Magazine article University Business

A Wish List: If You're Wishing You Could Make That Next Admissions Cycle Better, You Can. Here's How

Magazine article University Business

A Wish List: If You're Wishing You Could Make That Next Admissions Cycle Better, You Can. Here's How

Article excerpt

As the last college admissions cycle wound down, we found ourselves listening to the sighs and reflections of parents and students, counselors and admission officers. In a climate of rising costs and debt burdens, increasing uncertainty in applicant pools, burgeoning numbers of students in the admissions process, affirmative action under threat, and more competition at selective institutions, we offer the following wish list of five admissions program changes we would truly like to see.


They have been the growing bane of the admissions process for many students applying to selective IHEs. The underlying causes of colleges' heightened use of waiting lists are clear: more applicants (some two million each year now) in the college bound pool, applicants applying to more colleges simultaneously, applicants reaching out farther geographically, more non-traditional applicants, and greater financial uncertainty.

The insidious results of the waiting list trend are less obvious to many in institutional environments: parents, students, and high school counselors mystified by incongruous admission decisions; talented students put on waiting lists because they seem "overqualified"; students penalized because they did not have the time or wherewithal to visit or interview at a college (taken as a sure sign of disinterest); students worried about using the Common Application or an online application because it might send a similar sign; families establishing very negative opinions of colleges they once found highly desirable, because of a waiting list decision (often they would rather be rejected and be done with the uncertainty); and, finally, reputations of colleges and universities being hurt by the sharing of information among applicants within the same school or community.

In one case this past year, a wait-listed student tow us that he had received a letter from a selective university informing him that because of significant space limitations and a strong yield, the university would not be admitting students from the 2003 fall term waiting list. The same day, we had a call from another student letting us know that he had been admitted from that same college's waiting list. We would like to see IHEs be more honest about their waiting lists. We would like to see them provide more information to families and counselors about the number of students on the waiting list, and the historical trend in waiting list acceptances. We would like to see colleges abide by the guidelines of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), and not a) demand via telephone that students tell them within 24 hours whether they will accept an offer from the waiting list, or b) as in the case of one university, write letters offering students a place on the regular waiting list for free, and a place on the "priority" waiting list for a non-refundable $500 deposit (should the student decide not to accept a waiting list admission offer). We would like to see institutions develop alternatives to waiting list offers, for qualified and interesting applicants. Perhaps, in addition to a waiting list spot for the fall, colleges could offer those students outright a midyear entrance, or a place in the following year's class, or entrance upon the completion of an associate's degree or a year of approved coursework.


Let's provide more aid for international students who need it. Only a handful of highly selective institutions provide for internationals (non-U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens) the same need-blind/full-need packages (or close) that they do for U.S. citizens. Some colleges and universities limit their aid awards to a few international students each year, while others spread a small amount of insufficient aid around. Most colleges seem to prefer to reject outright financially needy but academically qualified and attractive international applicants, rather than admit them without financial support. …

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