What Keeps Admissions Professionals Up at Night

NJACAC Fall Workshop 2023

I attended the New Jersey Association of College Admissions Counselors (NJACAC) last month with admissions professionals from the University of Delaware, Princeton, Rutgers, Villanova and TCNJ.  We had a lively discussion about trends in college admissions including the impact of the SCOTUS affirmative action decision, Chat GPT, and the long term impact of Covid on learning.  

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SCOTUS Impact on DEI

Rutgers worried somewhat that students won’t apply to the same schools but the general consensus is that the Supreme Court decision will not materially impact the way they admit students and form a class.  Many institutions use Landscape, a tool offered by the College Board, that provides socio-economic data including, parental college attendance, crime, stability of a household, income, etc. Princeton confirmed that their commitment to diversity is the same.

Some schools, including VIllanova, changed their essay to capture a student’s lived experience and its impact.  Princeton made a point of saying that they purposefully ask about lived experiences to make it inclusive of all applicants. 

Chat GPT and Essays

None of the colleges reported having detectors lined up for this admissions cycle. They warned against using it, not because they would catch you, but because it can produce a sameness to the essays and why give up your opportunity to share your unique voice. However, the University of Delaware did say they would ask students to rewrite their essay if they detected it was generated by Chat GPT.

They also said, “We have read everything! So don’t worry about being unique or writing what you think we want to hear.  Just tell your story.”

They all agreed, however, that in the future AI can be beneficial to increase efficiency in recording the quantitative part of an application. 

Impact on Covid and Test Optional Admission on Loss of Learning

Overall the panelists concurred that the faculty was not seeing the same level of preparedness among students, particularly in math, even with higher grades. To combat this Princeton introduced a pre-calculus class, which students still find hard, and the University of Delaware offered a summer math course.  

Rutgers said that since so many students apply test optional, they pay close attention to students’ grades in their math and English Classes.  Villanova noted that the ACT scores are the lowest since 1991 with a record proportion of students not reaching academic milestones.  The panel speculated two main reasons:

  • The difficulty of learning math online, which set students back
  • Not as many students are preparing for standardized tests, which in turn reduces the amount of time they review and relearn or learn math concepts.

Based on this anecdotal information, we encourage students to prepare for the SAT and ACT even if you end up applying test optional. 

And What Keeps Admissions Professionals up at Night?

The two main themes were the margin of error to hit their enrollment numbers and come in on budget and the scrutiny on the work they do from the Trustees to the President to the outside world and campus community. 

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