Magazine article University Business

Virtually In: Alternative Acceptance Practices Are Expanding among IHEs, Handled Well, Here's a Win-Win for All. (the Admissions Angle)

Magazine article University Business

Virtually In: Alternative Acceptance Practices Are Expanding among IHEs, Handled Well, Here's a Win-Win for All. (the Admissions Angle)

Article excerpt

Suddenly--just when high school counselors and college applicants think they've gotten a handle on the basics of the admissions process--enrollment managers are introducing variations into the acceptance process. Yes, school counselors, parents, colleges, and the media have been focusing on the early decision and alternative early notification (Early Action, Rolling Admission) plans that colleges use to entice more students to commit to their institution in a competitive market. But another set of tactics to land the best and brightest and fulfill enrollment goals is quietly evolving on many campuses. Alternative admissions acceptance plans are in full swing at an increasing number of institutions that range from small liberal arts colleges to elite research universities and public institutions. The result? Some students find themselves confused about their admittance status. Have I been admitted, or rejected? Do they really want me in their institution? they wonder. Often, they sense they've been put in some kind of limbo--and that may not be too far off the mark. It all depends on how the admissions team handles it.


One of the primary institutional advantages of the new acceptance alternatives is the ability to stretch the size of the incoming class without creating stress on facilities and resources. Here, finally, is an excellent way to enroll more talented applicants in selective institutions rather than denying them admission (with the certain knowledge that they will enroll in a peer competitor institution). Alternative acceptances can also serve as a means to control the incoming class population. With the significant increases in tuition and the resulting larger number of applications for financial aid, admissions officers want to have some degree of control over the size of their entering class, since some alternatively accepted students could be offered fall enrollment if an unexpected change in fall enrollment occurs in the late spring or early summer. And with the retention rate of each incoming class a serious concern in most colleges and universities, building a "reservoir" of students can ensure a healthy enrollment in the last two to three years of each class.


Many of the latest wrinkles in acceptance practices are fast on their way to becoming permanent creases in the fabric of college admissions practices, so if you're not yet familiar with them, now's the time to see what they took like.

Second-semester admission. An applicant is offered a place in the incoming class, not for the fall term but for the winter/spring term. The student is free to utilize the suddenly found free term in any manner he sees fit. This practice has proven effective, particularly in smaller selective liberal arts colleges such as Middlebury College (VT), Duke University (NC), Bates College (ME), and Skidmore College (NY), but also at a research university like Cornell University (NY). After the initial disappointment or confusion regarding the alternative acceptance, many students realize they have an opportunity to spend the free term working, traveling, studying abroad, or pursuing a particular interest or talent without the demands of school. This opportunity, for many students, has actually proven to be a deciding factor in accepting a particular college's offer. (Students who opt for midyear admission invariably make plans to graduate with their entering classmates by taking summer courses at some point or adding courses during their time at the college.)

Deferred admission. Some of the most selective colleges in the country use deferred admission (normally, admission is deferred a full year after graduation) as a way to deal with special or sensitive applicant cases. The typical case involves a qualified but not outstanding son or daughter of an active alum or politically connected family, wherein outright acceptance runs the risk of alienating the secondary school involved and embarrassing the university. …

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