The role of the admissions office is to attract and enroll students who possess tremendous capacity, love ideas and learning, and aim to direct their talents and gifts toward building a better world. Primary among the College's admissions priorities is a commitment to recruiting intellectually motivated students diverse in race, class, ethnicity, interests, and talents who, with adequate support, can succeed by the standards that have made Swarthmore a preeminent institution of higher learning. Our recruitment efforts must therefore be as effective and wide-reaching as possible.
A new Board Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid was established in 2012. This committee is responsible for the assessment of the College's admissions and financial aid policies relative to institutional goals, and will ensure the financial sustainability of these policies. The vice president and dean of admissions meets with this group four times per year.
Admissions will be undergoing a peer external review in June 2014 to identify areas for improvement informed by best practices. The team report will be submitted to the president and the vice president for admissions, who will prioritize the resulting recommendations.
The College has selected a firm that will work with Admissions and Communications over the summer and fall of 2014 to overhaul admissions publications, including both admissions and financial aid print publications, web, and social media strategies.
The vice president and dean of admissions provides an annual update to the board of managers each May about the incoming class.
The admissions staff has traditionally held three retreats each year. In August they discuss goal setting for the fall, and talk about messaging and planning. They prepare for this event by meeting with different groups on campus (including academic and administrative departments) to hear from them about changes, activities, plans, etc. that are in progress. Admissions staff needs to be aware of what's happening on campus so that they can share information with students, and to inform their own planning. Notes from the preparatory meetings and retreat are taken and posted for staff access. (These meetings and retreat will be moved back to coincide with the June retreat in the future.)
In the fall the vice president and dean of admissions prepares an annual report describing the new class, as well as updates about the activities of the admissions office. This report is shared with the faculty and with the Board of Managers.
Each December, the staff meets to discuss the activities undertaken over the fall months, revisit the admissions goals for the entering class, and prepare for spring reading.
A spring retreat closes out the admissions year, and at that meeting the group discusses what went well and what improvements might be needed, with particular focus on the success of yield events.
Because of small numbers of staff in admissions, individual responsibilities often coincide with functional areas. (This occurs in many areas of the College.) Each person writes an annual report based on their responsibilities, and discusses what their goals had been during the year, the extent to which goals were achieved, and plans going forward.
The dean and director of admissions meet with the deans and administrative assistants over the summer to discuss their goals and planning issues. There are intermediate check-ins as well, to discuss and adjust progress on objectives in a range of areas, such as targets for reading load.
Staff members in admissions wear multiple hats, and in addition to their primary responsibilities, form teams to focus on particular regions or groups. Each team coordinator will include an accounting of the team activities as part of his or her annual reporting.
In addition to these routine meetings and internal reporting mechanisms a number of special studies are undertaken at varying intervals to provide feedback to the division and to evaluate its effectiveness.
- Each year the admissions office administers the Admitted Student Questionnaire, which is a survey of all admitted students. It asks about impressions of the College, where the student enrolled, and what factors may have influenced their decision to enroll at their chosen college.
- The College also participates in an exchange of data reflecting key admissions and financial aid indicators, along with the group of peer institutions. This comparative information allows admissions to better understand its performance in the context of peer and competitor institutions.
- Admissions, along with financial aid, is currently engaging in an econometric modeling project with the help of a consultant group. The information learned from this project will help to inform our practices, and will provide a foundation of information for a newly established Board Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid, which will review and monitor admissions practices, policies, and guidelines.
- Every five to seven years admissions revisits its admissions materials, both electronic and in print. The College is currently working with a consultant group to examine all of our messaging (not just admissions) to ensure that we are communicating effectively.
- Recently the admissions area has undertaken an assessment of its group information sessions and tours through web surveys of visitors. Each presenter is provided his or her own results, but overall results are discussed as a group. This activity has already provided useful feedback. For example, the sessions were rated as excellent on providing information about academics, but not as strong on information about student social life. A group discussion of these results along with an analysis of what information was being provided in different settings (information session, admissions tour) resulted in changes to the group information presentation. The effectiveness of these changes are evaluated through the next cycle. These results are discussed with the entire staff at the spring retreat (see above).
- Finally, a number of initiatives have been undertaken in recent years so that the admissions office receives feedback from the dean of students area about individual enrolled students. This information can be compared with what was known at the time of admission, helping the admissions staff to better understand the experiences of admitted students.