Monthly Archives: February 2013

February 28, 2013

Evaluating Noncognitive Skills in Admissions

Every year, the admissions officers have the tough task of evaluating applicants for admittance. Officers are not only seeking out candidates who have good grades and test scores, but who also have certain unmeasurable traits that will make them assets to their school. These unmeasurable traits, also known as noncognitive or metacognitive traits, are where knowledge and motivation meet. Noncognitive traits include emotional intelligence, confidence, curiosity, study skills, and creativity, among others.

Why should noncognitive traits be important in admissions? Think of it this way; one student gets an “A” on a French test by cramming the night before and quickly memorizing vocabulary words. Another student gets an “A” on the same test because he diligently studied and practiced speaking the vocabulary each night for two weeks preceding the test. If you simply evaluate their grades, these students are equally intelligent. But if you factor in the noncognitive traits of the students (time management, commitment, maturity), the latter would clearly be a more promising candidate for admission to a university.

Charles E. Lovelace, Jr. is the executive director of the Morehead-Cain Foundation, an organization that provides scholarships at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Several years ago, he had an epiphany about noncognitive evaluation criteria for scholarship candidates. At the time, his foundation reevaluated their scholarship program and were surprised to discover that although scholarship recipients were earning good grades, many of them weren’t highly engaged on the campus.

Trying to get at the core of the issue, the foundation then rated the campus engagement level of about 350 scholarship recipients. Mr. Lovelace was shocked at the results; there was absolutely no correlation between campus engagement and the scholarship application evaluation criteria (SAT scores, high school activities, past leadership, etc). A student who excelled on paper and in the classroom wasn’t necessarily a stellar asset to the campus as a whole. “That was a real wake-up call that really transformed how we think about this,” Mr. Lovelace said.

In order to remedy the issue, the Morehead-Cain Foundation revamped their application process to hone in on the noncognitive aspects of an applicant. Instead of listing dozens of high school activities, applicants can include a limited number of activities and write a description of their participation. Professional readers perform the initial screening. After the first round of evaluations, grades and test scores are not considered as a factor, but noncognitive criterion are evaluated. Finally, behavioral-based interviews are conducted with applicants. As a result of this overhaul, the Foundation has diversified their applicant base and upped the caliber of their scholarship recipients.

Although we still lack a universally accepted methodology for evaluating noncognitive traits, there are various methods to look into. There is the Personal Potential Index (PPI) from the Educational Testing Service and the short-answer format “Insight Resume” from Eastern Washington University. Noncognitive assessments are especially helpful in evaluating students who are on the borderline for a decision, and also for low-income or minority students who struggle with standardized tests but have otherwise redeeming qualities.

“This gets us out of the habit of talking about students as a 3.8, 29 ACT,” says Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment at DePaul University, which now allows students to reply to short-answer questions instead of submitting test scores. “If nothing else,” Mr. Boeckenstedt says, “this allows us to think of students as multidimensional.”

How does your school evaluate noncognitive skills in applicants?

February 19, 2013

Tumblr for Universities

More and more colleges are turning to Tumblr as another source of social media to use, in efforts to engage with current and prospective students. Why Tumblr?

TumblrTumblr is a both a blogging platform and a social media network, that currently has an outstanding 93.9 million blogs and 43.2 billion posts since it was founded in February of 2007. Tumblr allows members to effortlessly share anything, including videos, quotes, pictures, links, etc. Tumblr can be a useful outlet for universities, as Emmanuel from Yale University discusses in his Higher Ed Social Media Tumblr. Emmanuel lists universities that utilize Tumblr and plans to discuss techniques on how his fellow universities can better apply content and media to their Tumblr blog.

“It’s all about taking the pulse of what our community is thinking about or talking about,” Ma’ayan Plaut, the social media coordinator for Oberlin College, says. “I can showcase what’s happening here [Tumblr] way better than I can do in other places.”

Useful Features of Tumblr for Universities:

1. Customize your University Tumblr: There are many ways that your university can customize a Tumblr page so that it is easily associated and branded to your university.

    • Theme – There is a wide variety of themes that are available for universities to use to customize their blog. If the university has someone in the office familiar with HTML, there is the ability to access the code and make any specific, unique changes.
    • Domain – There is also the option to use your own domain name, so that the blog can be quickly recognized as your university’s blog page.
    • Pages – There is the ability to create specific pages within the Tumblr, so that you can have a more developed blog, with an About or Contact Us page. This is an opportunity to give background information on your university to help users understand the meaning or idea behind your posts, whether they are for engagement, support-related, informational, etc.

2. The Ask Box: The Ask/Q&A feature is a way for members to anonymously ask other user’s questions, which admissions officers believe is a crucial feature for encouraging interaction and engagement. Even though most universities don’t consider social media when evaluating applicants, students feel more comfortable getting in touch with admissions when they don’t have to worry about who is responding.

3. Tracking tags: Tracking tags is one of Tumblr’s most valuable features. Directly from Tumblr’s help page, here is some helpful information on what tracked tags are and how to utilize them for your university.

Tracked tags are a great way to follow certain topics on Tumblr. You can access your tracked tags by clicking the “Search tags” box at the top of your Dashboard. New posts will be reflected in the number below the tag name. Hit the tab key and your tracked tags will pop open in a menu on your Dashboard.

Universities can use tracked tags to search for specific pictures and posts that other bloggers post about their university.

How do I track a tag?

    • Enter the tag in the “Search tags” box at the top of your Dashboard.
    • Hit enter.
    • Click “track” in the search box.

How do I stop tracking a tag?

    • Click the “Search tags” box at the top of your Dashboard.
    • Click the name of the tag.
    • Roll over “tracking” and click “untrack.”

4. Social Media Integration: If your university has other sources of social media accounts, the Tumblr blog can seamlessly integrate with Facebook and Twitter accounts. Once a blog post is published on Tumblr, you can automatically publish it to your university’s Twitter or Facebook profile.

There are many ways that universities can customize their Tumblr page and utilize it to create an effective social media strategy for their school. Does your university use Tumblr or another type of blogging platform?

February 11, 2013

The Ultimate Tour Experience

With the trend of students applying to more schools and admittance yield rates becoming increasingly unpredictable, schools need to get creative when presenting themselves to prospects. There are many ways that schools can stand out from the crowd. An easy and effective way is incorporating social media, whether it is through YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or the myriad of other sites that have gained in popularity in recent years.

But for one smaller school, thinking outside of the box means going back to basics during their recruitment process. At Lynn University in Florida, the redesigned tour that they have created is the golden opportunity to give students a personalized, sincere, and intimate look at the campus. The tour experience was created as an effort to improve the return on investment for recruiting dollars.

“We saw that we were more likely to enroll a student if they had visited campus. If we could get students on campus, they were more than likely to end up on our doorsteps come the fall semester,” said Gareth Fowles, the university’s vice president for enrollment management. “How do we position ourselves to make the experience that much better than the other institutions they were visiting?”

Admissions OfficeIt all starts with an easy online registration, & then a prompt follow-up phone call from the admissions office to discuss what the student is looking for in a college experience. Based on the information collected during the personal phone call, the admissions staff makes a unique tour plan for each prospect. As soon as the prospect arrives on campus, the tour experience starts right away. Each visitor has a personalized parking spot waiting for them. Attention is paid to the smallest of details to ensure that the entire day is smooth and pleasant. Even the nearest restroom was remodeled to be more welcoming. When the tour begins, prospects have the opportunity to dine with professors of their preferred major, talk to like-minded students, and to tour the parts of campus that are most relevant to their interests.

With so much work going into every single person who signs up for the campus tour, Lynn University can only handle two tour slots with fourteen prospects per day. The school’s small size is a benefit; Lynn University matriculates about 2,100 students. A larger school simply cannot compete with the level of service and attention to detail that Lynn University puts into wooing their potential applicants.

We commend Lynn University for developing unique methods for recruiting prospective students. Our world is increasingly disconnected and digitally-driven, so it is a breath of fresh air to see a school investing in a personalized, engaging, and memorable campus experience.