‘Rethinking Admissions’ Conference at Wake Forest

wake-forest-provostIn mid April, Wake Forest University hosted top admissions officers and researchers from Berkeley, Duke, Harvard, Ohio State, Princeton, Texas, Virginia, Yale and other universities along with the director of data research for U.S. News & World Report for the Rethinking Admissions conference.

Wake Forest, for example, has begun emphasizing interviews to get a better sense of personal qualities that numerical assessments cannot quantify. “College admissions practices need to reflect the values of the institution,” Provost Jill Tiefenthaler (pictured) says. “At Wake Forest, our process reflects the value of educating the whole person.”

Robert Morse, the chief statistician for the U.S. News and World Report college rankings, attended the conference and called the event highly worthwhile, especially the session revolving around the pros and cons of rankings.

“There was agreement on the point that rankings are here to stay because they are part of the American culture and that prospective students and their parents do need the ability to compare colleges. But there was disagreement on how much harm these rankings do to the admissions process and applicants.”

Jeffrey Brenzel, dean of admissions at Yale, is quoted in the official conference blog as telling the audience that, in effect, publications wouldn’t seek to reduce the valuation of institutions to numerical simplicity if demand for such rankings wasn’t so high. However, Brenzel criticized rankings as “often based on things that are irrelevant to the actual educational experience a student receives.”

His alternative system? According to coverage in the New York Times, it should:

  1. Have access to a wide variety of data
  2. Allow students to decide for themselves what factors to weigh based on what’s most important to them
  3. Offer user generated data (students rate what was most important in choosing their college and then rate their experience once in college)

It’s an interesting debate going on in academic circles across the country. What are your thoughts on the value of rankings? Use the comment feature below to let us know.

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