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Admissions launches pilot program to attract top students
STANFORD - Stanford¹s Office of Undergraduate Admissions has launched a three-year pilot program to identify and enroll the nation¹s ³most intellectually curious and accomplished students.²
According to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aids James Montoya, the new Yield Enhancement Program will begin this spring with four major elements:
Stanford¹s Office of Undergraduate Admissions also plans to expand the involvement of Stanford alumni - including recent graduates - in its nationwide recruitment and yield activities, beginning with a three-city effort next fall.
³Our research shows that a large number of the admitted applicants who enroll elsewhere have not spoken to a Stanford alumna or alumnus and that the yield rate for those who have had alumni contact is noticeably higher,² Montoya says. ³For many competitive universities, well-trained alumni play a positive admissions role in their local areas.
³While we understand that this represents a major undertaking for the university,² he says, ³we believe it will enhance recruitment and yield efforts and create stronger links between alumni and the university.²
Cream of the crop
The latest efforts to strengthen Stanford¹s recruiting strategies were recommended by Stanford¹s Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aids in response to ³considerably more intense² competition among colleges in the 1980s and 1990s for the nation¹s most academically talented students.
While the number of Stanford applicants has jumped almost 18 percent since 1990, the university¹s freshman yield rate - the percentage of admitted students deciding to enroll - has been hovering around 54 percent in recent years, 10 points below what it was in the mid-1980s.
Stanford took a step toward meeting the challenge last fall, when it announced that it would offer an ³early decision² option to all applicants, beginning in the 1995-96 school year. (Since then, Princeton and Yale have announced that they will offer the early decision option, too. Early decision colleges typically admit about 20 to 25 percent of their freshmen early.)
Under early decision, applicants who already know Stanford is their first choice - and commit in advance to attending Stanford if admitted - can have their decisions as early as mid- December. Admissions staffers then will be free to focus their spring ³yield enhancement² efforts on admitted students still considering other institutions.
By strengthening the President¹s Scholar program - formerly known as the Jordan Scholars program - the university hopes to make an especially favorable impression on the top 5 percent of admitted students, those the admissions staff feels are the ³most intellectually curious and accomplished.²
The goal is to raise Stanford¹s yield on such students to at least 40 percent this year - up from 29 percent in 1994, according to program coordinator John Bunnell, associate dean of admissions and director of freshman admissions.
³It¹s unthinkable that these [designated President¹s Scholars] would not be admitted wherever they applied,² Bunnell says. ³If they do decide on Stanford, it won¹t be because of a special letter from the Admissions Office . . . but because they¹ve visited the campus and seen firsthand the intellectual passion and vitality of the student body and faculty.²
To that end, Stanford will cover the travel and program costs for designated President¹s Scholars to visit the campus this April. The admitted students will have opportunities to meet with faculty, take tours of campus labs and libraries, and attend a reception hosted by Stanford President Gerhard Casper at his home.
Those who choose to enroll will be invited to a welcoming dinner in the fall, as well as quarterly symposia for all current President¹s Scholars. As a further incentive, each scholar will receive a $1,500 research grant from Undergraduate Research Opportunities, for eventual fieldwork and honors thesis development.
While the research grants won¹t approach the monetary value of athletic scholarships or merit-based scholarships offered by some other universities (Stanford¹s financial aid is almost entirely need-based), they will demonstrate the value Stanford places on its students¹ intellectual pursuits, Bunnell says.
³I like it [the grant component] because it ties in directly for one of the criteria for their being selected as President¹s Scholars in the first place,² he says. ³Most of these students already have done some pretty heavy-duty research in high school, so I hope they will be pleased to hear about the research opportunities that await them at Stanford.²
Calls and visits
The increased efforts to involve Stanford faculty in the recruitment process this spring are being coordinated by Jon Reider, associate director of undergraduate admissions, and Prof. Doug Osheroff, chairman of Stanford¹s Department of Physics.
Together they¹ve collected the names of about 30 faculty volunteers. Each professor will be asked to read the files of President¹s Scholars and other admittees who have demonstrated interest in the faculty member¹s field. After they¹ve read through the files, the professors will either call or write the students to tell them of the Admissions Office¹s interest in them, remark on their essays and invite the applicants to come to the campus and visit them and their departments.
Many Eastern schools, such as Harvard and Cornell, have a long tradition of involving their faculty in the recruitment process, Reider says.
³The best way that Stanford can put its best intellectual foot forward is to bring out its faculty,² he says. ³Not only is this a nice recruitment device, but in some cases it will establish a relationship that will lead to mentoring and research. This is part of getting our best students off and running at Stanford.²
The final major component of the Yield Enhancement Program this spring will be an improved ³Stanford Admit Weekend,² offering special programs for an expected 1,000 to 1,200 prospective freshmen visiting in late April.
As in past years, ³pro fros² will be invited to bring their sleeping bags and camp out in the dorm rooms of volunteer student hosts. This year, however, prospective students will not be charged $25 for attending, and the event will be more academically focused, with ³Classes Without Quizzes² and alumni and student panel discussions.
³We¹ll be keeping the fun components, but we also will be introducing a lot more programs that highlight Stanford¹s academic resources,² says coordinator Elise Maar, assistant director of undergraduate admissions.
Programs aimed specifically at African American, Mexican American, Asian American and Native American prospective freshmen - programs that used to be held separately - will be included in this year¹s Admit Weekend, giving prospective freshmen of all backgrounds a fuller picture of the university and each other.
Parents also will be more a part of the picture this year, Maar says. ³Parents will be allowed to attend all the classes and panels, and we¹re working with the Stanford Mothers Club to put together a lounge in Tresidder Union where parents can come relax and talk with other parents. We¹ve also planned a program called ³ Resident Fellows Tell All¹ to let parents know what to expect of the freshman year.²
By fitting the programs into a long weekend - rather than a full week as in the past - Maar says she hopes more prospective freshmen and their parents will be able to attend.
The shorter program also should make things easier for admissions staffers and host students facing midterms, she says.
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