The Admissionist Fall 2020 | Predicting Your Pipeline

Fall 2020



Envisioning a Brighter Future — and a Predictable Pipeline

Fall is finally here, but we are still no closer to viewing the future of higher education with any comforting degree of certainty.

However, I strongly believe that the uncertainty of today has the potential to create new opportunities to reimage, reinvent and reinvigorate higher education for decades to come.

Although it remains impossible to predict the future, many of the challenges awaiting us in the months and years ahead have been clearly identified. For example, a survey sponsored by Liaison and published by Inside Higher Ed revealed that 89% of college and university presidents are worried about the overall financial stability of their institutions; 88% are concerned about enrollment declines. Numerous other studies have documented the fact that many students and potential applicants are now second-guessing their college plans as a result of the pandemic. Parents across the country share their concerns as well.

History reminds us, though, that college applications have recovered and increased in the wake of other major financial and social crises, such as the bursting of the “dot-com bubble” in 2000 and the implosion of global financial markets in 2008.

With that in mind, I believe a similar trend may become apparent in fields such as those in the health professions, fueled by students’ desire to train as nurses, epidemiologists and other health and science professionals to work on the front lines of this crisis or the next one. My belief — shared by many of the campus leaders and presidents of professional associations I speak with regularly — is that the next decade will see a significantly greater investment into health care. Institutions that educate nurses, biomedical scientists and behavioral health specialists, among others, are likely to thrive in this environment as long as they can meet the needs of today’s applicants.

As you look to the future, I encourage you to remember that Liaison has been helping institutions achieve their most important admissions goals since I founded the company in 1990. We can help you, too.

I hope you enjoy this issue of The Admissionist . The interview with Harvard University’s Anthony Jack, Ph.D., about the relationship between cultural capital and the success of low-income students is a must read for everyone who works in higher education. Additional articles feature a case study of Baylor University’s successful CAS integration initiative; insights on applying to business school during the pandemic and how graduate education serves the public good. Of course, this issue also highlights Liaison’s other highly regarded solutions and services designed to improve your class-building efforts, including EMP™, SlideRoom™ and TargetX™.


George Haddad Founder and CEO


25 University of Tennessee at Martin: Why CAS Onboarding was a “Fantastic Experience” 26 Easy Data Integration in Action: How Liaison Took the Burden Off the IT Department at Baylor University 28 Applying to Business School During COVID-19 31 3 Resources to Better Engage Your In Progress Applicants 32 Today’s Higher Ed Challenges, Tomorrow’s Workforce Opportunities 35 How Graduate Education Serves the Public Good 36 If You Don’t Know What “Personalized Print” Really Is, You’ll Miss Your Enrollment Goals This Year

3 Tips to Help Your Prospective Health Care Students Get the Most Out of Health Professions Week 06 Mastering Admissions Marketing: Four Ways to Build a Better Applicant Pipeline 12 Succeeding Without All of the Answers 14 Getting Better Data Faster: How Texas A&M Achieves Key Goals With Analytics by Liaison™ 16 Hear From Your Peers During Liaison’s Webinars 18 Reimagining College Access With Application Portfolios 20 Shining a Light on the “Privileged Poor,” the “Doubly Disadvantaged” and the Hidden Curriculum of Elite Spaces 22 Admissions Bias in Focus

to Help Your Prospective Health Care Students Get the Most Out of Health Professions Week 3 Tips

by Mandy Nau Executive Director


Prepare Your Questions in Advance. HPW2020 provides an opportunity to connect with current health care providers and students in a variety of fields. Attendees should prepare a list of questions that they’d like answered beforehand so they can use this virtual face-to-face time wisely. Make a Plan to Fit Your Schedule. Attendees can customize their HPW2020 experience to fit their schedules and their interests. Focus only on those events that are relevant to potential career paths, or explore new disciplines. Sit in on just a few sessions, join a selection of interactive events or participate all week long. The full calendar and list of participating associations are available now. This year’s event features virtual tours, live chats, interactive experiences and on- demand content. Share these three tips with your prospective students to ensure they get the most out of participating: Mark your calendar now, because Health Professions Week 2020 (HPW2020) is the year’s best opportunity for health professions associations to promote their fields — and for admissions officers to connect prospective students to reliable health care career resources. Taking place virtually from Saturday, November 14 through Thursday, November 19, HPW2020 is a nationwide collaboration between health care and education organizations designed to provide authoritative, accessible resources to explore careers in the health professions. If you work with students considering a future in health care, HPW2020 is their one-stop-shop to learn more about the opportunities and requirements associated with 20 different career options, ranging from Anesthesiologist Assistant to Veterinary Medicine. Register Now! Not only should your prospects register for Health Professions Week 2020 today so that they don’t miss the exciting reminders leading up to the November event, but you should register as well to help spread the word! We’d also appreciate if you tweet, share, like and engage with our posts on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube). Thank you for all that you do to help build better pipelines for the health professions in 2021 and beyond!





T he truth hurts, but it can’t be ignored: With higher education losing its lustre in the eyes of many Americans, the job of filling your institution’s pipeline with best-fit students is unlikely to get easier anytime soon — unless you embrace new ways of marketing your school. Consider the facts: According to one recent survey of 2,000 students, graduates and parents, more than half (52%) said they think higher education is “misguided” and only 33% said they believe a college degree is a prerequisite for joining the middle class. Even fewer (27%) said a degree was needed to achieve the American dream. 1 Fortunately, by becoming a member of Liaison’s Centralized Application Service (CAS) Community, you can transform your marketing presence by increasing your programs’ exposure, leveraging outsourced marketing expertise and visualizing trends to expand your applicant pool. CAS is a cloud-based recruiting and admissions solution for higher education institutions, programs and associations looking to grow and shape enrollment while reducing overall effort and costs. CAS is a full service, web-based marketing and application platform that allows students to apply to as many programs at as many participating institutions as they’d like by submitting only a single set of application materials.

1 Source: University Business, July 21, 2020.


“We more than doubled our number of spring starts over previous years, with no additional marketing. As for applications in progress, we easily have ten times the number we usually have by now. CAS has enhanced visibility and interest in our program — the numbers are unbelievable.”

Each discipline-specific CAS instantly expands an institution’s marketing presence by featuring it within a community of programs that attract the same type of students you want to attract and enroll. By enabling schools to cast a wider marketing net, a CAS can help your applicant pool grow and diversify — with no additional marketing spend. CAS is provided by Liaison, the leader in application management for higher education. Liaison has powered CASs for nearly three decades and currently serves over 31,000 programs at more than 1,000 colleges and universities. Read on for four ways CAS will help you build better pipelines.

Carsi Hughes, Ph.D. Director of Postbaccalaureate Premedical Programs


1 Inclusion inaGlobalDirectoryof ProgramsLikeYours With CAS, your fully branded program pages highlight your institution to potential applicants everywhere in the world. Even those who may not be familiar with your school at first can find it when searching for their programs of interest. In addition, CAS’s streamlined application process engages prospects from their first interest, significantly reducing the potential for application abandonment. Students come to CAS to explore their options. Get the attention of students who hadn’t previously considered your institution by including it in the central directory of programs like yours. Reinforce your brand and showcase what makes your program unique Prospective students applying to your school want to know more about you and what you have to offer. Why should they choose your program? Which students do you serve best? A CAS doesn’t simply deliver a one-size-fits-all portal. Simple configuration tools allow you to reinforce your institutional brand with a home page that includes images and descriptions of your specific programs.

Brand, of course, isn’t just about images. Program-specific admissions criteria are central to how you recruit high-quality, best- fit students that keep your brand strong. With a CAS, you can tailor questions, collect the sorts of documents you require or identify prerequisite courses. In addition, you can easily create program-specific scoring models. Market your school nationally As part of a CAS Community, member programs have greater exposure to a larger application pool from across the country and even abroad. Programs often see a spike in applications after joining a CAS — and, more importantly, an accompanying rise in quality. For many disciplines, particularly in the health sciences, a CAS is where students go first to consider schools and programs. Everyone who joins a CAS does so on the same footing. Small schools realize the same marketing boost as larger schools with better marketing budgets. By providing all schools and programs with access to great applicants, CAS levels the playing field while making it easier for students pursuing a profession to understand and consider all of their options.

“Despite the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve seen a 33% increase in applications for Fall 2020. For our Summer Online MBA alone, we saw a 180% increase in applications and a 163% increase in matriculants. Considering the additional revenue that we have already generated through the CAS, which was available to our institution at no cost, CAS is a smart business decision for data-driven, forward-thinking schools that are focused on investing in their students and programs.”

Toby McChesney, Ed.D. Senior Assistant Dean of Graduate Business Programs and Special Assistant to the Provost





Access to Data With Applicant Trend Insights

Social Media and International Advertising Campaigns

“With CAS we’re now able to use our own university logos and images in the application process, not only for the College but for each individual department. So when each prospective applicant applies, they’re able to get more details for every department. It looks like they’re applying to Texas A&M University, instead of just completing a generic application.”

The data-driven insights delivered by CAS help clearly identify which applicant groups are responding to your message and which groups you are missing. Those powerful analytics, in turn, allow you to reinvest resources in the messaging that gets the best possible return on investment. Access data in real-time Having robust data management tools can help you deliver better results for your institution and for your applicants. CAS provides real-time, secure access to applicant information and the tools you need to understand, target and diversify specific applicant pools. You can easily access the data you need to understand where your applicants are coming from or the profile of your admitted applicants — information that’s critical for more accurate forecasting. CAS data facilitates the quick assessment of your progress toward diversity goals, international student applications and other strategic initiatives. Analyze your applicant pool to target best-fit applicants CAS provides strategic tools for analyzing, evaluating and targeting best-fit applicants. You can analyze and report on applicant data more effectively, communicate with applicants from within the same portal and work with evaluators more efficiently to build the strongest possible incoming class. CAS also lets you analyze applicant pool data at a very granular level and apply sophisticated admissions criteria to your incoming class. By understanding who your applicants are and where they’re coming from, you can focus your marketing efforts on those students most likely to enroll and succeed. Standard reports, run either during the admissions cycle or after it, give you the empirical evidence you need to answer questions about program performance more quickly and confidently. When it comes to admissions processes, too often, “best practices” remain rooted in outdated systems and outworn methods. As technology continues to expand and provide unprecedented opportunities for implementing targeted marketing initiatives, program staff must become more innovative about how they put their technology and data to work. CAS makes that possible.

Each unique CAS attracts applicants’ attention through highly targeted, far-reaching ads on social media channels and international outlets, including StudyPortals, the Financial Times , Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report. With CAS, you can also use your own data and data pooled from CAS member schools and programs to benchmark against your peers — regionally and nationally. You’ll be able to see how well your message is being received and work with Liaison to create more informed marketing plans for improving outreach and yield. These are just four reasons that 31,000 programs are members of Liaison’s CAS Community. Contact Liaison today to learn more about how joining can help you reach more applicants and build a better class. “A big part of our strategy involves taking a very personalized approach to communicating with students, making sure that we focus on their individual needs, motivations and concerns. Liaison understands that. I was very intrigued by Liaison’s personalized approach to focusing on individual students. There is nobody else doing what Liaison is doing right now in terms of their partnerships and marketing pieces. Working with Liaison is like having a combined enrollment and marketing department.”

Tandilyn Morrel Director of Graduate Programs


Professional Drive-To-Apply Campaigns

Liaison’s professional marketing team complements your existing marketing efforts, allowing you to take advantage of our expertise in campaign development and creative development. For example, CAS Community membership comes with complimentary drive-to-apply and drive-to-complete campaigns, facilitated by our team of expert recruitment and enrollment marketers. Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) partnered with Liaison to develop a holistic campaign strategy with multiple touchpoints across each stage of their funnel. Search campaigns, event promotions and drive-to- apply campaigns leveraged data on each student to deliver personalized communication across channels. Focusing on students’ special interests, such as athletics or clubs, was instrumental in connecting with them. “When we became more strategic in our partnership with Liaison, we saw impressive results,” said Seandra Mitchell, MSOE’s Dean of Admissions. “Internally, we worked with athletics and student life to identify high-level buckets based on whether a student says they’re interested in club sports, playing a musical instrument or things like that. Then, we worked with the Liaison team to plan ways to promote MSOE to students based on their interests. In 2018, we exceeded our enrollment goal for traditional freshmen by 7.1%. We have a leadership team that couldn’t be happier!”

Dr. Christopher A. Smith, Ph.D. Executive Director of Enrollment Management, Marketing and Financial Aid



Years ago, I started talking to my colleagues who work on college campuses across the country to ask them what’s working and what’s not. Immediately I concluded two things: one, that there is no single silver bullet for the silos that emerge like blocks against progress, and two, that everyone I spoke to because of that, was finding it challenging to make a meaningful impact. There was one exception. A friend of mine I call Stacy. She managed to achieve meaningful change. How? It started when she refused to take the job she was offered unless the president of the university committed to clearing the path for her to do what she needed to do — meaning cabinet-level discussions and true cross- departmental accountability. Once she had that commitment (and accepted the job!), she got to work building relationships and consensus across campus. She didn’t exactly know “the what” but she knew setting the table for change involved “the who.” She mapped out the student journey at her university, which in my experience, is the only way to start making a real impact on student success. If you can’t identify a student’s journey, how can you anticipate their needs and when and where they’re going to encounter problems? Stacy implemented cross-functional groups using the relationships she had built to diagram how the institution operated. In business, process mapping often can reveal how small changes can lead to big results and this happened here. One small change she made — aligning financial aid and bursar hours and calendars — led directly to her blowing her retention goals out of the water in the first year. The most meaningful impact this focus on “the who” had was reducing the attention on systems to support the what! It might seem counterintuitive for a software CEO to encourage people to slow roll deployment of software, but in this case the tools should be a distant second to the strategy.

Too many campuses chase a piece of software, or worse yet an algorithm, as the solution to student engagement and outcomes. Software is a wonderful addition to a campus and can drive meaningful changes to both the student experience while on campus, and the ultimate outcomes that the campus delivers. But, that addition should be to support the strategy derived by the people who need to execute it — and not be viewed as a crutch for the challenges that come from creating that strategy. I’ve spent the last few years thinking about the right systems that can be deployed on college and university campuses to lift up the focus on student outcomes. We know how to advise at scale, we know how to give clear insights into at risk students and we know how to do this while powering the admissions funnel. But the change needs to start with conversations on campus, just like Stacy did. There were other changes of course, and changes like that can have the “Jenga effect” of knocking down silos and clearing the way for other great things to happen. And that’s what we at TargetX have always been excited about — transforming the way that colleges and

universities support their prospects, students and alumni. Which is why I know that our joining the Liaison family is going to allow us to continue to be your

catalyst to making every student a graduate and every graduate a success.





T exas A&M University College of Engineering joined EngineeringCAS TM in the fall of 2019 after looking for an application platform that offered an enhanced experience to our applicants. We also wanted to be able to provide our admissions staff, grad advisors and faculty the data they needed to make quicker and more strategic admission decisions in order to meet our enrollment goals. By joining EngineeringCAS — and by gaining access to Analytics by Liaison™ — we met those needs. Analytics presents data visually in charts, tables and other formats which you can easily customize based on a variety of filters, including applicant demographics, residency, citizenship, application progress and academic history. Regardless of the time period or filters you review, Analytics gives you a granular overview of how your applicants may be changing over time. At Texas A&M, being able to drill down into each graduate program’s data has assisted us tremendously in evaluating whether our holistic admissions processes are working properly. We also like the ability to download reports in a number of different file formats and import them into presentations. It makes it easy for us to share important data with other departments and individuals across campus. For example, we can see exactly which counties in Texas our applicants are coming from. That, in turn, allows us to streamline our recruiting resources and determine how to best use them in the future. Another nice feature of Analytics by Liaison is that you’re able to reach out to specific applicants, such as those who have not completed an application, and communicate with them directly. Prior to joining EngineeringCAS, we could not do that. We did not know who those applicants were. Now we can reach out to them directly, either to help them complete the application or to recruit them into the program.

PRIOR TO JOINING ENGINEERINGCAS AND USING ANALYTICS, WE HAD TO SUBMIT DATA REQUESTS TO AN ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE ON CAMPUS. IT COULD TAKE SEVERAL WEEKS BEFORE WE HEARD BACK AND THE DATA WE RECEIVED WAS NOT ALWAYS IN THE FORMAT WE NEEDED. JOINING THE CAS HAS BEEN A REAL GAME CHANGER FOR US. WE ARE NOW ABLE TO INSTANTANEOUSLY FIND DATA AND PROVIDE IT TO OTHERS ON CAMPUS WHO NEED IT. ACROSS THE BOARD, THIS HAS INCREASED TRANSPARENCY AND HELPED US MAKE BETTER DECISIONS. reports and assisting with analyses of outcomes. And it’s great for faculty because it allows them to quickly obtain important data about applicants, as well as data they need to apply for and retain grants. Prior to joining EngineeringCAS and using Analytics, we had to submit data requests to an accountability office on campus. It could take several weeks before we heard back and the data we received was not always in the format we needed. Joining the CAS has been a real game changer for us. We are now able to instantaneously find data and provide it to others on campus who need it. Across the board, this has increased transparency and helped us make better decisions. In the short time we have been part of the EngineeringCAS community, we have seen a 5% increase in completed applications. I can say with confidence that Texas A&M is very pleased with the results we have achieved by joining EngineeringCAS and using Analytics to move forward in our admissions processes as we strategically build our cohorts.

Analytics also provides a very easy way to gather data for fulfilling state and national survey requests, compiling annual


Every month, the CAS Community convenes leaders across disciplines to share their insights into strategic enrollment management. Sessions recently added to our on-demand library include: Hear From Your Peers During Liaison’s Webinars

Reimagining Grad Student Recruitment: Lead Gen for 2021

Back to B-School: What It Will Take to Thrive This Fall and Beyond

John Augusto, Ph.D. Associate Dean, Strategic Initiatives Georgia State University

Shannon Deer, Ph.D. Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs Mays Business School Texas A&M University Member of the BusinessCAS Advisory Board Dee Steinle Executive Director, MBA and MSB Programs School of Business University of Kansas Vice Chair of the BusinessCAS Advisory Board

Vincent James Director, Admissions T.H. Chan School of Public Health Harvard University Michael zur Muehlen, Ph.D. Associate Dean, Graduate Studies Stevens Institute of Technology

Today’s Higher Ed Challenges, Tomorrow’s Workforce Opportunities

Darla Spence Coffey, Ph.D. President and CEO Council on Social Work Education Norman Fortenberry, Sc.D. Executive Director American Society for Engineering Education Julia Kent, Ph.D. Vice President, Best Practices and Strategic Initiatives Council of Graduate Schools

Jenny Rickard, Ph.D. President and CEO The Common Application

Karen West, D.M.D. President and CEO American Dental Education Association

Nancy Zimpher, Ph.D. Chancellor Emeritus State University of New York

View recordings of these and other sessions at



Reimagining College Access With Application Portfolios

by John Tierney Director of Partnerships

“We want to allow students to “That’s where SlideRoom portfolios come in. We recognized that there’s a whole set of students doing projects or project-based work who didn’t have a platform to demonstrate what they’d done. Using the SlideRoom platform, we developed our Maker Portfolio, which students use to tell us about their projects.” At Wheaton, according to Director of Admission Judy Purdy, the engagement benefits are similar: “We want to make clear to applicants that this is not necessarily additional work, but gives them an opportunity to showcase something they’ve already done – a class project or an internship experience – in a way traditional application formats don’t allow. They are only used to help the students.” Better inputs, better outputs It’s almost impossible to achieve equitable college admissions outcomes and the subsequent success of students without first understanding what motivates passionate, highly qualified applicants. That’s one reason more colleges and universities are using application portfolios as they adopt holistic admissions policies and look beyond traditional metrics such as test scores, essays and letters of recommendation in order to fill their enrollment funnels. It also explains why institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Wheaton College, participants in the Learning Policy Institute’s Reimagining College Access (RCA) initiative, leverage SlideRoom’s multimedia application platforms to accept and review supplemental materials as part of their admissions processes. With several years and cohorts of implementation, these programs provided great insights and sharable best practices in a recent webinar. Showing, not just telling “The hands-on learning that students participate in is central to the MIT experience,” said Stu Schmill, Dean of Admissions and Student Financial Services at MIT. “It was fairly clear to us some time ago that our application didn’t really allow our admissions officers to evaluate students in that context. We want to allow students to show us their talents. The traditional college application isn’t designed to do that.

SlideRoom, which supports more than 30 different file types, optimizes the collection and review of portfolios that are submitted with applications, including those featuring rich media, video, images, audio and three-dimensional models.

show us their talents. The traditional college

application isn’t designed to do that. That’s where SlideRoom portfolios come in.”

After the first few application cycles, both MIT and Wheaton learned that a mindset change — from an open-ended call for materials to giving prompts for materials that reflect the qualities they want to measure — has enhanced the value of the assessments.

Stu Schmill Dean of Admissions and Student Financial Services


“We’ve learned to be more direct and to understand the context in

which students have done their projects in order to ascertain their

motivations, resourcefulness, collaborative and communication skills and willingness to take risk” said Schmill. “That context has made all the difference for us in the value we get from the portfolio submissions.”

Wheaton used these lessons to evolve the model of traditional arts portfolios to the broader benefit of performance assessments for a greater set of academic disciplines. “We initially didn’t know how to ask the right questions or give prompts to get what we wanted to understand — their passion, creativity and leadership skills— particularly outside of traditional arts portfolios,” Purdy said. Yielding to enrollment success

For time-crunched admissions offices, the prospect of another application element might appear daunting, but at these institutions, the optional supplements benefit applicants and reviewers alike. Purdy stated, “Most of them only take a few minutes to review, but ultimately they provide more clarity. We don’t end up wondering so much. It helps us get to know the student a little bit better and helps sway some of the conversations to admit, wait list or deny.”

She added that there are benefits, not just to admissions decisions but enrollment management and student success initiatives as well.

“We very much consider this a yield opportunity. From the faculty perspective, they more easily identify which students would make a huge difference in their departments.” It’s true that achieving equitable college admissions outcomes is a challenge, but with SlideRoom, admissions officers like Schmill and Purdy are able to better grasp what motivates the passionate, highly qualified applicants who go on to become successful MIT and Wheaton students. What would having more insight into your applicants’ talents and passions mean for your next class? Find out by incorporating SlideRoom portfolios into your admissions review process. “We very much consider this a yield opportunity. For accepted applicants, we follow up and discuss how what they are doing would contribute to the kind of life they would have at Wheaton. From the faculty perspective, they more easily identify which students would make a huge difference in their department. We then use the portfolios to understand how we can help them once they enroll at Wheaton to achieve their goals.” Similarly, MIT involves faculty reviewers and outside alumni to help scale portfolio reviews and identify applicants who can thrive in their individual departments: ““Something that one of our admissions officers thought was kind of boring would have a faculty member jumping up and down saying, ‘This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.’”

Judy Purdy Director of Admission


SHINING A LIGHT ON THE “PRIVILEGED POOR,” THE “DOUBLY DISADVANTAGED” AND THE HIDDEN CURRICULUM OF ELITE SPACES A discussion with author Anthony Jack, Ph.D., about the relationship between cultural capital and the success of low-income students A nthony Jack, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of education at Harvard’s

schooling you had or through some kind of program — you’re like a fish out of water. You are coming into a new place and learning new rules and new languages. But if you come from an upper-middle- class household, where college has been a generational legacy, then you’ve heard about office hours, you’ve heard about internships and syllabi and prereqs. You know the language. You’ve been socialized to think about college as where you will be. Does the hidden curriculum permeate through higher education? Yes. And if we allow it to be the status quo, we’ll be doing a disservice to those students who are new to higher education. When you get an opportunity to go to a school that serves as a mobility springboard, you want to make sure that you have every opportunity. But some students have no idea how to begin to take advantage of the opportunities or even what the opportunities are. You write about “doubly disadvantaged” students. What does that mean? I use the term doubly disadvantaged because I want people to pay attention to the fact that, in addition to being economically disadvantaged, some students have had no access to the type of educational experience and socialization that elite schools offer. They weren’t socialized to know

mainstream and elite institutions take for granted. They know how to navigate the hidden curriculum of elite spaces. That’s what I really want to bring attention to. Are elite institutions failing low-income students by not recognizing this? It’s not just the elite that have this issue; it’s higher education as a whole because the norms that permeate through higher education are middle-class norms. The hidden curriculum refers to the unwritten rules and unset expectations that we expect students to abide by from the first day they set foot on campus. But unless you have had access to a campus before — whether through your parents, through the type of

Graduate School of Education and bestselling author of The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students. The Admissionist recently spoke with Dr. Jack about his book and how his own educational journey shaped his views on ensuring the success of low-income students once they arrive on campus. The title of your book is The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students. What does the phrase “privileged poor” mean? When people talk about first-generation and lower-income college students, they often speak about them as a monolithic group. But when I went to Amherst College, many of my peers had gone to boarding, day and preparatory high schools, even though some of their parents were janitors or didn’t even have jobs. They were economically poor, just like me, but they were privileged in the sense that they had experienced places like Amherst before their freshman year of college. They had studied abroad in high school. They had teachers with Ph.D.s. They had gotten accustomed to the concept of office hours because their schools were basically

mini versions of a college. They shared the same language. So I thought, “Yeah, you’re poor, but you’re privileged.” The privileged poor have what sociologists call a dominant cultural

about the Harkness method. They weren’t socialized to think about studying abroad in high school. They weren’t socialized to think

Anthony Abraham Jack, Ph.D., is a junior fellow at the Harvard Society

capital. They understand those ways of being that

of Fellows and an assistant professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


“ I think it’s important that we do a better job of sharing what’s in students’ admissions files with the dean of students office and other support-providing offices on campus. Students lay it all out in the application.” These are very important considerations that need to be pushed beyond the admissions process. What do you see as the broader implications of the pandemic on how these colleges and universities serve all students? I hope it changes the way we think about students’ needs. When colleges abruptly shut down, they assumed people had places to go and the resources to get to those places. It demonstrated, in many ways, the kind of inequalities that we’ve ignored. Let us not forget those students who don’t have an exit strategy. I think the pandemic also shows that it’s wrong to think about going virtual as a cure-all that can reduce inequalities. Online learning only happens if you can get online. What happens when you can’t get online, when you just don’t have access? Inequality runs deeper than many would even imagine.

about internships and shadowing doctors as an every-summer thing while they were in high school. I wanted to move beyond the label of low income. I wanted to ask, “On what dimension of inequality does your experience rest?” That was very important to me. Being doubly disadvantaged — lacking economic capital and cultural capital — causes lower-income students to struggle in school, and draws even more attention to the fact that “colleges privilege privilege.” What else should educators understand about these students? We — as faculty, as administrators, as counselors — expect certain behaviors. We tend to reward students who adopt those behaviors without ever questioning why they feel more comfortable doing so. We think it’s about their drive and their ingenuity, but oftentimes it’s much more a reflection of their social class and upbringing rather than being a go-getter. How did your earlier education influence the way you think about helping other students seize economic and educational opportunities? I am a Head Start kid. My educational journey began at Head Start. I attended public middle and high schools that left a lot to be desired, but I transferred to a private school in the summer before my senior year of high school. That opened my eyes to just how drastically unequally I had been educated compared with those people whose fathers were the vice presidents of organizations or whose mothers were doctors. I went from a school with 35 students in my AP and IB classes to a prep school where my largest class was 15 students, and there were a lot of resources. How did that experience influence your success in college? In high school, our teachers could not leave school for one hour and four minutes at the end of every day. They had to make themselves available to any and all students who wanted to speak with them. By the

time I finished my senior year, I had gotten accustomed to that being the reality. I knew they would be there, that they were expecting me to come and that I should go. And so when I got to Amherst and people were talking about office hours, I understood. I already knew how to take advantage of the opportunity. Things like that were important to me and, in the end, helped me make that transition to Amherst. How can colleges and universities do a better job educating and empowering disadvantaged students? I think it’s important that we do a better job of sharing what’s in students’ admissions files with the dean of students office and other support-providing offices on campus. Students lay it all out in the application. They’ve been told to tell certain stories to relay certain facts about who they are, where they come from, their family struggles, everything. We know how many of our students have been homeless. We know how many of our students have fraught relationships with their families and can’t go home regardless of whether they have the resources to do it or not. We know who’s experiencing difficulties, and yet that information isn’t shared with, for example, the individuals who set housing policy on campus. If you knew that students on your campus are homeless or effectively homeless, would you still close your campus during recesses in the same way? Or would you make provisions to help students secure housing and food during those recesses? Or will you continue to assume, again, that everyone departs campus for fun in the sun? This is where elite colleges, I believe, have failed students. These are questions that the admissions files can help us begin to answer. We also need to understand much more deeply what urban and rural poverty looks like. What does it feel like? How does it limit the way students move through campus?


by Molly McCracken Marketing Consultant

During the summer of 2020, Liaison and Kira Talent formed a partnership with the goal of helping higher education institutions better facilitate remote interviews with students and increase diversity through holistic admissions. Shortly thereafter, the editors of The Admissionist asked Kira’s experts to elaborate on the importance of removing bias from the admissions process. Here’s what they shared with us. When Kira surveyed admissions offices, we found that 41% of schools had no process in place to reduce bias in the admissions process; of those schools, 71% had no intentions to add a process in the future. Without having conversations about admissions bias, you could unknowingly create an environment for bias to thrive. To ensure a level playing field, you must first ensure your reviewers agree on what a “level playing field” means. Here are three common events in admissions offices that can lead to decisions being impacted by bias: • Having one reviewer review a file and make a recommendation without a second set of eyes

• Lacking a consistent and documented scorecard across all applicants and just collecting a “yea” or “nay” • Assuming reviewers have a shared definition of subjective criteria — e.g., “leadership,” “empathy” or “fit”

In each of the above cases, a single person’s view of the world impacts the fate of the student. On top of such inconsistency, we also have our own limitations to consider. Generally speaking, we now have more choices than any other generation before us. In fact, researchers suggest the average person makes an average of 35,000 decisions a day. Decision fatigue is a very real problem. It shows itself in your inability to choose what restaurant to pick, what show to watch on Netflix and even in your decision to admit or reject a prospective student. When your decision- making capacities are fatigued, because of back-to-back interview days or late nights of file reading, your brain relies on shortcuts and patterns (i.e., biases) without you even realizing it.






Halo Effect

Giving preference to a person or organization that aligns with one’s own group “This student is from the same town as me; We both attended the same summer camp; We were both raised by single mothers.”

Assigning more weight or importance to a recent event or interaction than others in the past Scoring an applicant who interviewed on Friday afternoon higher than an applicant who interviewed on Tuesday afternoon because they are more recent in memory

When members of a group set aside their own opinions, beliefs or ideas to achieve harmony In a committee meeting, a reviewer goes along with a decision for or against an admissions decision to avoid conflict with a peer

When one remarkable quality influences other factors in a decision An applicant has not met all admissions criteria, but they published one paper or worked one particularly impressive internship


STRIVE FOR CONSISTENCY IN THE REVIEW PROCESS Leveling the playing field involves making sure you create an environment where all applicants have an equal opportunity to be successful. You can do this by creating consistency in the applicant experience.

CREATE DOCUMENTATION AND TRAINING If you have a committee of reviewers, their understandings of any key terms will be unique to their experience and relationship with your school. To say an applicant wasn’t a “culture fit” or lacked “leadership” means very little if you cannot explain exactly what that means for your school. Your school’s mission and core values, and the traits exhibited by your top students and alumni, can help you articulate definitions for the hardest-to-define criteria.

Steps to take:

ĥ Avoid the over-influence of any personal biases by having two or more committee members review applicants. ĥ Prevent the impact of groupthink by having reviewers evaluate applicants independently and document their evaluations before swapping notes. ĥ Use structured interviews to ensure applicants get similar questions in similar environments and are reviewed on similar criteria.

Steps to take:

ĥ Document definitions and create scorecards for the subjective criteria you evaluate. ĥ Create a training program to educate each reviewer on these definitions and scorecards. ĥ Test reviewers’ abilities to use these resources.

We’ve just started to scratch the surface in this article by identifying ways to reduce the role bias plays in your existing practices. To take the next step and truly tackle bias in admissions, consider how admissions bias may be inherently baked into your practices by thinking about: • Your evaluation of demonstrated interest scores. • How your school’s preferences for legacy, domestic or international applicants affects outcomes. • The role (or lack of role) Affirmative Action and standardized tests have at your school. • The political, gender, racial and socioeconomic make-up of your admissions committee, faculty, alumni and leadership.


Partner Spotlight:

Spanning 14 states across America’s heartland, the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) is a regional affiliate of the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). With a focus on solving common problems and learning from its members in a community of practice, MAGS has played an active role in supporting its constituents through the challenges of the past year. Julie Masteron, Ph.D., Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate College at Missouri State University, serves as the group’s chair. This fall, she’s organized a series of social events, learning workshops and presentations to help its members navigate what promises to be an unusual academic year. Graduate programs across the U.S. will face many similar challenges this year: ubiquitous public health concerns, calls for dismantling systemic inequality and budget cuts brought about by the recession. However, the answers to these problems will not be one-size-fits-all, and having a regional association like MAGS to strategize specific solutions to the unique needs of its members is essential.





University of Tennessee at

Martin: Why CAS Onboarding was

a “Fantastic Experience”

T he University of Tennessee at Martin (UT Martin) is a comprehensive public university providing high-quality undergraduate and graduate educational programs to students from West Tennessee and beyond. It offers graduate degrees in Agriculture & Natural Resources, Business Administration, Counseling, Educational Leadership, Teaching, Family and Consumer Sciences and Strategic Communications. UT Martin recently joined BusinessCAS and GradCAS™, the Centralized Application Service (CAS) Communities for graduate management education and graduate education, respectively. Shortly thereafter, Liaison spoke with Joseph Mehlhorn, Ph.D., Interim Dean of Graduate Studies, and Jolene Cunningham, Student Services

What advice would you give to others considering joining the CAS Community? JM: If you want to focus your staff on engaging applicants rather than coordinating application packaging, CAS is for you! Not only that, but it’ll also give you an easy way to report to university leadership about how many applications you’ve received and the status of each one, and it’s a must if you have a small staff but a large application processing workload. JC: You’ll be in good hands with Liaison’s staff from the very beginning. They walked us through the onboarding process step by step. It was a fantastic onboarding experience!

Joseph Mehlhorn, Ph.D. (JM): The old process made it a nightmare of a job! That’s one of the reasons we were looking to streamline with BusinessCAS and GradCAS. Can you tell us more about your experience so far? JC: Really, I think CAS has improved everything for us! Now, all of our admissions documents and data are stored in one central location. And it’s been a lot easier for us regarding verification and transcripts, especially with international students. Thanks to CAS, we were ready to go remote even before COVID-19 closed our campus. Our coordinators didn’t experience any delay in engaging applicants, and they could easily see communication histories for each contact. JM: Despite the challenges introduced by the pandemic, our application numbers are actually up. I don’t think we could have processed all of the applications we received this year on our old system. There’s no way that we could have physically managed our workload without the complementary support and application processing services that come with the CAS technology.

Specialist, to learn more about their experience with the CASs so far.

What was your application experience like before you joined BusinessCAS and GradCAS? Jolene Cunningham (JC): Gathering all of the necessary documents was piecework. We received one submission at a time, and we had to spend a lot of time and effort just trying to keep it all organized.

Readmoretestimonials from CASCommunitymembersat



by Greg Martin Manager of Client Delivery

slightly disconnected relationship with our admissions process.”

already had several other discipline-specific CASs on its campus, including those used by its physical therapy and public health programs. Why? Because even though each of Baylor’s programs serves different types of students and professions, they all came to the conclusion that the application technology and marketing benefits provided by a CAS offer the most effective way for applicants and admissions offices to discover and interact with each other. A passion for making life better As Baylor was preparing to integrate EngineeringCAS, leaders there decided it also made sense to take the next step forward by centralizing and streamlining all of their CASs simultaneously. They were aware of Liaison’s extensive resources available for such a job — including its five-phase, 21-step framework created specifically to help institutions accomplish successful CAS data integrations — and asked Liaison to help. “The goal was to create a process to make life better,” said Associate Dean Christopher M. Rios, Ph.D. “We’re now expecting to see a time savings for IT and a better experience for the applicants and the faculty reviewers. This is a win-win situation.” According to Dr. Rios, engaging all of the university’s stakeholders early in the process was the key to success. “One of the things that has helped me develop my relationship with IT is recognizing that their work is critical,” he said. “Admissions is a core function of the institution, and it is increasingly dependent on technology. We had to bring our IT team into the conversation early. Understandably, they’re frustrated when you bring them into the conversation later because they can see potential complications that may not even be on your radar. Ultimately, it allowed us to better serve those programs that had a

Generally speaking, the phrase “data integration project” probably doesn’t fill most people, whether in IT offices or admissions offices, with joy. However, it’s different when you work with Liaison. Unlike our competitors, we don’t just deliver software and exit the picture. Thanks to our expertise and ongoing dedication to delivering unparalleled service, the short- and long-term benefits of a Liaison data integration initiative make life easier for everyone, from IT specialists to admissions teams, administrators and applicants alike. “We’re now expecting to see a time savings for IT and a better experience for the applicants and the faculty reviewers. This is a win-win situation.”

He continued: “Before we made decisions, we brought everyone together, including Liaison, and asked, ‘What do you want this process to look like?’ It’s easy for those of us who come from the academic side to overlook, or take for granted, the people on campus whose passion it is to make the university work. But sitting in on these conversations — even when I was way out of my depth — gave me a real appreciation for the crucial work they do. They have a real passion for improving the lives of the people using the processes we were developing.” Michael Scott, a joint MBA/MSIS student at Baylor who also worked part-time on the integration project, said the IT department’s goal was to “standardize everything and streamline everything.” “Centralizing our CASs during the EngineeringCAS integration created efficiencies across campus in almost every area, from designing the applications to writing requirements to standardizing and streamlining data exports,” he said. Scott also described Liaison’s support team as “amazing.” “Liaison was very supportive and answered all of our questions very quickly,” he said. “Baylor is really starting to grow, and we’re at a pivotal point. Establishing the standardization of integration was critical to our future success.” “Liaison is listening” The ability to add custom questions to the EngineeringCAS application also pays dividends, according to David Winkler, a Ph.D. student in higher education leadership who works as a graduate assistant in enrollment at Baylor.

Christopher M. Rios, Ph.D. Associate Dean

At Baylor University, integrating Liaison’s EngineeringCAS TM — the only Centralized Application Service (CAS) for graduate engineering programs — enhanced not only the engineering program’s application experience but also the collaboration and admissions processes of several other departments across campus. The lessons learned by everyone involved highlight the benefits of embracing new technology, services and partnerships.

By the time Baylor joined EngineeringCAS, the Waco, Texas-based research institution


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