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Understanding the Admissions Decision Beyond the Application

Learn about the holistic approach to college admissions, the benefits for the institution and the student, how students can see if a school will actually be a good fit, and how to maximize your chances of getting in.
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What happens after you submit your admissions application?

A fair question, given the enormous amount of time and energy students put into completing them. Each college treats applications differently, based on size of the college, time of year, enrollment goals, and institutional priorities. A recent trend, and one we believe will be around for some time, is a concerted effort among colleges to apply a holistic approach to college admissions, taking into account the entire student experience and what that might look like for a particular applicant.

What does this mean? How does it play out in practice? How are college admissions decisions made? We spoke with Danielle O'Connell, Dean of Admissions at Becker College in Worcester and Leicester, MA, to give us more insight into this approach.

Jonathan: Danielle, tell us more about this holistic approach to college admissions decisions.

Danielle: Gone are the days of simply enrolling students based on their application "hard numbers" (e.g. SAT score, GPA, rank in class, etc.). Generally speaking, our goal is to enroll students we believe will be successful in the classroom, outside the classroom, and once they graduate. This holistic approach to college admissions allows us to think beyond the application and focus on the entire student experience. To do this, we bring in key campus stakeholders from day one to ask questions and evaluate admissions candidates. Will they succeed academically? How about socially? Do their goals and aspirations align with our college? All the pieces need to come together in order to make a sound decision.

Jonathan: So why this approach? What are the benefits for the institution and the student?

Danielle: For us, spending more time on the front end—considering the entire student experience from admission through the in-school experience and even into becoming an alum—allows us to enroll students who we believe will be successful students and champions of the college once the graduate. For the students, we hope this process maximizes their chance of success while enrolled, with completing their degree with us, and continuing to be a part of the Becker College culture even after they leave.

Jonathan: If I am a student considering Becker (or any school), what can I do/should I do before committing to a school see if this school will actually be a good fit?

Danielle: Great question. We encourage our students to find their "authentic fit," even if that ends up being at another college. Sometimes this is easier said than done. However, there are a few things we suggest students do. First, come to campus and sit in on a class. Ask questions and don't be afraid to speak with the professors and students after class. Second, check out the amenities. While residence halls are important, think beyond that. What type of technology is on campus? What resources are available through the library? Do the available resources align with a student's intended major? For instance, if you are a nursing student, what type of medical equipment is available on campus? Third, consider the size of the school and campus feel. Walk around campus and ask if can you imagine yourself there as a student (either resident or commuter). Finally, ask questions about the student experience. What goes on outside of the classroom? Are their clubs/organizations that peak my interest? How does the college encourage/support success beyond the class?

Jonathan: This is all great, but of course we still need to get accepted! Beyond the application (which we know is important), what can I do to maximize my chances of "getting in"?

Danielle: Whenever possible, tell us about yourself. The essay is a great opportunity to do this, but so is an on-campus (or virtual) interview. When we send you communications (especially by email), open them…and read them! Having a vested interest in the college and what we are saying goes a long way. Of course, attending any events on campus (if possible) is another great way to show interest in the college. Finally, if you plan on majoring in a subject that makes sense with submitting a portfolio (e.g. art, creative design, etc.), share it with us. This will help enhance your application.

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