few people winced.

At the ACT’s annual Enrollment Planners Conference here on Thursday, Mr. Niles, founder of Target X, recommended five “dirty words” colleges should use regularly. (Squeamish romantics fond of quaint words like “learning,” be warned.)

Customer. Many people who work at colleges dislike the word, preferring to call students “students.” But as more Americans question the value of higher education, Mr. Niles said, institutions must…


What Is This Assessment Telling Me to Do?

College-entrance examinations give students a score—bravo, kid, you got a 1400!—and not much else. But a new wave of low-stakes assessments offers them guidance.

“Actionable information,” says Ross E. Markle, one of several representatives of the Educational Testing Service who visited The Chronicle on Thursday.

Mr. Markle, senior research and assessment adviser in ETS’s higher-education division, described the importance of ”noncognitive” attributes—such as a commitment to meeting goals—tha…


Hampshire College Will Go ‘Test Blind’

Hundreds of colleges are test-optional. Hampshire College is going “test blind.”

On Wednesday the small liberal-arts college announced that it would no longer consider an applicant’s ACT or SAT score in admissions and financial-aid decisions. “If it’s sent, we won’t put it in their files,” said Meredith Twombly, Hampshire’s dean of admissions and financial aid.

Hampshire, in Amherst, Mass., has not required standardized tests since it opened, in 1970, though applicants were told that the admissi…


ACT Exam Will Include New Writing Scores and Readiness Indicators

The big tests keep evolving. Three months after the College Board unveiled plans for revising the SAT, its rival—ACT Inc.—announced on Friday coming changes in its own examination, now the nation’s most widely used college-entrance test.

Starting next year, students who take the ACT will receive more information about their readiness for college and careers, ACT officials said. The test results will include a “STEM Score,” representing a student’s performance on the mathematics and science porti…


Harvard U. Will Loosen Subject-Test Requirement

Harvard University will no longer require all applicants for undergraduate admission to submit scores from SAT subject tests, according to an email sent last week to the institution’s alumni interviewers.

In the May 14 message, William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, wrote that Harvard would soon change how it describes its testing requirements. “While we normally require two SAT subject tests,” he wrote, the new language will say, “you may apply without them if the cost of…


Has Common App Turned Admissions Into a ‘Straitjacketed Ward of Uniformity’?

Anyone in the mood for colorful renderings of the big business built around the college-admissions process should read the lawsuit filed last week against the Common Application in a federal court in Oregon. The nonprofit group behind the ever-growing online application, a competitor asserts, “has orchestrated a sea change in the student-application process, turning a once vibrant, diverse, and highly competitive market into a straitjacketed ward of uniformity.”

The complaint was brought by Coll…


A Closer Look at Texas’ ‘Top 10 Percent’ Plan

Eligibility for automatic admission under Texas’ “top 10 percent” plan increases the likelihood that a student will enroll at one of the state’s flagship universities by about 60 percent, shifting eligible students away from selective private colleges, according to new research findings published in Education Next. Yet the effects of the “race-neutral” admissions program are most visible in high schools that already send many graduates to college.

Under the plan, which lies at the heart of Fishe…


College Board Unveils Sample SAT Items

On Wednesday the College Board released a slew of information about its plans for redesigning the SAT, including several sample items that show how the test is changing. Here’s a look at five examples, with correct answers in bold.

‘Relevant Words in Context’

Obscure words are out, “relevant” words are in. The College Board plans to emphasize words and phrases that students are likely to encounter frequently in college. The following is a sample passage from the Reading section.

[...] The coming…


Common Application Might Need ‘More Focused Mission’

The plan for rolling out the Common Application’s new platform last summer was “not realistic in scope or timing,” leaving too little time for sufficient testing, according to a recent independent review of the organization.

A summary of the findings, which the Common Application sent me on Thursday, also says the nonprofit group’s mission ”is not consistently understood and shared across the membership.” The summary describes a “long-running tension” within the Common Application, which is both…