Best and Worst Trends in College Admissions
What’s the best recent trend you have seen in the college admissions process? What’s the worst?
Our panel tackles the tough questions here, and without labeling them with the now famous title “helicopter parents” [Editor’s note: Take our Helicopter Parent Quiz], our panel is concerned about the degree of involvement parents are having in the admissions process. On the plus side, technology is the clear winner as best trend.
Here are the answers to this question from each member of our panel:
Gary L. Ross, Colgate University
I have become a big fan of admission office sponsored electronic “chats.” Many colleges and universities including Colgate have started to run these programs and it enables students from all around the world to chat with various members of the university’s community including current students, admission officer’s, faculty and even housing officials. The chats can be most effective when they focus on issues and topics of interest to various segments of students in the application process. For example, the needs of a high school sophomore or a junior just starting out the college search process can be far different than the needs of a newly admitted student who is trying to decide between “College X” and “University Z.”
Also, I have never been on Facebook so I am anything but an expert on the opportunities and problems that might be associated with that Website, but I can say, I was delighted to learn that several clusters of our students coming from various regions around the United States “friended” each other in the summer months prior to their Colgate matriculation. A number of these students then used Facebook to organize regional gatherings in addition to those that were Colgate sponsored. As a result, quite a few students arrived on campus already knowing having established friendships with other students from their region. Maybe it is just a coincidence, but it seems like this year I have heard about far fewer bouts of homesickness and perhaps the Facebook meetings helped.
One of the most troubling recent trends involves those colleges who “over promise” financial aid or scholarship money in a student’s first year just to get them to enroll. Then the college will have institute cutbacks in that aid “forced by budgetary challenges” during the students sophomore, junior and senior year. Said another way, the practice is called “bait and switch.” A student should be able to receive assurance from their college or university that the aid they will receive in their first year will remain relatively constant unless there is a very specific mutual understanding in advance why a student’s aid package in years two, three and four could be reduced.
Finally, there is no question that parents are taking a more aggressive role in “running” their child’s college search process. There are loads of stories about parents objecting to their child being interviewed without the parent being present. A parent will frequently take on the role of administrative assistant for their child handling all of the correspondence, emails, arrangements, associated with a college visit or the application process. This prevents the student from engaging in a valuable learning process. As a simple example, when a student arrives in our office, we ask the student to fill out a simple form that only asks for things like name, address, current school name and year of graduation. Despite the fact that the form could not be easier to complete, every week I watch parents grab the form from their child as they insist on completing it so it can be “done accurately.” We love to have parents take an interest in their child’s education and it is something parents should do, but when the interest develops to a point where they are smothering their child and shielding them from learning opportunities, that is when we get concerned.
Susan E. Donovan, Syracuse University
- Students starting to think about how to be prepared for college earlier in high school.
- Parents getting overly involved in the admissions process.
- Over dependence on magazine ratings.
- Students applying to so many schools.
Paul Thiboutot, Carleton College
The best recent trend in college admissions is the growth of the online application. This has simplified the application process for students and the data entry for colleges. The web has made more detailed and current college information available to more students. It provides the possibility for greater access to college opportunities for all students.
The worst trend is a toss-up for me. I think the growth of merit aid has shifted significant financial resources from meeting the financial need of worthy but poorer students. More merit aid is resulting in less poor students having access to college when their financial need is not met. The other current villain is the pseudo-social scientific survey or research claims of new student guides on the web or in books. Using poor survey techniques, many new rankings or insight guides make more sensational claims than substantial ones.
Alicia Ortega, Oregon State University
By far the best trend is the availability of up to the minute information for students to access online. Students today can research colleges and universities worldwide and apply for admission, financial aid and scholarships, all in a matter of seconds. And they never even have to get out of their PJs.
The worst trend is also the availability of information online! Referring students to Websites has become a crutch for many admissions professionals. Student interest in on-campus visits and for students to meet with an admissions representative in person has declined. In my opinion, the face-to-face component in college admissions work will always be important. Also, though most students have access to the Internet at home or at school, that access varies greatly.
Back to our main page: Answers to Common College Admissions Questions.
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