March 9, 2011

A Call for Admissions Reform?!

I have spent a considerable amount of time lately on one of my favorite blogs, The Chronicle – a blog about higher-ed stuff.  The articles are laced with -isms, perils, and sarcastic quips directly related to the industry in which I happen to find myself immersed.  I have found incredible solace in articles like [this] that remind me that admissions personnel all over the country are experiencing the same frustrations, dilemmas, pressures, and victories that I am.

The beautiful school for which I have the honor of working
One article in particular really struck me, however.  It was an entry about the reality of loneliness on college campuses.  As Admissions Reps, we market the our respective universities as utopias of academia, athleticism, and a life-changing social experience.  We tout the following: “Everyone finds their own little niche,”  “It takes no time to find friends and fit in!” and “It will be the best four years of your life!”  We promise. Hmmm. Not so sure we can always live up to those promises.

As I look back on my college years (oh so long ago…), I can easily say that the majority of that time was marked with awkward loneliness and forced friendships.  That said, I DID have happy moments and I DO have some rad friends to show for my 4 years, but my college experience was not the utopian, non-stop social event that I was promised. I’ve come to grips with that now, and I DID meet the love of my life at college.  But still.

In these nasty economic times, a lot of schools our size are wrestling with the issue of retention. How do we increase the first-to-second year retention ratio?  How do we keep students here? How do we increase the perceived-value-to-cost ratio? Due to financial issues, schools are not going to lower tuition anytime soon… but if they could increase the perceived value side of the equation, perhaps we would see a jump in retention. Unfortunately, Admissions can’t do much for matriculated students… (as much as we’d like to)

OR… what if we just lower expectations?

Think about it.  Rather than touting our respective universities as the places where all of your dreams will come true, where you’ll fit in and be popular (unlike you were in high school), where you’ll be besties with your roommate, where you’ll have the time of your life… perhaps we could be honest about the struggles that the average college freshman, sophomore, and even upperclassman faces.  Perhaps we could tell them that there will be times where you don’t like your classes. There will be times when your roommates drives you bonkers. You might not fit in. Or find friends. You might even *gasp* fail a class! By instilling realistic expectations, perhaps students would not run away after the first semester of disappointment and unmet expectations... The Marketing Major within me reels against that. Why would you attempt to sell your product by honestly exposing the negative aspects?

For retention.

Who knows if it would work?! And, because I value my job, I don’t think I’ll employ this technique in its entirety anytime soon… but it just got me thinking.

Anywho, back to reading about fascinating things like application inflation and revisiting the High School Visit.  Pure mental stimulation right here, folks.


PS - I'm entirely impressed if you just read through that whole thing... I'm pretty sure it was longer than the Magna Carta!


  1. interesting post! I understand what you are saying, but after going thru being an undergrad, grad, and employee of Admissions at GU, I know first hand that we dont have that major struggle with retention rates...

    Very interesting take though!

  2. I read that same blog about loneliness as well. Ultimately, I think it's all about balance. I've had many conversations with students about how college is what they make of it. Yes, there will be times where they struggle. Yes, they will meet that peer or professor who makes them so angry that they cry. However, I think all of those experiences--positive and challenging do so much to build character! I'm reminded daily that the challenges we face in life result in some of the most meaningful learning experiences. Yes, we as Admissions Professionals work to put the university in the best light. However, in the end, it is up to the student to make the most of their time and to take advantage of the opportunities presented.

    Thanks for being a fellow Admissions geek, and for this great post. Just in case I haven't mentioned it recently, you're a joy to know and work with!

  3. I'm thinking it may be a topic to bring up to your supervisor, just as a point of interest.

    On a side note, I was expecting there to be a link to me on the text, "I DO have some rad friends to show for my 4 years". Just sayin.

    On a tangent, you did not write on Cameron's wall saying you were excited to see him in 2 weeks. Just sayin.

  4. I'm not sure why I always have to comment as an anonymous person....probably because I'm too technologically challenged to figure out how to work this thing correctly. However....I agree with your tactics! The last few years of colleges are incredible for me, but the first few years were REALLY mediocre and really disheartening. In fact, the first year was so bad that WSU failed to retain I see your point! A bad first year that is brought in part by failed expectations can really change the course of your college career...and as a college....that's not a good thing! I'm so glad that I was tagged as RAD in this as well. Added in with the likes of Tyler and the Bardells.....I feel pretty good about that! :)


  5. Man, your blogs always make me think! SO well-written, Laura! You impress me.



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