Admissions integrates undergrads in U. recruitment
February 23, 2011, 3:06 am · Updated February 23, 2011, 12:00 am·
The future of Penn admissions may depend largely on one group — current Penn undergraduates.
At least that’s what Dean of Admissions Eric Furda believes.
Nearly three years after coming to the helm of the Admissions Office, Furda said he is now looking for ways to better integrate Penn students in the recruitment and outreach process for high-school applicants.
“We’re trying to refine and build upon how we represent the Penn experience in an authentic way,” Furda said. “To me, undergraduates are a largely untapped resource that might help us achieve that goal.”
Though the Admissions Office began working with minority groups like the Lambda Alliance and the Latino Coalition last year on various recruitment initiatives, Furda believes there’s “definitely work to be done” to get a greater number of students involved.
To help turn his vision into reality, Furda recently led the creation of the University’s first-ever Admissions Dean’s Advisory Board. Seventeen student members of ADAB met with Furda for the first time last December.
College sophomore and ADAB member Alex Amaniel said the group exists “to be Furda’s eyes and ears on what students think about admissions strategies.” ADAB is made up of “representatives from a diverse variety of cultural and academic backgrounds on campus,” Amaniel added.
While ADAB does not directly make admissions policy, student members have been working over the past few weeks on various video projects about their “Penn experience.” When completed, Amaniel said that the videos will be shown to prospective students.
In addition to ADAB, Furda helped oversee the formation of the Quaker Opportunity and Access Team last semester. Quaker OATs includes representatives from the 5B — Penn’s five minority coalitions — as well as student members of the Kite and Key Society and representatives from the Admissions Office.
College junior and Quaker OATs chairwoman Jewel Lester said the group serves as a way to “bring together a lot of different stakeholders to push forward Penn’s admissions and recruitment goals.” When admissions decisions are released on Mar. 30, Quaker OATs will host letter-signing parties and phone banks in an effort to “reach out personally to more prospective students,” she added.
Furda said he also hopes to make “flagging” applications for specific academic and personal interests a more common practice for Penn admissions.
Currently, the Admissions Office flags applications from members and supporters of minority groups on campus. However, Furda hopes to extend that outreach to encompass a wider variety of academic and social interests.
“If a student’s essay is about their interest in a field like art … then that’s something we’d like to pass along to a particular community here at Penn,” he said.
Michael Goran, a 1976 College graduate and founder of IvySelect College Consulting, said that high-school applicants often show greater enthusiasm toward a college that takes a personal interest in them.
“When it’s not a clear-cut choice, direct contact is something that can definitely help bring a student over to the other side,” Goran said.
But for Goran, personal outreach strategies aren’t everything in college admissions. Since high-school students today are applying to more schools than ever before, Goran believes that “no single factor can make or break the deal.”
Furda said that his goals center around a desire to “find out how Penn admissions can help students make more informed decisions in this process.” Still, however, he admitted that yield rates are always an important consideration when implementing any new initiatives.
Penn’s yield rate has hovered right around 63 percent over the past three years. This application cycle, Furda’s approach to increasing that number is one that he describes as a “zone defense.”
“I think that yield efforts start right when a student receives mailings from us, sometimes in their sophomore year of high school,” he said. “Our goal is to provide a collective experience from many different parties — from admissions, faculty and students.”