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What the heck does an Admissions Practices Committees really do? #admissions #emchat

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In the past twenty plus years I’ve had occasion to “work” with the Admissions Practices (AP) Committee a number of times. Let me be clear, I’ve not been a member of the AP Committee.

For those of you who have the impression that the AP Committee is some sort of secret police unit charged with safeguarding NACAC’s Statement of Principles and Good Practices (SPGP), you are probably thinking that I must be some scofflaw constantly running afoul of the SPGP. Why else would I have had a number of occasions to interact with the AP Committee? Right?

I do confess to being contacted by the AP Committee to clarify practices throughout the years. I’ve welcomed their contact each time and valued opportunity to work through various interpretations. In fact, twice times I’ve been asked to address specific questions about practices. Practices in questions included the representation of majors (cooperative programs are always a little mushy to describe), and an allegation concerning a partner who was thought to be guaranteeing admission and scholarship to students prior to an application being submitted.  In each circumstance the exchange I had with the Admissions Practices Committee was professional, thought provoking and resulted in a clarification of my institution’s practices and how they comported with the SPGP. Never once did I feel under attack by the AP Committee and each time I was impressed with the level of engagement on the part of members of the AP Committee.

Throughout my career, I also confess to contacting the AP Committee to report concerning practices on two occasions. Neither occasion was a result of me being angry, vengeful or obstreperous. I simply wanted to assess whether or not my lens was clear or cloudy on practices I observed at other institutions. Again, the folks serving on the AP Committee were real pros.

So, I’ve been on both ends—reviewed and asking for review of others. However, the occasions when I’ve been most appreciative of the work of the AP Committee is when I’ve asked for interpretation of a practice. On three occasions I’ve brought a matter to the attention of the AP Committee for an interpretation. I suppose I was seeking peace of mind on each occasion. I am not sure my inquiries resulted in peace of mind, but each inquiry resulted in something positive.

Once upon a time I asked the AP Committee for a review of program that would ultimately result in double deposits. At the time, my institution was trying to respond to an increasing number of students who were choosing two-year colleges and telling us that they’d “be enrolling at our college following completion of their associates degree.” We wanted to actively communicate with these students, provide counseling services and reserve a spot for them. We hatched the idea of a delayed enrollment deposit that would be required when they applied as first-year students to reserve their place as transfer students down the road. The idea was to provide academic counseling throughout the two year period of time and proactively communicate with these students who told us they were going to enroll. Delayed enrollment, as we called it, would result in a student double depositing and would open the door to continued communication to students who committed elsewhere.  The AP Committee was very helpful in helping us sort through this issue.

I also contacted the AP Committee a couple of years ago when my president received two calls from presidents elsewhere discussing a perception that we’d continued recruiting committed students after May 1. The calls from the other presidents were good-natured ribbing among colleagues (opposed to allegations made to the AP Committee) in a down year for my institution. But, the ribbing and visit from the president, made me take a hard look at we were doing in reaching out to students who had not yet declined our offer of admission. I contacted the AP Committee to assess our practices and posed a number of questions that I felt were important to discuss. The discussion with the AP Committee might have been one of the more professionally fulfilling exchanges I’ve had in my career. They helped interpret our practices and provided guidance to make sure we were in compliance with the SPGP.

Finally, this fall I contacted the AP Committee after receiving some critical feedback from a number of college counselors who were concerned that my institution had established a deadline for applications earlier than the mandatory practice described in the SPGP. I once again turned to the AP Committee for guidance and interpretation and once again I found their guidance and professionalism incredibly helpful. Their guidance resulted in some deep thinking on my part about how we will change our practice for the coming year. It also resulted in a letter that we ended up sending to the guidance offices at our top 100 feeder schools. I’ve pasted that letter below for your review.

Dear colleagues,

My purpose in writing to you today is to acknowledge the confusion Augustana College created in the late-summer by sending a postcard to prospects in our inquiry pool with a message encouraging them to interview and apply by September 15 in order to receive a decision by November 15.

This effort understandably created a misunderstanding and left some with the impression that Augustana had established a deadline for applying in advance of the October 15 deadline in NACAC’s SPGP.

As a college that operates under rolling admissions, students are often encouraged to apply “as soon as possible in order to get an admissions decision as soon as possible,” and this effort was intended to be consistent with existing strategies to serve students effectively by offering decisions early in the senior year.  Our intent was to provide an advisory timetable to students.  However, I acknowledge the addition of the date created understandable confusion in an already complex process and we will address this in future years to alleviate confusion.

When the misunderstanding among college counselors, and a limited number of students, was brought to my attention I contacted the IACAC Admissions Practices Committee directly to ask for an interpretation our initiative within the context of NACAC’s SPGP. The AP committee responded promptly, provided an interpretation suggesting that our practice created unnecessary confusion, and suggested sending this letter to college counselors at our top 100 feeder high schools, which I will gladly do. I am deeply grateful for the professionalism of those who brought this concern to my attention and to the members of the Admissions Practices Committee of IACAC.

I hope this letter will clear up any confusion or misunderstanding caused by this effort. I appreciate your colleagueship and hard work in serving students.

If you have any questions please contact me directly at wkentbarnds@augustana.edu or 309-794-7662.

Sincerely,

W. Kent Barnds

Vice President of Enrollment, Communication and Planning

 

I hope this post provides you with a sense for what the heck I think the AP Committee does. This is of course my interpretation of the work of the AP Committee and I am sure others have experiences they could describe that may or may not correspond with what I’ve experience. 

While it may be perceived as the Guardian for the SPGP, it’s much more to me. It also provides wise counsel and helpful interpretation of practices. The AP Committee is not comprised of a bunch of sanctimonious folks who see only black and white; instead, it’s a group of committed professionals who are critical thinkers and are trying to do their best to keep our profession professional. 

W. Kent Barnds @bowtieadmission 

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