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Understanding the Class of 2015

By Russell Olwell
For most college and university faculty, recruitment and admissions are a black box. We see the students who are admitted and enrolled in our classrooms, we read statistics about those students (GPA, SAT, ACT) but we do not have a lot of contact with the process itself. Outside of major lawsuits or referenda about admissions policies (such as the cases in Michigan, California and Texas) college faculty may not even know how admissions decisions are made, and may find themselves unable to explain the rationale behind them to members of the public.
Whole sections of the admissions and recruitment process might not even be part of the division of academic affairs, but part of an enrollment services division, staffed by people who are experts in marketing, admissions, financial aid and more conversant in “yield management” than in the language of academia. Faculty often talk about admissions, financial aid, and recruiting, but rarely run across or seek out the people responsible, and are not often involved enough in the process to understand it.
Up until a year or two ago, I would count myself in this category. However, last year I received a federal six-year grant to work on a project to help middle school students make a successful transition to college, and I was suddenly in the college admissions and recruitment business (though we sell college, not a college), and I began to better understand what the competitive world of college recruitment is like.
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