Academic journal article College and University

An Analysis of One College's Admission Option for Underprepared Freshmen

Academic journal article College and University

An Analysis of One College's Admission Option for Underprepared Freshmen

Article excerpt

Historically, American higher education has never enjoyed an entering population of students well-prepared for the demands of postsecondary institutions (Carter-Wells 1989). Although it may be obvious that students who have had prior academic success, strong motivation, and emotional stability also have a greater chance of success in college (Upcraft, Gardner, and Associates 1989), American higher education is enrolling an unprecedented number of underprepared students with serious deficiencies in basic learning skills (Astin 1985). According to the Carnegie Foundation (as cited in Nemko 1990), college and university professors rated three-quarters of their students as lacking in basic skills, and stated that while graduation rates at most colleges average 40 percent, graduation rates are between just 5 percent and 20 percent for underprepared students.

Background Information

The college where this study took place was a private, urban, coeducational, religiously-affiliated, four-year commuter college in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. At this college, an alternate admission option (AAO) has been available to high school seniors who applied for full-time admission but have deficiencies in their high school achievement in one or more (but not all) academic areas. The Admissions Office does not utilize clearly specified criteria to identify its AAO students, and instead utilizes its admissions counselors to recommend AAO students based upon their judgment of an applicant's potential for success, while considering his or her academic deficiencies. (For example, an AAO student may have had a low combined score on the SAT but a sufficient high school grade point average [and vice-versa], or poor grades in high school English and social studies but high grades in math and science.)

The objective of the alternate admission option is to assist students in strengthening basic skills and in developing proper study habits so that they may be prepared to enroll on a full-time basis. All alternate admission option students enroll in one course during the summer and four courses during the fall semester and must maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.0 without earning a failing grade in any course. This abbreviated schedule of coursework is the primary intervention (treatment) for the experimental (AAO) group in this study. It should be noted that there is no specific mention in the catalog about special advising services or remedial courses for alternate admission option students, though it is known that these students meet once a week in the fall as a group as part of the college's formal freshman orientation course, and have one of the professional academic advisors as the course instructor. In general, these students also may or may not be enrolled in either of the college's two remedial courses (business math or English composition) because they may show academic competence in either or both of these areas, but weaknesses in other areas that necessitated alternate admission.

Statement of the Problem

The alternate admission option had not been formally evaluated for success or effectiveness since inception in 1983. As a result, it was unclear whether or not the alternate admission option had enabled these students to perform at or near the level of their regularly-admitted peers over the duration of their academic careers.

Purpose and Need for the Study

The purpose of this study was to examine the success of an alternate admission option for academically underprepared students. This study compared relevant enrollment, academic, and graduation data at various critical points in the academic careers of alternate admission option students with data from students who entered the college through regular admission.

The need for this study was to evaluate the success of the alternate admission option for the purposes of its continuance, modification, and/or termination. …

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