On-the-Spot College Admissions
Bard's immediate-decision plan gives students an answer on acceptance after an interview. EDUCATION
(Page 2 of 2)
To give applicants a taste of this approach, a two-hour interdisciplinary seminar precedes the Immediate Decision Plan interviewing. The discussion has no bearing on the admissions decision, but gives the applicants a good idea of what Bard is like.Skip to next paragraph
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`It's probably of most service to applicants from public schools, because their education format has been quite different from what they will experience at Bard,'' says admissions dean Wilcox. ``These students usually haven't had the seminar format, where their opinions and thoughts are given full weight. They're used to a more passive, larger, lecture-style experience.''
The seminar topic remains the same: ``The Politics of Science: Obedience to the Authority of Morality and Technology.'' In the Boston area, 18 high-school seniors converged around a large table in a wood-panelled room of the Beaver Country Day School in suburban Chestnut Hill.
Dr. Levine, as he often does, led the discussion, drawing out opinions and observations about the place of individual judgment and conscience in a world of authority-wielding specialists. The required reading covers a lot of ground, from an excerpt of ``Prometheus Bound,'' a 5th-century Greek work, to a ``Letter From Birmingham City Jail,'' by Martin Luther King Jr.
Besides giving participants a chance to size up the school, the discussion occupies the students while the admissions officers read the applications and essays turned in right before the seminar begins.
In Boston, the applications, including essays on a local, national, or international issue of concern to the individual students, were distributed among five admissions officers. After the materials are read, a committee meeting is held to share impressions and solicit second opinions.
``This in when decisions are made that affect the weight of the interview in the final decision,'' says Mary Backlund, the director of admissions.
On the surface, the program may seem a rush-rush affair compared with the ordinary admission procedures. In fact, says Levine, the IDP process does not shortchange students.
``Just because an application is submitted in October doesn't mean that the admissions department is looking at it hour after hour, month after month,'' he says. ``It means that on a given day, they will take out that application, examine it with others, and make a judgment probably in less time than the admissions officers spend with these [immediate-decision] kids.''
Levine says the IDP program is not only economical, because of its high acceptance rate, but gives Bard a tactical edge in getting good students. To his knowledge, the only school offering something roughly similar is Hood College in Frederick, Md. Why others don't follow suit, he believes, is wrapped up in unwritten rules of the academic world. ``Colleges do not choose to copy from each other,'' he says. ``Everybody chooses to invent their own ways.''
A small school is better able to adopt this participatory concept for its admissions activities. Levine recognizes that putting a personal face on admissions at a school of 30,000 or more students is difficult. ``I don't know what I'd do, but I'd do something that did not relegate this to a paper shuffle.''
His highest priority would be to take an appropriate sample of the school's academic work - a class lecture, for example - and present it in the admissions process. ``Let the applicants see what the college is about in a capsule form.'' This, he believes, would put more substance into a process that too often is influenced by advertising and slick college brochures, even at smaller schools.