For decades, the college application process has been an overwhelming and stressful process. High school students around the world spend countless hours researching the best-fit universities, taking standardized tests, seeking reference letters from teachers and counselors, and battling disparate application platforms and difficult to use. Then they wait for the acceptance and rejection letters to arrive.
Worse still, many prospective students do not receive reliable information about their best higher education options and do not consider the full range of college opportunities available to them. It’s not just a problem for students. Universities are also finding it increasingly difficult to meet enrollment goals and create diverse classes.
Diversity is a particularly acute challenge, especially when it comes to recruiting international students. Institutions have always depended on traditional markets – such as China, India and Southeast Asia – which are easier to access. It is more difficult to reach students in other countries, where international destination students are fewer and more distant, making travel-based recruitment and other traditional methods unprofitable.
We have entered a hyper-competitive era for higher education, and universities must question everything and rethink related to finding and attracting potential students likely to take their places. Falling registrationsafter all, is a trend that could continue for decades.
A promising new approach to solving these problems is to reverse the admissions process, where universities compete for students instead of the other way around. EAB, a Washington DC-based education consultancy, pioneered this approach with its Green light game and Global Match programs, supported by its recent acquisition of the Concourse admissions platform (which the writer co-founded). Scott Jaschick has been write about this idea in Inside Higher Educationand NACAC recently published an article on this subject in the College Admission Diary.
What does reversing the admissions process mean?
In 2015, Idaho adopted the nation’s first direct admissions system, in which high school seniors received one of two versions of a letter telling them in advance that they would be accepted into a set of public schools if they applied. Their ratings determined which universities were included in the list of institutions offering direct admission. The letters were for Idaho universities only.
Although limited in scope, the experiment increased first-time undergraduate enrollment by just over 8% and in-state student enrollment by nearly 12%, according to a article published in Research in higher education. Other US states are now experimenting with this system, and the Common App also launched a recent trial.
Direct admission is just the start. Although it offers certain advantages, it does not fundamentally change the process of selection, application and admission to the university. It’s just that students are told upfront that if they agree to go through the process, they won’t be rejected.
Flipping the admissions process is about taking this concept to the next level. These are universities reaching out to individual students and saying,We want you. Here are the programs and scholarships we think are right for you, based on your expressed interests and aspirations. If you wish to participate, you do not need to apply. We have already reviewed your academic credentials and accepted you. Will you take the next step to engage with us to explore our offering? »
Reverse the admissions process means not only telling students they’ve been accepted, but helping them choose a major, taking the time to explain how the proposed academic program will fit their personal goals, removing barriers to registration and, in general, organize the red carpet.
This model is particularly powerful when it comes to finding, attracting and enrolling international students from non-traditional markets, from Albania to Zimbabwe.
To reverse the process is to meet the students “where they are”. Institutions need to direct students to the right programs (or be honest if they don’t have a program that works for them). This means cutting out anything unnecessary in the admissions process. This means developing systems to track the status and circumstances of students at all times and to actively help them pursue their offers of admission. This includes helping students build their financial aid packages to ensure they have the resources to complete their higher education.
The battle for the bottom (of the funnel)
Institutions of all types can create a more equitable, student-centric enrollment experience. Historically, students from less developed countries have been more likely to “melt down” after admission than students from wealthier markets. To the extent that higher education institutions can take a more active role in guiding admitted students along the path to enrollment, they will be better able to mitigate this effect and level the playing field.
How can institutions pay for all of this in times of tight budgets? New investments in performance could be funded by reallocating budget from more traditional recruiting activities to the top of the funnel (e.g., travel and physical marketing materials).
College Counselors: An Important Part of a Holistic Enrollment Process
A complementary strategy for success in the increasingly competitive admissions landscape is to work more closely with high school college counselors. Advisors have a significant influence on where their students ultimately decide to enroll. They are unsung heroes in this ecosystem, often managing huge student workloads and bearing the brunt of the complexity of the admissions process. Something that may seem like a small requirement for a university (“We just need a notarized version of your transcript”) can become a nightmare when multiplied by a workload of 500 students, especially for advisors outside the United States.
To make matters worse, counselors are often the last to know which institutions are making admission offers to their students, as they aren’t participating in most admissions platforms’ workflows.
By working more closely with college counselors (for example, reducing paperwork, keeping them up to date, proactively providing financial aid information, and generally making their lives easier), institutions obtain a triple advantage:
- Students who have been admitted are more likely to enroll.
- Institutions are notified earlier if students with their offers decide to enroll elsewhere (although this may be bad news, it is far better to find out as soon as possible).
- Advisors are more likely to advocate for their institution to other students.
Rethinking Traditional Admissions Practices
Universities need to take more responsibility for closing the information gap and breaking down barriers to enrolment. This means working more closely with college counselors, rethinking traditional admissions practices, eliminating unnecessary complexity, investing more resources in producing admitted students, and exploring the use of advanced technology platforms for direct admissions. and reversed.
For many institutions, this adjustment is a financial necessity. It’s time to adapt to the market and offer students a less stressful, more consultative, welcoming and affordable university journey.
Joe Morrison is the founder and CEO of Concourse (now part of EAB).
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