For admissions officers, the need to uncover the personality behind the GPA is likely to assume even greater importance as more and more schools emphasize teamwork and collaboration.
In college admissions offices, the CRM is king. Over the past decade, the sophistication of systems such as TargetX, SlateCRM, and Hobsons has increased exponentially, giving schools the ability to slice and dice student data and interact with prospects in a highly personalized fashion. Today, these same CRMs are also playing a major part in tracking what admission officers call “demonstrated interest”—how serious a student is about attending a particular college.
“In the last 15 years or so, demonstrated interest has played a growing role in the selective-admission process,” said Jennifer Scott, who served as associate dean of admissions at the College of William and Mary until 2012 and is now director of college counseling at Norfolk Academy, a private day school in southeastern Virginia. “CRMs allow colleges to track very, very carefully the degree to which prospects are engaged and purposeful about their involvement with their schools.”
Such data points—along with standardized test scores—make it possible for admissions officers to identify those applicants who are not only likely to attend their school but who can cope with the coursework, too. But the responsibilities of admissions officers extend far beyond these basic goals.
“If we just took everybody who had fantastic SAT scores and GPAs, it’d be a really boring place,” recalled Scott of her tenure at William and Mary. “We were eager to know if a kid was going to be a great roommate and a great lab partner. What kinds of conversations is he going to start in the sunken garden? You can discern a lot from the personality you hear in writing and the interviews, but any component that adds to that texture is welcome.”
Today, according to Scott, an increasing number of applications are incorporating what she termed “portfolio content,” consisting of anything from a video clip to a blog or a collection of writing samples. “Schools that admit 30 percent of applicants or fewer are finding hair-shaving differentiations between candidates,” she explained. “Any tool that adds an additional layer of personal quality to the application and makes it more three-dimensional is fantastic.”