Admission Standards: Up to Standard or Substandard? part 3

Outside Factors

The Internet has had an increasing effect on college admissions. Students are being overwhelmed by aggressive recruitment. Nold-Glaser complains, “There is obviously a big emphasis on sales and marketing in this process. I wish colleges would back off a bit. Students are turned off by in-boxes that are overrun with emails from colleges. We all need to help students be critical researchers. This also relates to the ‘fast app’ phenomenon that is exploding.”

And what students post online can come back to bite them. Appel warns, “Although Facebook wasn't around when I was an undergrad, I have heard about some students losing a spot due to something they have written on Facebook or on another social networking site. I cannot verify these claims, but it wouldn't surprise me if it were true because most of the more respected universities do care about character to some degree. However, I tend to think that unless a student's actions are something very extreme as in criminal, that a student should be able to exercise his/her First Amendment Rights. With that said, students may want to keep in mind that whatever you write online is like sending a post card, anyone can and will read it.”

The Online “Open Door” Relieves College Admissions Pressure

Most online colleges are “for profit” institutions. As a result, it is generally easier to gain admission to most online colleges. That opens the possibility of using distance education as a stepping stone to prove oneself capable of coping with the demands of a traditional brick-and-mortar college. There are also greatly expanded opportunities for preparatory online coursework. If students can prove themselves capable of college-level work by excelling in college courses online, it can only improve the chances of admission to their eventual college of choice. This can be taken a step further. A student can get an extra leg up by taking ACE approved courses at StraighterLine, and transferring the credits to a partner school or one of the 1200 schools that participates in ACE – or not. However, it is clear that the educational community and the counselors we interviewed do not universally accept or recommend for-profit education or online college courses (more on that in the final installment in this series).

The great advantage of the online college option is that the door is open. Anyone can walk in, and the cost is generally less than that of a traditional college. In fact, in the case of an ACE course, the cost can be a very small fraction. This gives a student the opportunity to prove him or herself. Online college courses require a high degree of self-discipline, and it is clearly not for everyone, as our experts will explain in the next article in this series. But if one can stick with the program, the doors of college admission that were closed can be opened.

Our experts agree that the acceptance standards of colleges today are functional. They work. An increasing number of students attend college, and an increasing number graduate. At the same time they are, in many ways, highly inconsistent. Yet that can be considered to be a good thing. It allows students to find schools that are better tailored to exploit their individual strengths, be they conventional ability to score well on standardized tests or creative talent not brought out by SAT or ACT results. However, this also makes it harder to judge the level educational standards, and some worry, perhaps with good reason, that those standards may not be what they used to be.

In the final article in this series, we will ask our experts to weigh in on alternatives to traditional college education, including online and blended curricula.