admissions recruitment

How to change recruitment for an evolving high school grad demographic

Changes in high school graduates necessitates postsecondary schools and admissions to revamp their approach to recruitment--here's how.

New Tools and Pathways

Post-secondary institutions can help future proof their course and degree offerings by partnering with the new breed of certificate-granting “boot camps” that teach students marketable skills in a condensed course of study. There is a natural partnership opportunity with these new outfits: boot camps can provide training in the most marketable skills in a proven, effective manner; and post-secondary institutions can provide credibility to these programs by attaching their name to the certificate of completion making the certificate more marketable with potential employers and increasing school brand awareness.

This type of partnership would be a cost-effective way for established post-secondary institutions to offer “cutting edge” training to their current student populations, helping to ensure that regardless of their primary course of study, students will have marketable skills upon graduation.

Moreover, these partnerships would allow an institution to offer continuing education to both its graduates and other qualified “mid-career” professionals. This not only opens up new revenue streams for the institution, but provides their graduates with the assurance that the institution will be there to support their continued professional development.

But technical training is only part of the equation. To be effective in today’s economy, post-secondary schools should institute programs to identify and develop students’ “soft skills.”  While skills and knowledge-based education is important, intangible skills like understanding how to work with others, analytical decision making, influence, empathy and cultivating a growth mindset will prove valuable in any employment situation and will help set an institution’s students apart from others.

A 2017 joint study by Boston College, Harvard University, and the University of Michigan found that these soft skills skills are just as highly demanded as technical know-how.

Using Personality Assessments

To this end, schools should consider integrating the new breed of data-backed personality assessments into their recruiting and admissions process.

Why personality assessments? Studies have shown that individuals fare better when their areas of study and work are aligned with their own personal traits and interests (Rounds & Su, 2014).  Additionally, certain personality traits have been shown to be as predictive of student success as traditional predictive measures, such as ability and IQ. Likewise, the alignment of one’s interests with their course of study and career is also highly correlated with success.

In fact, a recent study of 400,000 high school students from 1,300 schools shows that income attainment is highly correlated with a student’s “interest fit” to his or her educational path (Rounds & Su, 2014).

The results from personality assessments can be made more powerful and actionable when they are combined with student outcome data such as graduation rates, GPA, and class attendance to form profiles of successful students. Using this data, schools can assess students during the admissions process to identify students who would benefit from specific interventions such as text messages that remind them to register for classes or turn in homework assignments.

By using targeted interventions early in a student’s course of study, schools can increase graduation and retention rates.

In addition, the results of the personality assessments can be used to develop students soft skills. Institutions can use personality assessments to help students understand their personalities and how they can communicate more effectively with others. Admissions officers can use assessments to pair potential students with their institutions’ courses of study. This allows admissions officers to personalize the admissions process by having meaningful conversations with students on how their interests fit with the school’s academic and extracurricular offerings.

Furthermore, admissions officers can use this data to help ensure that they are attracting students who have innate interests in the school’s offerings. This alignment with a student’s interests and the school’s offerings will help drive graduation rates. Schools can also use aggregated data to help guide future class and major offerings and to ensure that their marketing message is reaching students who will most likely be interested in their programs.

These assessments can also help attract and identify students whom the school may not have traditionally targeted. By casting a wider net, admissions departments can mitigate the effects of a declining population of graduating high school seniors.

Meaningful Results

We’ve seen that empowering students to develop their learning in a personalized way and engaging them with quantifiable measurements of their personality and interests has driven meaningful results. For example, high school students at Vista Unified School District in the Greater San Diego area hail from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. Vista High School, recipient of the SuperSchool XQ Prize, has brought together a cohort of these students into a Personalized Learning Academy in which a personality assessment is used as a foundation to help students better understand themselves and personalize their learning throughout the school year.

Looking at this cohort of students in a year’s time has proven a 62 percent increase in students performing at a full point increase in GPA, 50 percent reduction in absences, and 33 percent reduction in F grades.

While interest alignment and personality fit are not a panacea, they certainly provide students and institutions with a good starting point for driving student success metrics like retention and engagement.

eSchool Media Contributors

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