Join us in this episode as we get insights from Barbara Loftus Murphy, Associate Director of Admissions from Rutgers University, into numerous topics, including:
- How Rutgers continued to generate strong yields, despite the International student downtick
- The challenges of adapting to life without test scores
- How new Scarlet Ambassadors must adjust to life on campus
- How to improve engagement on virtual tours
- What we’ve learned during the pandemic that will carry forward
- Small changes Rutgers hopes will improve DEI efforts
- What Admissions needs now
Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions
Brent: Hi, I'm Brent. Thanks for joining our podcast today. This is Let's Revisit the Visit brought to you by Momentus Campus Media, formerly known as Campus Publishers in Boulder, Colorado. Since 1988, we've worked with hundreds of universities to develop all kinds of different projects. For the past 19 years, we've been focused solely on the campuses and the physical campus visit at that. Which has been very frustrating throughout the pandemic to watch as students and parents can't necessarily travel like they used to, and universities haven't necessarily been able to be as open.
As things return to normal fingers crossed, we really thought there was a role for a podcast, so that admissions professionals across the country could share some key insights from what they've learned over the past two years, what they're planning to keep coming out of the pandemic and what maybe they're going to build for the future of the physical campus visit along with some other admissions-related topics along the way as well. Very insightful, engaging, and highly actionable, and really bringing to you folks from a variety of different institutions, both public, private, large, small across the country. So we hope you enjoy it. now we'll get to our guest.
So for today's podcast, we've invited one of our favorite admissions professionals and one of our favorite people, Barbara Murphy. Barbara's a huge Rich Roll Podcast fan. Rich usually goes for two or three hours with very inspirational stories. We're certainly not going to go that long today, but hopefully, we'll be inspiring for you. Thanks for joining us, Barbara. I know you're busy. You could have done a lot of things today, so thanks for coming on.
Barbara: Sure. Thanks for having me.
Brent: Obviously everyone knows who Rutgers is, but tell us a little bit about you and Rutgers and what you do at Rutgers.
Barbara: Sure. I'm still getting used to that Barbara Murphy name. A lot of people may remember me as Barbara Loftis. I just got married last month.
Brent: Congratulations again.
Barbara: Thank you. Thank you. It's been wedded bliss. It's been awesome. I've been with Rutgers 17 years. 12 of them have been in admissions. I'm a Rutgers alum. My master's degree is from Rutgers. Two of my children have graduated from Rutgers and my youngest is in the Rutgers school of nursing right now as a sophomore.
Brent: Your New Jersey girl too, right?
Barbara: Yes. Yes. Our Rutgers roots in this family run deep for sure. At Rutgers, I'm an assistant director in undergraduate admissions and I oversee all of our on campus programming, including our tour program and our admitted student open house, which is our very large admitted student day. I no longer have a recruitment territory, which I'm kind of excited about. I know a lot of my colleagues at other universities we're in the same boat where they're running an on-campus tour program and also recruiting off-campus, which is really difficult because it's hard to be in two places at once for sure. I do review applications and so does all my team. I think that that's a really important component of being able to put out a good tour program, is really understanding the process and being able to talk to our prospective students about that.
Brent: Yeah. That's a great point. You guys have a huge visitor center there at Rutgers, right? That's part of your tour program.
Barbara: Yeah. Our visitor center opened 12 years ago. That's how I made it into admissions. They hired me to run the facility and then I started acquiring some admissions responsibilities from there. We call it state of the art. It's a state-of-the-art visitor center. It's also a designated official New Jersey visitor center. We're on all of the state of New Jersey tourism brochures as an official visitor center there also.
Brent: That's pretty cool. I don't think we have anyone else that I know that has that kind of situation. That's very cool.
Barbara: Yeah. I don't think so either. We tried to do some research. We think we are the only ones. The university is hesitant about putting it out there as we are the only one because they feel like as soon as we say that someone else is going to say no we're one.
Brent: Right. Well, that's a quick way to find out if anybody else has it. Just say you're the only one and they'll tell you if you're wrong. Right?
Barbara: Yeah, definitely. The visitor center is located right down the street from our football stadium. It's really in a great location. The only thing that maybe they didn't think too far about is we really can't do tours during a football game day. It's just impossible to navigate around there. It's in a great location, a fun place.
Brent: Right. Well you guys, I recall us talking about your numbers a while back for 2021 and it seems like...we talked to a lot of people who weren't in a great place coming out of the pandemic, but it really feels like you've guys have continued you to yield your numbers and things have continued to look really good. I'd love to hear a little bit about that. I mean, in terms of 2021 and what you think is going to happen and maybe what you think the keys were to make sure that you continued to have kind of that strong growth.
Barbara: Yeah, sure. Obviously, that was a really huge concern I think across the country when the pandemic hit and everyone did go remote, what was going to happen to our numbers? Rutgers is fortunate in that we do get a lot of applications, so it's never a matter of, are we going to fill our class? We know we're going to fill the class. The question is what is that class going to look like? There's that component of you want to have a great academic profile of your incoming class and you want to have the diversity of the class that you're looking for on many levels; throughout majors and in-state versus out of state. That was definitely one of the things we were really looking at.
I think we knew pretty early on that international numbers were going to suffer and I think that was probably nationwide. Nobody was traveling, nobody was jumping on a plane and coming to the states. We've seen a decrease in international numbers for sure. I think that's probably the same at many of our peer institutions. Students just aren't coming the way that they were because of the pandemic and the uncertainty that surrounds it. I think the families were thinking, what happens if you get there and you can't get back kind of thing, you know?
Barbara: Yeah. We definitely knew we would meet the class, that we would fill the class. It's just how we...
Brent: Yo we're worried about being able to maintain the bar, from an academic and diversity perspective.
Barbara: Right, exactly. The thing that for further complicated that was standardized testing. When everything shut down, students had a lot of difficulty in even being able to sit to take an SAT or ACT. We've seen a shift. We've seen universities even pre-pandemic letting go of the standardized testing requirement to apply. The University of Chicago was probably one of the first ones to do that. Which at the time I thought, well that's intriguing. What's that going to look like down the road? When we were first in the midst of the pandemic we also went test optional. Students had SAT scores. They were welcome to send them to us, if they didn't, they could still apply without them. We've continued with that. I don't think we're going to go back to requiring SAT or ACT scores. I think that helped to increase access for students to still apply because they weren't able to sit for the SAT/ACT scores but of course, it opens up a lot of other questions of how does this really impact these incoming classes and these students.
Brent: Right, and how you measure what that bar is, I guess, because scores were such a big part of that for so long.
Barbara: Right. The SAT, the ACT was the single greatest predictor of first-year success so it kind of made it easy for us in admissions. We're just looking at one number and that's telling us pretty much how successful this student's going to be at our university. Now without that, it's a little bit more are complicated. Right. Everyone's presenting their high school transcripts. We all know high schools are not all created equally. Right.
Barbara: That in itself has been a little bit more challenging for sure.
Brent: Interesting. Well, and to add to the challenges, our research back in 2018 and 2019 validated what some academic journals had long said, which is the campus visit is a top-three driver in the decision, especially when students are getting down to kind of that final three or four, and really assessing fit. But with no one traveling people are hesitant to travel with campuses locked down and that access not necessarily available what did that look like for you guys over the past couple of years?
Barbara: Yeah, I mean, talk about a huge shift. The virtual world was something we always talked about. Having that ability to engage with students that couldn't necessarily get to campus. We talked about it, something we always wanted to do the pandemic forced our hand in that. When I talk about the pandemic, I'd like to frame it in the positive. There were some positive things that came out there. It pushed us to take that step and have a portfolio of virtual offerings. I think that's something that's going to continue going forward because there's always going to be students that can't get to campus. International students, out-of-state students especially.
When we first were going into the pandemic, we were about 20 days away from our admitted student open house. We're all kind of wondering like, oh, what's going to happen here? We were expecting over 19,000 people. That's how many we had registered at that point. I was kind of called into a conference room and they said, okay, we're canceling admitted student open house. I thought, well, yeah, that makes sense with everything that's going on. Then they said and you need to do it all online. I remember sitting there, you talk about an out-of-body experience. That's absolutely what I had because I thought I know absolutely nothing about doing something online, like nothing.
Fortunately, we have a great team in admission, and everybody kind of jumped on board and we actually turned it around in 20 days and had everything up virtually. We had like 8,000 unique visitors to Rutgers on Demand, that's what we called it that day. It was a successful event and we did yield our class, but it's not anything I'd want to do again without that kind of knowledge of what I was doing for sure.
Brent: Yeah. That's understandable. Looking back now, I mean, is there anything that you'd say stands out as far as what worked incredibly well for Rutgers and maybe something that you guys tried and it just didn't seem to work out? Then a related question would be, are you going to continue all of these same things kind of coming out of the pandemic to just help, I guess, compliment the physical on-campus tour?
Barbara: Right. I think the thing that we figured out really early on is, our typical setup pre-pandemic is people would come to campus, we would do an info session, an admissions info session at our visitor center. Then we would put them on a bus and tour them around campus. Rutgers is a geographically huge campus. It's consists of five campuses within one. The only way to see it all is by driving. So bus tour, and they would get off a couple of times. We, the professional staff always did these info sessions. We were the ones doing the presentations.
We figured out fairly quickly in the virtual world that it was going to meet the students more where they were if we had our students do the info sessions. We switched it up. We'd have a group of Scarlet Ambassadors who wanted to continue to work with us through the pandemic and we trained them and they started doing the admissions info sessions for prospective students and then for admitted students also. We could see the shift in the interaction with students. When we were doing it we would say you could type your questions in the Q&A, and we'd have another professional answering the questions. When the students did the presentations and were answering the questions, there were a lot more questions. We realized very quickly students want to engage with current students. If you just look at it from where they're coming from, they also shifted to a remote life and they, all of a sudden had all of their classes online. It would be like we were like another teacher just kind of talking at them.
Barbara: They're probably zoning out, not really paying attention to us anyway. I think it created a completely different dynamic to actually have students doing that presentation. We always staffed it with the students, so that if there were questions that they really didn't know the answer to, we could kind of jump in and answer them. Or if somebody was asking a lot of the same question we would kind of jump in and talk about that. That's the model we switched to, and that's the model we've continued, even as we've come back to in-person tours on campus. We have ambassadors lead them. One of us sits in the audience so we're there to jump in. If there is something that's a difficult question that they really don't know the answer to.
Barbara: There's a lot more engagement from doing it that way. As far as what we're keeping moving forward, is we're keeping it all. We created a tour highlights kind of virtual experience. We call it highlights because our bus tour is 90 minutes long. That's just too long to sit in front of a laptop. We kind of did highlights, it kind of looks like you're jumping on and off the bus to see things. What we did with those is it's just a video recording and we have a student talk through it. Each experience is a little bit different. It's not just a recorded version of one student doing it. That's been really successful and we're going to continue with that also. We still have really good buy-in with that. We do them twice a month, I think, and we have hundreds of people attend them.
Brent: Oh, that's fantastic.
Barbara: Yeah. Yeah. Same thing with the virtual. We're going to maintain a virtual presence all also for those students who can't get to campus. The other thing we did real quick was we started a chat feature on our website because we didn't have one prior. Again, it was something else that we had been talking about, but never kinda pulled the trigger to do. I think the focus at the time we went remote was how do we continue to engage with these students? The chat and all these virtual offerings just being available and answering the questions was really critical.
Brent: That's great. Well, you mentioned the Scarlet Ambassadors, and I know that's a huge program for you guys. I mean, in terms of the number of kids you have, it's like 80 ish right every year, or is it even more?
Barbara: Yeah, it's between 80 and 100 every year.
Brent: You've mentioned it's been difficult during and post-pandemic to get students engaged, involved and keep them in the program. I mean, what have you guys learned from that and how have you kind of responded?
Barbara: We had a core group of our ambassadors who hung with us during the pandemic and continued to do this virtual programming and were kind of there if we had other little projects for them to do. I mean, we're so incredibly grateful for them because they really helped us to make this all possible. When we came back to campus we were trying to hire and beef up our Scarlet Ambassador ranks. It was even a little bit more difficult when we came back to campus because you had a whole cohort of students who had never been on campus. As an example, my daughter is one of them. She finished her freshman year, but her freshman year was completely remote. We're hiring students that are maybe going into their sophomore year, but they've never physically been on campus.
There's kind of like that learning curve there for them. Then we typically only offered a bus tour. We knew we had to do things a little bit differently because people weren't necessarily going to want to get on a bus with 50 other people. We wanted to do some walking tours of the individual campuses. There's this huge learning curve of training all these students on the different campuses and on the bus tour. Lots of training involved. What we found out, even after we hired students, once they started working a lot of them stepped away and said, I thought I could do this. I'm not comfortable being in a group of people. I want to take a leave of absence or I can't do this, or it was, I need to take a leave of absence because I've never been in person in my college career. Now that I am, I realize, wow, it takes me time to actually get from class to class. I don't have the amount of time I thought I did.
It's kind of like a weird mix of students that aren't comfortable being in groups of people and students who just haven't figured out how to manage their time yet as college students because it is very different. In their remote classes, they could kind of roll out of bed and turn on the laptop and there they were. Now they need to get dressed and go get on a bus to go to a different campus. It's completely different for them.
Brent: Right, right. That whole big life change happening all over again.
Barbara: Yeah, yeah, exactly. It's interesting because there's a lot, I've seen through the pandemic, a lot of places are looking for help. There seems to be a lot of jobs. It makes you wonder, well where is everybody that was working these jobs and why aren't they continuing to work these jobs? It could be something as simple as they're not comfortable being in the public all the time, you know? We're up to, I think 75 ambassadors right now, which is a good size for us. We need that many to run the sized tour program that we have definitely.
Brent: Right. Good. Glad to hear things are coming back for sure. You mentioned the admitted student open house and the big event day, which is coming up for you guys in early April this year. I think that's one that it's either the biggest or certainly one of the biggest events in the country. I think you guys think that it's the largest, right?
Barbara: We do.
Brent: It sounds like that's going to be back to physical and back to normal. I mean, what's that look like, just to get ready for that big event again?
Barbara: I typically spend an entire year planning admitted student open house. This year we were kind of in a wait-and-see thing, well, what's going to happen. As we went through the fall semester, the Omicron variant really started surging. I thought, we can't do all this work and then all of a sudden I've got to flip it back to virtual. We were just kind of waiting and seeing. Typically we open registration for our admitted student open house in early January. As soon as we have admits go out we're sending that out. We were kind of waiting, waiting, waiting, and we got the green light. Yes, we're in person but the big change is, Rutgers requires anyone that comes on campus to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test.
That's what we have to do for this open house, which that's a logistical event in itself. They're doing it now at our basketball arena. If you're going to a basketball game they have a security firm that they hire to do this. They check it, stamp your hand or give you a bracelet and we're utilizing that company to help us. We're going to have 10 different vaccine check stations. We're telling people, get your vaccine checked first, you'll get a bracelet and then that'll give you passage into any of the buildings that we're using. I think it's going to work.
We weren't really sure what registration was going to look like. We opened it five days ago and we have 3,500 people registered already. I was comparing that to 2018 and 2019 at the same time. We're only a couple of hundred people behind those years. We're probably going to have more than 15,000 people that would be my guess. Of course, we're doing things a little bit differently. In 2019, the last one we had in person, we had about 165 different sessions we have offered, which creates a lot of crowds in buildings and people kind of going in and out of rooms. We were trying to avoid that.
Our school of arts and sciences, which is our largest school at Rutgers, it's about 70% of our majors. They're doing everything outside. There's a place on campus called Voorhees Mall. It's like that typical college quad look, with all the beautiful buildings. We're just setting tents throughout there and we're going to have the different departments and different majors at different tents and people can kind of move around and engage with faculty and deans and things like that.
Brent: Fingers crossed for fantastic spring weather.
Barbara: I ordered it. I tell everybody because that's the first thing they say. I tell everybody I put in my order for a nice, beautiful spring day.
Brent: Well, hey, it's under tents. Right? So if it rains, people can still stay dry.
Brent: For the most part. If it's a little bit chilly, they can wear jackets.
Barbara: Right. Exactly. I've seen it all with open house. I've seen ice storms and rain and 80 degrees. Yeah, it kind of is what it is. Right. I'm confident, I'm willing it. We're going to have a great day.
Brent: That's fantastic. As things get back to normal or more normal, it feels like for the past year, we've been saying that. Any big priorities for campus visit things that you're going to build in that are new and different that you're thinking about or is it just trying to get back to what we were doing before?
Barbara: I mean I think the big difference is our numbers aren't anywhere near where they were pre-pandemic. We were touring between 45,000 and 50,000 people a year. That was all bus tours. Coming back what we noticed is our walking tour offerings that we still have out there, we're filling just as quickly or maybe more quickly than the bus tours. We're not really sure, is there still a hesitation about people don't necessarily want to be on a bus for 90 minutes with 50 other people? Or is it that they really would rather engage in a walking tour and really kind of walk around and see things.
We've structured our walking tours that no matter what walking tour you take, and we have five different campuses, you're going to get the same information. They've built in components on talking about dining and housing and rec centers, things like that, the functions of each campus, but you're just going to see different buildings depending on what campus you're on. I think the person on my team that runs the tour program has done a really good job of that. Someone can come on one individual walking tour and still leave with the same information that they would get on a bus tour.
I think the thing we're most concerned about is if we don't get everybody back to those bus tours that students and their families might not have a real idea of how large Rutgers is. That's one of the things we really do want to show people so they can make that informed decision. In all the years I've been there, I've heard a lot of people come back off the bus and say, oh, well that was great. You're not coming here. You know, it's too big. Parents know their kids, they know my child's not going to thrive in this enormous environment. Good, I'm glad that they were able to walk away with that kind of information because we want everybody that comes to be happy and to know what they're in for. Our Rutgers students take buses between campuses, that's a part of their life. If it's not something you want in your college experience you need to know that before you get here because that's not going to change.
I think that's a concern about people only having walking tours of the campus. Going back to the question, we would like to get back to the numbers where we were. I don't know that that's going to happen even in the next year. We'll just have to see...
Barbara: See how it goes.
Brent: Do you see, I mean, as things move forward, and let's just imagine a world in which everything gets totally back to as normal as it can be. Do you see virtual options in some cases becoming a substitute for those actual campus visits? Or do you look at virtual as just kind of a whole separate compliment altogether? Like how do you think about those two things working together?
Barbara: Yeah, I think it's going to stay a compliment. I don't think it's going to be an instead of. I think families still want to get onto the campus and kind of get that feel. I always equate the campus visit, like when I would go to high schools and talk to parents, especially juniors who are going into this college search process. I talk about the importance of getting on campus, it's a huge investment to put your child into college, and just like you wouldn't buy a house without getting there and physically seeing it. It's kind of like the same thing.
I think families also have that same feeling of being on campus as you do when you walk into a house. When you're going through that home buying experience and you're going into houses, you could walk through the door and know like, nope, you just don't have that vibe. Right. But the house that you're looking for, you step through the door and you're like, yeah. As you continue to walk around it's an affirmation. Yes, yes, yes. This is what I'm looking for. It's the same thing with someone coming to campus. That feeling that they get, it really evokes an emotional response. Can I picture myself here?
Going back to us bringing our ambassadors into the front and center of doing our info sessions, that's the same thing that students are sitting there, looking at this student and thinking I could picture myself being friends with him or her right. That kind of thing. I think that's why it was such a great move for us to put our students front and center and have them create that interaction with prospective students and admitted students. Sure, getting back to our numbers I think would be great. Just that's a lot of walking tours.
Walking tours, we're typically doing 20 to 25 with one ambassador, where I could do a bus tour of 50 with one ambassador. We need more ambassadors or more availability with our ambassadors to get back up to those numbers. We'll have to see what happens.
Brent: Right. Yeah. That's interesting. Yeah, certainly. I mean, I would say that feeling of fit is pretty critical in terms of the physical campus visit. I do think, and we don't have any sort of virtual offerings, but I'm a big fan of quite a few that I do think help in cases where students just absolutely can't make it or if maybe it's part of the screening process early on to understand if I've got 10 schools I'm considering, let me start to get a sense or a flavor. Particularly for Rutgers, as I think about you talking about how big the five campuses are and busing around, it's one of those things that you can, as a 16 or 19-year-old, you can read about it and you can intellectually understand that is true. You can see that on a camera visit on your computer, but until you're actually there and you're taking the bus around or walking around I don't think that you can really get a sense of, is that a good fit for me? Am I going to be right being here?
Certainly, I was a first-generation college student that grew up in a town of 4,000 people in the middle of nowhere. I would've been terrified if I came to Rutgers and got on a bus and had to ride around it would've just seemed way too big. I'm sure if I had ended up there, I probably wouldn't have been a great fit. You guys probably wouldn't have wanted to keep me around. I think it's important, but I do think there are such great roles for the virtual options, for sure.
Speaking of which, and maybe now this is a little bit of a loaded question after I just said that, but obviously DEI initiatives are huge in admissions everywhere. I would say pretty much any day at least a third of the articles I see in higher Ed publications are about that. In our tiny little world that I live in of the campus visit, I frequently think about how disadvantaged certain groups are in terms of their access and ability to get to campus. I also know the data that shows that visit is so critically important for the right decision to be made and for future success. As someone who has, under your purview, all of this stuff, how do you make sure, or what can you do to do the best you can, I guess. To ensure kind of some equity in access there.
Barbara: Yeah, sure. It absolutely is an important initiative across the nation in higher Ed; getting those students that are economically disadvantaged to campus. There are a couple of things that we've been doing that have proved successful. My colleagues at other universities and I always talk about the group tour like they're the bane of our existence. Schools who request to bring a group to campus because we don't see the yield. We don't even see the applications from them that we would like to, for the amount of time that we're putting into hosting a group on campus. I know my peer colleagues would agree like yes, group tours can be the bane of our existence, but group tours can also be a great way for us to hit those DEI initiatives.
That is in screening what schools are saying they want to bring a group to campus. We have a flat-out rule, we will not tour any group that's not high school students. We get a lot of middle schools that reach out and in the perfect world, we would all have the time to do that. We can't accommodate the high schools who want to come so we can't do middle schools. We actually really vet our group tour requests because there's a very specific time when we do them, we fit them in between all the other tours, and with our ambassador availability. Really looking through those and vetting those and really getting those schools that are coming from the areas that you want to give these students the opportunity to get to campus, I think that's a great way to help that out.
The other thing that we've done and this involves our recruitment team helping us on this, is schools that we want to have the group of students come to campus. We actually send a bus to their school to pick them up and bring them to campus and give them that experience with the info session and campus visit. We kicked that off pre-pandemic. That is something that we were doing. I don't really have the data on how successful that has been yet with applicants and yield. I think that is really a great idea and it's really a relatively inexpensive way. You're paying for the cost of a charter bus, which like in New Jersey's about $750 for a day. That's a pretty inexpensive thing to do to bring them to campus, even pay for their lunch, give them a box lunch, or whatever. That's something that we'll continue to do going forward to get these students to campus to see campus.
Brent: That's great. That's a fantastic idea for sure. It sounds like you've got a plan in place to be able to kind of monitor what's going to happen over time; are those students more likely to apply, are they're being admitted, and that sort of thing. I'll be excited to hear how that works out. Okay, the last question I promise, and you can add anything else that you'd like to add, but this is kind of the magic wand question. I guess the rules would be, don't get yourself in trouble with anyone at Rutgers, but what is it you're saying you want to change. I know you wouldn't do that. Don't give anything away that you wouldn't want some competitive school in your overlap knowing, but what would you like to change in admissions over the next three to five years? Or what do you think maybe is something that's really, really important that has to happen that maybe work hasn't quite started on yet?
Barbara: I've been thinking a lot about this question. I think the first thing that came to mind was I think something that probably a lot of my colleagues at other universities would agree with. My magic wand would have our admissions team much bigger. I think this is the case at so many universities. We do so much with so few staff and we could do so much more if we had more resources staff-wise. We have a lot of great ideas but it's just a matter of we can't implement everything because, you know, there's only so many hours in the day. I would like to see not only Rutgers, but other universities invest more in admissions. I think...
Brent: I'm sure anyone who's watching or listening to this right now will be applauding when you hit that part.
Barbara: They will say the same thing. I think it's the kind of thing...like nothing's going to change as long as we're yielding our class, right? I guess the big picture, I would probably look at it that way too if I was in the decision-making position, like why do we need to change this? It's working, we're yielding our class. I think we could do so much more and in doing so much more, it would really benefit the students and benefit those students that we are looking at to try to really help in the process also. It's like when we were talking about DEI initiatives, it would be great to have more boots on the ground out to schools, right. Really working with small groups of students or the counselors in specific schools. The way it's structured, recruitment has to go to where they could touch the most amount of admissible students. Right. That's kind of counterproductive to those DEI initiatives. I think my magic wand would have us have more staff.
Brent: It's interesting to think about that you continue to yield your numbers so from a more senior perspective, Hey we're getting to where we need to get to. If you really think about admissions role in helping ensure first-year success, right because you're playing a big role in that by who's coming, who you're getting there, and how much time you've been able to spend with them upfront. I think if you could get folks to think about it that way and not just the numbers themselves, but I guess for lack of a better description, the quality, right?
You've been able to, beyond just the metrics of, is this student really sharp and going places, have we been able to help get them prepared? Now that as this transition happens, and now it becomes student affairs and other folks who are responsible for that experience, are we seeing, and maybe it kind of gets to retention at some point, which isn't necessarily a metric people are thinking about from an admissions perspective, but it all starts with who did you choose and are they the right fit and are they prepared and are they going to be successful? Retention isn't just about what happens after that.
Barbara: Right. Retention is an incredibly important thing for universities. Retention and graduation rate, those are the two numbers that everybody always throws around. Right. We have not really seen what this pandemic is going to do to those numbers. Right. My big question is, we have students who've spent their first year in college online. That's my daughter, right. She had one whole year and her last four months of her high school career were online and then her whole first college year was online. Now we're admitting students who've spent over a year of their high school life online. What does that all mean? What does that all mean for the student's preparedness for college work? We haven't seen what that means yet. We haven't seen the numbers from that.
Now admitting students without standardized testing scores, we haven't really seen what that's going to look like for our first-year retention or beyond retention, how well have these students done, you know? That part I'm really interested in. The SAT/ACT gave us an easy out; this kid got a 1500, this kid's going to be successful. Well, taking that away and just looking at four years of high school work, are we making the right decisions? Are we setting up all of these students for success? That's, what's going to be interesting to see as all of this kind of settles out and we move forward. I'm looking forward to seeing that, definitely.
Brent: Yeah. It's both scary and exciting there's definitely some anxiety inducement in all of that for sure.
Barbara: I know on a personal level, making the SAT optional, I mean, I understand it. The SAT/ACT was disadvantaging the most vulnerable students because they didn't have the opportunities for prep, test prep or even taking the exam. I get that, but for 85% of the students who did test prep and take it was a great indicator for us. I hope we're not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I don't know, would it have made more sense to address the students who were disadvantaged and give them the opportunity for test prep and keep it, we'll have to see, we'll see. It'll be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years coming down the line.
Brent: It will, for sure. Yeah. I hope everyone can just kind of digest all that data and understand what's happened and then actually be willing to correct if needed to go in a different direction, because sometimes once you go down a path, especially with like many, many, many large organizations involved, it could be hard to course-correct after that, but obviously it's going to be critically important if it's necessary.
Brent: Well, Hey, thanks. I know I've kept you longer than I told you that I would, but I really appreciate you joining us. I think you had a lot of great stuff to share with folks. Again, I know everyone's going to be excited, more resources for admissions is going to be a popular one. Thank you so much.
Barbara: Yeah, My pleasure. There's nothing like a great podcast, right?
Brent: Right. Exactly.