Sending signals

There are plenty of ways for admissions officers to listen and follow what prospective students are saying about their institution. But what if the tables were turned?

An increasing number of students are sending digital supplements along with their applications. Considered “add ons” to the application, they come equipped with web analytics, allowing students to monitor which items have been viewed and opened by admissions officers. In turn, students are making assumptions on the level of interest an institution has before they receive a decision.

Chris Peterson, admissions officer for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, knows this all too well. In a recent blog post for The Chronicle of Higher Education, he describes a recent experience where a student emailed him (prior to decisions going out), stating: “No one from MIT checked my link in the application. I just checked my Google Analytics account. No visits from Boston [or] Cambridge. I am sure that I have been rejected. Feeling hopeless and helpless.”

According to Peterson, admissions offices need to recognize the fact that they can no longer avoid sending signals. “We can’t turn back the technological clock. We aren’t driving this train — we’re just along for the ride.” He admits there are no easy answers, but states that “Admissions offices can no longer choose to not send signals. Instead, they must decide which signals they want to send and be prepared to explain and justify those signals to applicants.”

I tend to agree with Mr. Peterson, and I’ll take it one step further. A lot of your communications to prospective students during the application process can aggravate or alleviate this problem. Each institution’s admissions process is unique, so own it and communicate it effectively (and often) to students. There’s no place for ambiguity anymore. The more they know upfront, the better. Hopefully.

Read Chris Peterson’s “Opening the Black Box: Analytics and Admissions.”

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