Thursday, August 30, 2007

The First Step in the Hierarchy- Can I Get In?

This is part 2 of a 6 part discussion on the Hierarchy of Student Decision-Making

The first issue Can I Get In? is of course the most primary and pragmatic of the concerns. After all, if a student can’t gain acceptance to a school, all the other issues are moot. If they cannot be admitted they never have to worry at all about whether they can pay for it or if they will be able to graduate from the school. Not be admitted generally answers these questions by making them rather moot. Therefore, students put the most effort into choosing schools they believe they can gain entry into.

This does not mean they do not attempt to get into schools for which they know are long shots because if they do somehow get into a “selective college” they have still answered the question. In fact, if they are accepted into a school that was a “stretch” they feel better about their initial acceptance.

But they are also immediately thrown into an at-risk situation because they may believe they could be able to succeed and graduate, but the school may actually be less sure. Too many schools accept students who are marginal so they can assure they have the “right number” of students to start the year and revenue stream. These schools may partially delude themselves into believing they are providing a chance to the student but too very often the acceptance is to meet less altruistic goals. Keep in mind that colleges build what they believe may be the annual attrition percentage into the budget. If it is planned for then that is an “acceptable attrition number”. It may not be as acceptable to the students who either fail or decide that this college was not for them. But let’s keep in mind the budgetary needs of the school even if they could not be compatible with the financial condition of a marginal student.

As you might have guessed from the minor irony above, not only is selling the wrong school to the wrong student poor customer service, it is ethically challenged. Admitting students who really are marginal is neither fair to the students nor the school. Clearly the students who are accepted into the wrong school and drop out because of bad fit are cheated. The have wasted money, time and a more importantly, a large part of their self-confidence and emotional investment.

The school also loses. Sure, it loses money but it also is cheated out of its ability to fulfill a section of its mission. It has defaulted on its chance to improve on someone’s life and future. The college have lost the ability to make a difference in the future not just of a person but the society and culture.

So, perhaps schools should be certain that they use a variation of the primary question to assure they provide appropriate customer service to its clients, students and itself. That question that should be answered honestly.

  1. Should this student get in to begin with?

Is an enrollment that important? Should it be?

Keep in mind that a rather steady and strongly correct argument I have been making is that retention has power. Retain more students and the admission numbers can actually become less important. Retention reduces the need to replace drops which is a major factor in the admission’s quota. Simply put, if admissions does not have to replace as many emptied slots, they and the school will have fewer students required to come in.

For the beginning installment of Hierarchy of Student Decision-Making clck here

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