This spring, a selected number of applicants will get an honest preview of life at Penn from student leaders on campus.
The Admissions Dean’s Advisory Board — which Dean of Admissions Eric Furda brought together last year to involve undergraduates in the University’s recruitment process — is currently piloting a program for academic likely letter recipients.
While academic likely letters do not guarantee admission to Penn, they are used to identify a select number of candidates that the University hopes to ultimately enroll.
The letters “go out to students who are at a very competitive level who would be applying to a lot of Ivies,” said College sophomore and ADAB member Joseph Egozi.
Egozi explained that ADAB is working to compile web-based profiles of student leaders on campus so that “the [prospective] students can log in on a website and opt to receive communication from leaders and organizations of interest.”
“In my mind, the best part of this campaign, if successful, is that it has the perfect level of communication,” Egozi said. “If you do just enough, you’re giving them what other schools aren’t, and that’s direct access to top leaders on campus so they see what they will do when they get to campus.”
Last year, Penn became one of the first schools in the country to launch a campaign that used a video and supplementary website — pennlikely.com — to inform students of their likely status.
Furda said more than 400 likely letters were sent out for the Class of 2015 in March 2011.
Furda said this year’s likely campaign — slated to be formally launched in February — will contribute to a prolonged period of build-up and conversation between prospective and current students.
“I think we’re starting the catalyst for these conversations to take place and some of them we will facilitate more than others,” Furda said. “We really want this to be a build-up through the month of April and a continuum from the likely [letters] … all the way up to the May 1 response date.”
College freshman Charlene You, who received a likely letter last year, said a follow-up was an aspect that the previous campaign lacked.
“It’s the contact that will help because it’s already setting you up with someone at Penn before you enroll and it’s a connection you have before coming,” she said
Tim Lear — director of college counseling at the Pingry School in Martinsville, N.J. — said undergraduate student outreach could provide more honest dialogue for likely letter recipients.
“These students are going to give less rehearsed answers, maybe more honest answers, and I think that’s the conversation that needs to take place,” he said.
Harvard University freshman Jacob Feldman — who received a likely letter from Penn last year — added that more direct student outreach may have persuaded him to give Penn more consideration over other schools.
“One-on-one contact is definitely more effective than a video,” he said. “It sounds helpful from an education purpose for kids to learn more about Penn.”
However, Jeffrey Durso-Finley — director of college counseling at The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, N.J. — predicted that only a small portion of likely letter recipients may change their mind as a result of Penn’s campaign.
Some students may already have Penn as their top choice, and some may have already been accepted through early action at other schools, in which case the likely letter would not be the first indication of interest in the student, he said.
“While it’s great to go meet some people and departments, it’s very hard to figure out how it has an effect on recruitment,” Durso-Finley said.
Though Furda acknowledged that last year’s campaign did not produce a higher matriculation rate among likely letter recipients than usual, he sees value in ADAB’s efforts.
“We want this to be real,” he said. “We want this to be authentic. We want this to be what I think is very much Penn-approachable.”
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