New admissions options could draw more students after application drop

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Alexandra Kruse | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Director of Admissions Karen Felton, left, and Senior Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Laurie Koehler said GW’s application will be more flexible this fall.

The string of changes GW announced to its admissions process this week could attract more applicants in the fall, experts say.

The updates are the first to GW’s application process since it switched to exclusively using the Common Application last year. After that shift, applications dropped by nearly 3,000, which pushed the University’s acceptance rate to 43 percent, the highest in more than a decade.

Higher education experts say the changes, which include allowing applicants to select two school options and choose among three essay prompts, will appeal to students because of its flexibility.

David Petersam, the president of the admissions consulting group AdmissionsConsulting, said the updated application will help it attract “fringe applicants.”

“They’ll get more of the applicants where maybe GW isn’t their top choice but they have a couple of reach schools and they’re trying to figure out what schools to go after,” he said.

Director of Admissions Karen Felton said GW did not consider application numbers when making the changes to the process, and the updates were based on a review and applicant feedback.

“We wanted to provide as many options as possible to students who are excited about GW,” she said. “Our goal is to continue to have enough applicants to build an academically strong and diverse class.”

Laurie Koehler, senior associate provost for enrollment management, said the updates would accommodate high school students who come to GW with specific academic interests as well as students who “may have several areas of interest.”

Karen Spencer, a college admissions consultant at the advising group College Coach, said applications with more options “speak to students.” She added that GW’s move to allow students to select an alternative school could help officials balance their enrollment and fill gaps in programs.

“It doesn’t force people to pigeonhole themselves. And it gives a school flexibility in admitting students based on their strengths and interests together,” she said. “Most students have multiple areas of interest.”

The essay questions now ask applicants to write about what they’d ask George Washington at a dinner party, how they can “make history” and how GW fits their “interests, talents and goals.”

College admissions counselor Mona Molarsky said schools choose essay topics that are broad enough for students to write creatively, but are specific enough that applicants have to show how much they know about the school.

Duke University, one of GW’s peer schools, added an optional essay this year for students to write about their sexual orientation or gender identity. At Tufts University, another competitor, students applying this fall can write about characters that inspire them, what makes them happy and how their upbringing has influenced their lives.

After GW’s merger with the Corcoran College of Art + Design, the admissions office hired two Corcoran staff members to review applications, Felton said.

Corcoran applicants must submit portfolios of 10 to 15 pieces of artwork and are not required to provide standardized test scores, matching the requirements Corcoran students had before the school’s merger with GW. However, if those students also list an alternate school, they will need to submit SAT and ACT scores.

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