Magazine article University Business

2005 Trend & Action Report: Applications Swell and Mounting Cost Confusion Are Only Two of the Challenges for 2005

Magazine article University Business

2005 Trend & Action Report: Applications Swell and Mounting Cost Confusion Are Only Two of the Challenges for 2005

Article excerpt

If we had to distill the college admissions process down to one key conundrum this year, it would be the tack of predictability. That seems to be the source of most of the important trends and concerns among admission officers, counselors, and families.

Lack of predictability fuels and is fueled by the increasing numbers of students applying to colleges, the demographics of the applicant pool the higher number of applications they are filing, the deepening worries over cortege costs, and the drive toward binding early decision (ED) and alternative early programs--just to name a few of the current issues. But let's go through some of the more important trends we observed this past year, discuss what we might expect for the future, and consider some ways in which cortege leaders and administrators can help mitigate these difficulties.

APPLICATION BARRAGE

There's no way around it: More students continue to graduate high school and more are applying to cortege. And because more students than ever are finishing high school guidance counselors are having a hard time keeping up with their case toads and providing sound individual advice to a larger senior class. Then too, because of the tack of security in today's economy, more students are looking to higher education to provide tong-term job security and flexibility. This includes a growing number of adult learners, whose ranks have outpaced those of traditional college-bound students.

It's no wonder that colleges are having trouble predicting the size of their applicant pool, the likelihood of students enrolling, and the standards to set to ensure a large enough (but not overly filled) entering class. Just the sheer number of students available is proving to be both boon and bane for many colleges. Certainly, selective schools can have their pick of many strong students, but they have increasing difficulty sorting out each year's class. And many colleges express their frustration over students choosing the college to attend based on name brand or rankings rather than appropriateness of fit. In order to address these issues, colleges need to improve their communications strategies with families and high schools, data and enrollment management techniques, and personal relations with students.

GRAPPLING WITH GROWING COMPLEXITY

Driven by the uncertainty in the admission process, students are filing more applications to a more varied list of public and private institutions. The process appears simpler yet more confusing than ever to them. On the one hand, they use the common application and online applications to file quickly and to multiple colleges at the same time. But they face countless college-specific rules and requests, which can mean differences in standardized test/essay requirements and particular admission plans. They also must deal with multiple deadlines, which make the process complex and variable. Colleges can help families by conforming to standard admission and enrollment practices, as set by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (www.nacac.com), adopting the Common Application (www.commonapp.org), and, early in the high school years, educating parents and students about their own admission standards and requirements. Colleges can focus on attracting, enrolling, and retaining as many appropriate and qualified applicants as necessary, rather than blanketing the planet with admissions literature that may serve only to attract inquiries and applications from students unlikely ever to set foot on campus. Colleges should be dearer in presenting a picture of what type of student flourishes in their community.

UNCERTAINTY FUELS ED APPLICATIONS

With students uncertain where they will gel in, and colleges uncertain who will enroll, the trend toward early decision applications is not surprising. Many students are convinced they'll never be accepted if they do not apply ED. And many colleges are enticed by ED's promise of securing commitments from a third, half, or more of the entering class by December or February. …

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