Legacy: The Booster Shot of College Admissions

Business Insider: To increase your chances of admission, apply “to the same school as one of your parents. While legacy status — the term used to indicate a family member attended the same school — has been recognized anecdotally as providing a benefit to college applicants, education startup AdmitSee has used data it collects to definitively prove this correlation … The company analyzed the profiles of students who indicated their legacy status, and found that legacy students scored lower on the SAT than nonlegacy students.”

“Preferential treatment for legacy students has been studied before. Michael Hurwitz, a Harvard doctoral student, conducted a study at 30 highly selective colleges and found that legacy students had seven times the odds of admissions as nonlegacy students. But the issue of awarding an advantage to legacy students remains a contentious issue, especially in the face of push back over affirmative action policies in college admissions.”


How Admissions Officers Use ‘Big Data’

Business Insider: “Just as companies pay for consumer data to make informed decisions, it turns out, colleges and universities do the same, according to a report by non-partisan think tank New America. The report, called ‘The Promise and Peril of Predictive Analytics in Higher Education,’ detailed the ways in which colleges pay for student data. For less than 50 cents a name, colleges glean student data from third-party groups.”

“The students’ demographic information is then used for ‘predictive analytics,’ a little-known x-factor that colleges often use for enrollment management. The process pulls a multitude of data points into a model that predicts the probability a particular student will apply to a school, choose to attend after they’ve been accepted, or perform well once enrolled. The third-parties also have their own predictive models that colleges can pay for, which can include around 300 different data points on students.”

“The report also explained how colleges rank students based on this data. Admissions teams individually score students’ likelihood of becoming an applicant, being admitted, and deciding to enroll, usually on a scale of 0-10 based on factors like: race and ethnicity, zip code, high school, and anticipated major, according to the authors.”


Yale to Admit More Students

Associated Press: “Yale University will be accepting more undergraduate students this year, but don’t expect it to be any easier to get in. Freshmen classes will be larger by about 200 students beginning next year under a long-planned expansion that will see the Ivy League college’s student body grow by about 15 percent, to 6,200.”

“For the class that arrived on the New Haven campus last year, the school accepted only 6.7 percent of more than 30,000 applicants, one of the lowest rates in the country … Yale’s applicant pool has grown in the past nine years from 22,500 to nearly 31,500, an increase that Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said has been driven largely by students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds, such as minorities and students from low-income households. A larger student body, he said, will allow Yale to welcome students from more diverse backgrounds.”


Ranking the Return on Your College Investment

The New York Times: “Earnings data are finding their way into a proliferating number of mainstream college rankings, shifting the competitive landscape of American higher education in often surprising ways. This fall, The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education … introduced their first college rankings. Forty percent of their result is measures of ‘outcomes’ — earnings, graduation rate and loan repayment rate.”

“Last year The Economist released its first college rankings, and it relies even more heavily on earnings data … The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce has issued another set of rankings, adjusting the College Scorecard salary rankings first for choice of major … and yet another ranking that assesses students’ expected earnings, given their characteristics when they entered college, to the actual outcome … Both Forbes and Money magazines, in their rankings, incorporate PayScale data on earnings.”

“It should go without saying that the value of an education should never be reduced to purely monetary terms.” Phil Baty of Times Higher Education comments: “The success of a college graduate should not be measured purely in terms of the salaries they earn. There’s more to life than a high salary. This is why we’ve also put an emphasis on how much the student is intellectually engaged, stimulated and stretched by their college education.”


Keys to a Good College Experience

Quartz: “Analyzing data from a study of more than two dozen institutions, sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa conclude that many students ‘enter college with attitudes, norms, values, and behaviors that are often at odds with academic commitment.’ And many universities reinforce these beliefs by building lavish amenities and marketing themselves as something akin to a resort with a curriculum.”

“Real learning—that is, learning that makes a significant and lasting change in what a person knows or can do—emerges from what the student, not the professor, does … Instead, meaningful learning emerges from a proactive conception of knowledge, where the student’s goal is to experiment with new and unexpected ways of using what he or she is learning in different settings. This requires students to see themselves as the central actors in the drama of learning.”

“The relationships students form in college also have a profound influence on their experiences, shaping not only who they spend time with but how they will spend their time … scholars have found that students who interact frequently with peers who are different in significant ways (racially, ethnically, religiously, socioeconomically, and so on) show more intellectual and social growth in college than those who don’t … Decades of research have demonstrated that students who study together learn more, and more deeply.”


Campus Tours As ‘Working Vacations’

The New York Times: “Fall is largely celebrated as college football season, but for high school upperclassmen and their families, it’s also college touring season … Here are a few ways to make your college research a vacation, too … given the expense, it is useful to look at the trips, at least in part, as vacations.”

“Some start with spring break trips. High season for college visits follows, during summer vacation. But campuses then are relatively empty … an argument for visits between September and May … Most visits begin with a 60- to 90-minute information session led by an admissions officer. It is invariably chock-full of facts, figures and tips, requiring full concentration. Following that is the relatively breezy campus tour, usually led by a current student adept at walking backward while pointing out the library, cafeterias, dorms and some version of the campus icon that gets painted as a student prank.”

“Campuses are often the cultural focus of college towns, with worthwhile attractions including the music conservatory at Oberlin College in Ohio and the art and natural history museums at Yale. St. Olaf College in Minnesota and Davidson College in North Carolina are among the many that have hiking trails … As with any family trip, it’s not where you go, but whom you’re with. College trips offer concentrated time with your child, when available time is increasingly rare.”


Georgetown: Slavery Descendants Given ‘Legacy’

NPR: “Georgetown University will be offering an admissions edge to descendants of enslaved people sold to fund the school … Jesuit priests connected to the private Catholic university sold 272 enslaved people in 1838, to pay off the university’s massive debts. The men, women and children were sold to plantations in Louisiana; the university received the equivalent of $3.3 million, securing its survival.”

Georgetown will treat “the descendants of those enslaved people the same way it treats legacy students, applicants whose family members attended Georgetown … The working group had also recommended that Georgetown explore the feasibility of offering financial assistance for those students as well.”

“Additionally, the school will be renaming two buildings — formerly named after the two university presidents who made the arrangements to sell slaves to fund the school … One will become Isaac Hall, after one of the enslaved men who was sold in 1838, and another Anne Marie Becraft Hall, after a black educator and nun … Georgetown will also establish a memorial to the people whose enslavement funded and built the school, offer a mass of reconciliation and work to promote scholarship in the field of racial justice, it says.”


Admissions Officers Offer Essay Advice

The Washington Post asked dozens of college admissions officers for insights into what they like to see in essays. Here are a few choice quotes:

“I look for beautiful, clear writing that comes to life on the essay page and offers insight into the character and personality of the student.”

“If you’re a serious person, write your essay with a serious voice. If you’re a funny person, be funny. If you’re not a funny person, your college essay might not be the best place to try on that funny writer voice for the first time.”

“We want to enroll students who will contribute to the life of the campus, so we are eager to see how you have contributed to your high-school community or the community in which you live.”

“It is a pet peeve when we see an anomaly in grades and the student never addresses this. Tell us what happened and how you turned it around.”

“You can’t fake it during the admission process. If you do, you’ll end up at a college or university that’s a poor fit.”

“Some of my most memorable offers of admission have gone to students who like to color outside the lines.”