August 28, 2003
New U-M undergraduate admissions process to involve more information, individual review
ANN ARBOR, Mich.A new process for undergraduate admissions at the University of Michigan will gather more information about student applicants and will include multiple levels of highly individualized review. The new process, announced today (Aug. 28), was developed over the past several weeks in order to comply with two June 23 U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
In its rulings, the court said that achieving the educational benefits of diversity is a compelling government interest, and that universities may consider race as one of many factors in their admissions processes provided they do so in a manner that is flexible, holistic, and individualized. The court upheld the U-M's Law School admissions process in its entirety, but disallowed the awarding of a specific number of points with regard to race in the undergraduate admissions process because it was seen as too mechanical and rigid.
U-M President Mary Sue Coleman said the court's decision reinforced the University's basic principles about its educational mission. "Our fundamental values haven't changed. We believe that in order to create a dynamic learning environment for all our students, we must bring together students who are highly qualified academically and who represent a wide range of backgrounds and experiences," she said. "As a public university, we also have an important and distinctive role to provide access to students from all walks of life."
Paul N. Courant, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, noted that academic criteria will continue to be the most important factors in considering a student for admission. At the same time, the admissions application and the process for reviewing applications have undergone substantial changes.
The new application, which is being sent out in early September to prospective students and high school counselors, includes several new questions designed to elicit more information about a student's background, personal achievement, and ways in which that student may contribute to the intellectual vibrancy and diversity of the student body.
In addition, the essay questions are designed to provide the richest possible picture of the student's intellect, character and personal values. A new form also has been developed for high school counselors and teachers to provide the University with more information about each student's academic preparation and background.
The process for reviewing each application has been revised to include more personal, individualized review, Courant said. The point system previously used in the undergraduate admissions process has been discarded. Instead, each applicant's file will be considered holistically in the context of all the facets of the individual applicant's accomplishments and experiences.
The new process will be in effect for students applying for winter, spring, summer or fall 2004 admission, but will not affect the class of students entering the University this fall. The application deadline is February 1, 2004, for admission in fall 2004.
When a completed application arrives in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions (OUA), it will first be evaluated by a "reader" who will thoroughly review the details of the applicant's file and make a recommendation for admissions status. OUA Director Theodore L. Spencer said that readers will include former educators, and they will receive extensive and ongoing training.
After being evaluated by a reader, the applicant's file will then be forwarded to a professional admissions counselor in OUA. The counselor will conduct a blind review of the file (he or she will not have access to the reader's evaluation) and also will make a recommendation regarding admissions status of the applicant. Counselors are assigned by geographic region so they have a detailed knowledge of the high schools and their course work, counselors and teachers.
The two recommendations will then be forwarded to a senior-level manager in OUA who will review the recommendations and make a final decision about whether the student is to be admitted, deferred or denied. Where there is disagreement or inconsistency in the reviews of a particular applicant, the file will be sent to an admissions review committee for further discussion and consideration.
As in the past, admissions decisions will be communicated to students on a rolling basis. Although the exact timing of decisions has not yet been determined, Spencer said notifications likely will begin in November or December and continue through early April.
Courant emphasized that faculty of the schools and colleges determine the criteria for admission into each academic unit. "Our admissions criteria," he said, "come from the considered judgment of our faculty, developed over a period of decades, about what kinds of students are most likely to succeed here and to contribute the most to our campus."
Academic factorsincluding a student's high school grades, the quality of his or her high school curriculum, the competitiveness of the high school, and scores on standardized testswill continue to be the most important criteria in considering a student for admission, Courant said.
In addition, a range of nonacademic factorsincluding personal interests and achievements, geography, alumni connections, race and ethnicity, family income, and family educational backgroundwill help demonstrate the ways in which each applicant might contribute to the overall diversity of the student body.
None of these factors, including race and ethnicity, will have a fixed weight in the admissions process, Courant said. Rather, each will be considered flexibly in the context of the student's entire file.
The new admissions system will require the University to invest additional resources in order to provide the level of individualized, holistic review required by the court. Spencer said that OUA is in the process of hiring 16 part-time readers and five additional full-time admissions counselors.
Courant noted that the faculty will be even more involved in the new admissions process than in the past. Members of the faculty will participate in the initial review of applicant files, and there will also be faculty representation on the admissions review committees.
The new process will be subject to regular review and evaluation over the coming months and years, Courant said. "We will learn much from our experiences as we head into the upcoming admissions year, and we may find that some changes are necessary as we go along," he said. "Members of the faculty will be an essential part of this review and evaluation process."
Coleman praised the hard work that University staff members have put into developing the new admissions process, and predicted that it will prove effective. "I believe this new system will allow us to continue enrolling a student body that is both academically excellent and diverse in many ways," she said.
OUA staff will begin an extensive education and outreach campaign to high schools, counselors and prospective students beginning in September. Outreach will include mailings to counselors and students explaining the new application and review process, personal visits to high schools, and a special website designed to explain the changes (http://www.admissions.umich.edu/process/).
Students, parents and others who have admissions-related questions may also visit the OUA website at www.admissions.umich.edu.
Contact: Julie Peterson