Haverford Joins Coalition to Improve College Admission Process
Haverford is one of more than 80 colleges and universities in the inaugural cohort in the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, which aims to make it easier for high schoolers to research and apply to college.
Haverford is one of more than 80 colleges and universities that have joined together to develop a new, free, online platform to improve the college admission process. The goal of the group, dubbed the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, is to make it easier for high school students—especially those from under-resourced communities or those without access to guidance or college counselors—to research and apply to college.
The forthcoming suite of online tools, which the Coalition will begin rolling out in January 2016, include a digital portfolio for showcasing the best examples of a student's work over time, a platform for collaboration that will encourage community organizers and admission counselors to coach students through the process, and an application portal that will feature prompts unique to each school. Students will be encouraged to begin interacting with these tools as soon as ninth grade. All of this is meant to recast college admission as the culmination of a multiyear process and to encourage applicants to build relationships with institutions over time.
"One of my motivations for signing on with the Coalition application is to provide another pathway for students to engage in this process," says Haverford Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Jess Lord. "I think multiple application pathways for students is a good thing, so they can find the one they feel comfortable with and that they feel gives them a chance to present their best selves to colleges. I also think that this coalition will provide more latitude to institutions to individualize the application, which is one of the problems with the Common Application—over time it's become homogenized with less individual institutional presence in the application."
The Coalition cited research showing that students from disadvantaged backgrounds don't effectively participate in the college application process, struggle with applying for financial aid, and often are not awarded the financial aid for which they qualify. As a result, even the most highly qualified students do not attend college, attend a college that does not engage their full potential, or do not complete degrees. Attending a high school with a college-going culture greatly increases students' college success. The Coalition hopes to address such findings with its free online tools and increased transparency around admission and financial aid.
The diverse group of schools that have joined together for this new venture have made a commitment to make college affordable and accessible. As such, the private colleges included must provide sufficient aid to meet the full, demonstrated financial need of every domestic student they admit. (Haverford does; the College has a need-blind admission policy and 56 percent of current students receive some type of aid.)
"We are certainly interested in the stated mission, which is to use an application format to engage with students who are traditionally are applying to schools like the membership roll at lower rates and trying to combat that," says Lord. "If this can be a tool for that, it's a good thing."
Haverford hasn't yet committed to a date in which it will begin interacting with students through the new portal. The College, which will also continue to use the Common Application, wants to wait and see how the initial technology roll out fares.
"By being an early adopter of this process we put ourselves in the position to be part of the conversation of its development," says Lord. "We get to be a voice at that table."
There are also additional small changes afoot in Haverford Admission. Starting in 2016, for the applicants who would become the Haverford Class of 2021 and beyond, the College will not require or recommend the optional essay of the newly redesigned SAT and will not require the writing portion of the ACT.
The College has also made some changes to its writing supplement to the Common Application. While the trend in higher education has been towards significantly reducing or eliminating supplemental writing components, Haverford remains committed to this part of the process. Lord and his team believe that the writing supplement is not only a good way to get information about applicants, but also to give them information about the College.
Therefore, applicants are still asked to write an essay about the Haverford Honor Code, but the questions are slightly reformatted. They are still used to communicate information about the Honor Code and express the values and culture of the College, but have been restructured and require slightly shorter responses.
"We feel extremely excited about the changes we made to the essays," says Lord. "We believe we are more clearly expressing the values of the Honor Code, and that we have given students a better opportunity to convey to us what we want to know about them."