Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | November 16th, 2020

The importance of personal connection during pandemic admissions

Has the recruiting during the pandemic dictated new admissions criteria for your school?By now, it is not new news that colleges have had to drastically alter their admissions process. In both undergrad and higher ed institutions alike, requirements have quickly shifted as a result of the pandemic limitations. Schools that never intended to veer from their admissions “rites of passage” have been forced to change their processes or risk being changed by the landscape.

While you’ve held certain criteria requirements, you may find that your program is trying to find alternative ways to determine students’ viability while your typical screening methods are being challenged.

Replacement criterion

A recent article in the New York Times examined how some undergrad schools are finding replacement criterion. The article suggests that for college admissions during COVID-19, “SATs are out, personal stories are in.” It seems that in light of the pandemic, many schools are beginning to favor a more personal approach that requires students to dig into and demonstrate their “sense of self” which may prove to become more valuable over time than test scores to predict success in higher education.

This is not to say that the importance of test scores should be diminished, especially in the higher ed space. They have been, and continue to be, solid gauges of the hard skills required to succeed in finance, economics and operations courses. But in a time when the soft skills are crucial to survival, resiliency and adaptability are starting to emerge as strong traits that exhibit a person’s propensity to perform under pressure, and can dictate how well they will do in a demanding MBA or higher ed program.

Using personal stories as a gauge of fitness

Because submitting a personal story isn’t something someone can “study for,” admissions staff can use data from responses to determine natural creativity and adaptability as key predictors of success. It’s possible for you to come up with an objective grading scale that examines and scores qualities on a scale, such as:

  • Creativity
  • Uniqueness
  • Authenticity
  • Empathy
  • Honesty
  • Resilience

Since your admissions process likely already includes several touchpoints that are aimed at getting to know someone — a personal interview, an essay, multiple conversations — the suggestion is not to add another requirement. It is simply that you may put more weight on their responses. And using a quantitative grading scale can help you assess prospects more objectively and place them with confidence.

What questions to ask when soliciting a personal story

Although we’re all ready for COVID-19 to make an exit from our lives, it’s unlikely that will happen anytime soon. It’s also unlikely that you will meet anyone that has not been impacted in some way by the pandemic. Whether emotionally, financially or physically, everyone has seen the side effects of what the virus has done to our communities, country and world. Rather than gloss over the topic, leaning into the narrative can actually benefit us in the way we relate to each other. And getting a prospect’s take on what they’ve lost, gained and taken away from this experience can shed light on how they react in the face of adversity.

Here are a few questions you could ask prospects during the admissions process. Whether in an essay or interview format, be sure to find ways to quantify the response. You don’t want to get too caught up in your emotional response to their response.

  • What limitations did the pandemic place on you personally and professionally?
  • How did you handle the stress of the pandemic?
  • What did you add or remove from your daily routine as a result of restrictions?
  • What is your daily life/routine like now?
  • In what ways have you shown leadership in your community, workplace and personal life during this time?
  • What are you looking forward to the most in a post-pandemic world?

Moving forward

While you will certainly be placing more weight on transcripts and references in the coming admissions cycles, finding ways to assess a prospect’s ability to overcome challenges could become a new mainstay in your process — and you might even find something new and helpful to take away from the pandemic, too.

Need help?

If you need help with altering or improving your admissions processes, GPRS can help. Think of us as your partner during the pandemic to help shape and meet your new enrollment goals.