In an attempt to maintain a diverse environment while following recent U.S. Supreme Court guidelines to keep race as a narrowly tailored factor, the University revealed changes to its undergraduate admissions policy this morning, effective for the freshman class of 2004.
The revisions were brought upon by the June court rulings, which upheld the Law School’s system for using race as a factor in admissions, but struck down the LSA system, which gave 20 points out of a possible 150 to every underrepresented minority.
The new process eliminates the controversial point system and allows for a more individualized review of an applicant’s file, similar to the Law School’s system.
Under the new procedure, a part-time reader, who will give a recommendation for admission, will first evaluate the application. These readers plan to consist of former professors, retired teachers and other professionals who have received in-depth training for reading applications. Next, a professional admissions counselor will give a second blind review and make a subsequent recommendation. Final decisions will then be made by a senior-level admissions manager, using the two recommendations as background. If that person is unable to make a decision, the application will be forwarded to an admissions review committee.
Provost Paul Courant said many facets of the old admissions process remain intact. Grades and standardized test scores maintain high priority in admissions criteria. In addition, a large number of non-academic factors such as geographic location, socio-economic background and race will continue to play a role as significant factors in the admissions process.
“All students must be able to perform at a very high level of academic achievement,” Courant said in a press conference Thursday. “None of that has changed.”
In order to assess students more individually, as mandated by the Supreme Court, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions revised the application to obtain more specific information about an applicant’s experiences. Whereas in the past, applicants had to complete one long essay question, they now have a choice of three questions, tailored to finding out feelings and thoughts of applicants. Students must also answer several short questions ranging from their favorite book to experiences about cultural diversity.
“What we’re looking for is insight,” LSA Dean Terrence McDonald said. “This is really what a liberal arts college is all about.”
Also, several new optional questions regarding an applicant’s socio-economic status and his parents’ educational background have been added.
The admissions office is currently in the process of hiring 16 part-time readers and five more professional counselors to handle the increased amount of work. Courant said these endeavors have cost the University around $1.5 million and the administration is prepared to spend more if necessary.
“If it turns out that we are falling behind, which I don’t expect, I have told admissions that we will bring on more people,” Courant said.
“It’s a crucial part of our educational mission to receive a diverse class.”