3 Trends You Should Worry About if You’re in Admissions

by Emilie Cushman on Oct 19, 2015 4:10:24 PM

Every school on the planet is facing issues with enrolment and assessment today.

Expressions-12.jpgWhen it comes to assessment, whether a school is suffering from not enough or too many applicants, most schools have been assessing applicants in the same way for 30+ years. In my opinion, the current application process at most schools is not engaging, nor is it completely effective in separating the great from the good applicants. This is not only detrimental to the school, but also to the students since they graduate from school under prepared for the ‘real world’ and the current job market simply because they were in the wrong program.

Below are three worrying trends in admissions that you should be focusing your efforts around.

Confusing Good Students with Great Students

Working Hard-5.jpgThis is common with schools that we call ‘haves’, the ones that have more applicants than seats in their classrooms. These are primarily top schools like Harvard, London Business School and Kellogg - ones that get easily get 5000+ applicants for relatively few spots (often in the hundreds).

For many schools, their reputation hinges on whether their students are employed after graduation and by whom, so for the most part, a great student is also a highly employable graduate. According to the David Simpson, Dean of Admissions at London Business School, this is his main issue, “Good students have trouble at the school and often perform to levels that are only satisfactory and are a drain on student services. When they graduate, they are still good, instead of great. This in turn affects the reputation of the school, which for a top school like London Business School is extremely important.”

Why is this happening?

More and more schools, especially top schools, are in a race to get to the top of the US News Rankings list. In order to do this, they’re increasing their average GMAT score requirements. This means that schools are increasingly selecting students who are “smarter” on paper.

The problem with this, however, is that the GMAT score is only relevant in measuring if a student has the ability to complete the curriculum (a score of 600-650 is enough to prove this), but it doesn’t predict the post graduation success. In a study conducted by the Rotman School of Management from 2008-2013, they found that only the AWA portion of the GMAT predicts if a student will be employed three months after graduation.

This means that a student’s ability to think critically and to communicate their ideas (which the AWA tests for), is a much better predictor of workplace success.

So what can you do?

  • Look beyond the GMAT and other standardized tests, assess your students for Emotional IQ (EQ). According to John Byrne (Editor-in-Chief at Poets & Quants), most schools focus on GMAT and miss the mark on EQ which is a much better predictor of workplace success.
  • Assess for the skills that employers need. In the 2014 Corporate Recruiters Survey Report by GMAC they found that communication, listening and presentation skills are the most important skills to employers. Interviews (or even a video interview) are the best way to test for both communication and for EQ. GMAC_Survey_Communication.png

The Skills Gap

A recent Gallup study reports that 96% of chief academic officers rate their school as very effective at preparing students for the workplace. Conversely only 11% of business leaders strongly agree that graduating students have the skills and competencies that their businesses need.

About a third of business leaders disagree, including 17% who strongly disagree that students are graduating with the skills and competencies their business needs.

This makes it clear that there’s a huge gap between the skills students gain from graduate school and the skills required for success in the workplace.

Why is this happening?

Schools do not have an effective way to evaluate a student from an employability perspective. According to Brandon Busteed (Executive Director at Gallup), “No one has ever created a measurement of the learning growth of students from the time they matriculate to when they graduate”.

So what can you do?

  • Align your curriculum with the top skills employers are seeking.
  • Assess your applicants in the same way a business assesses their candidates. Develop and define the key competencies required for success in your program and after graduation. Select your students based on these competencies.
  • We’re going to be covering this topic in more detail in our webinar with Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Gallup this week. Make sure you check it out for more tips on what to do with this problem.

Sacrificing Application Insights to Increase the Applicant Pool

This trend is more common in schools that would be considered the ‘have nots’. These are most of the schools in the business of higher education. For admissions directors at these schools, of course they need to pick great students, but they have the added concern of getting enough students to fill their classrooms.

Why is this happening?

It’s getting tougher to develop a large applicant pool, domestic applications have steadily been dropping and so schools in the U.S, Canada, the U.K., the E.U. and Australia, are relying on international applicants from China and India more than ever. In the U.S. alone, the number of domestic students taking the GMAT dropped by 21% in one year while international students applying to US schools has gone up 26% in the last four years.

The concern for many schools is separating the good from the great but more so attracting and recruiting more students (increasing the size of the application pool). This inevitably means that many schools are sacrificing important insights by removing important parts of the application to make it easier for students to apply. They’re dropping essays and lowering GMAT requirements when that is not the solution.

So what can you do?

  • We live in a world of selfies and short attention spans so schools need to modify their application process to engage Gen Y. Here’s a handy audit by David Singh who’s the VP Strategy at Kira and a Gen Y expert. You can use it as a checklist in determining if your admissions process is set up for success. 

  • According to John Byrne (Poets & Quants), program innovation is a key factor in improving recruiting and increasing the number of applicants. You can read more helpful insights from our recent webinar with John here.

How can Kira help?

Kira is a simple tool that helps you evaluate how your applicants think on their feet. It allows you to assess for communication skills and builds competencies employers are looking for right into the platform. It’s an innovative way to make applying to school more engaging for your applicants. It also helps your admissions uncover the great students who are more than just their grades while preventing bias and fraud.

 See Kira in Action


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Written by Emilie Cushman

Emilie Cushman is the Founder and CEO of Kira Talent. Cushman founded the company in 2012, and since launching Kira she has been named the HSBC Woman Leader of Tomorrow and one of Canada's Top 100 Most Powerful Women.

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