Dean of Admissions Eric Furda is taking his message outside College Hall and into the world of blogs and social media.
Last week — for the second time ever — Furda contributed a post on The New York Times’ “The Choice” blog, which provides news stories and advice to college applicants and their families.
Furda — along with Patrick Bredehoft, Penn’s regional director of admissions for India — answered questions about how the University interacts with applicants from India.
While Furda is among a small number of deans of admission from upper-tier institutions who have contributed to “The Choice,” last week’s post was not the first time he has reached out to applicants in nontraditional ways.
In December, Furda and the Admissions Office launched a new blog — called Page 217 in recognition of a past application essay prompt at Penn — that features frequent commentary by Furda.
These recent initiatives are designed to increase the University’s applicant pool, as well as enable prospective students to get a better sense of life at Penn, Furda explained.
“One of my responsibilities [as dean of admissions] is to enroll the class that the leadership at Penn wants to have,” he said. “And that means having an applicant pool that can help us reach our goal.”
Apart from his responsibility to Penn, he added, he has another duty to “facilitate sound decisions in the college admissions process.”
The Page 217 blog includes information on identifying colleges that are a good fit, along with tips on the steps students should take if they are rejected.
“[The responsibility] has always been there, but it becomes magnified given the overall selectivity of colleges,” he said.
Bev Taylor, founder of The Ivy Coach, said Furda’s new outreach efforts could bode well for Penn.
“It makes [applicants] feel like they’re hearing from the dean who makes these decisions, so in that respect, it humanizes the whole process,” Taylor said.
Top Colleges Educational Consultant Steven Goodman — a 1989 Graduate School of Education graduate — predicted that this may have a direct effect on the image of the University.
“When people who are administrators or well-known professors go out in the public, it benefits the institution,” Goodman said.
Hernandez College Consulting President Michele Hernandez said this could, in turn, increase the University’s yield rate — which is the percentage of admitted students who decide to matriculate.
Shivani Chadha — who was admitted early decision to Penn from Saratoga High School in Saratoga, Calif. — said Furda’s online presence helped to pique her interest every time she saw the University’s name.
“Seeing the name out there made me more motivated to do more research on the college and see if it would really be a good fit for me,” Chadha said.
However, others feel that the role of the admissions office in terms of education and outreach may be diminished after students submit their applications.
Sydnie Bui — a senior at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, Calif., who is applying regular decision to Penn — was not yet aware of the existence of Furda’s posts on “The Choice” or the Page 217 blog.
She said that, after the submission of an application, choosing a college should be up to the student.
“My view of Penn hasn’t dramatically changed,” she said. “I’m glad … they are using technology to its fullest potential. In the end, it’s up to the applicant to look within themselves and get help from the people that know them well.”
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