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ERIC Number: ED520811
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Oct
Pages: 74
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
Complexity in College Admission: Fact or Urban Myth. Research Findings of Parent and Student Perceptions of Complexity in College Admission
College Board Advocacy & Policy Center
In September 2007, the College Board formed the Task Force on Admissions in the 21st Century in response to a request from the Guidance and Admission Assembly Council (GAA Council) to more closely examine the high-school-to-college transition process. Each spring, at the conclusion of the college admission cycle, there is much discussion in the media and professional circles about the problems experienced by all involved in the transition. Students and parents complained about the lack of transparency in the process; the confusing nature of the application process; how difficult it was to secure good information about college choice and how the outcomes were unpredictable and sometimes appeared to defy logic. School counselors expressed similar concerns regarding process and outcomes, and they empathized with their students. Colleges and universities lamented the increased pressure to review a growing number of applications from students who appeared to be filing larger numbers of applications. The students also seemed to be driven to a higher level of self-promotion beyond what was required in the application process, as a response to exert more control over what they (the students) perceived to be an increasingly complex, unpredictable and opaque process. The GAA Council was concerned that these conditions were a potential threat to access to higher education for all students. The intent of this study is to determine which part or parts of the application process are complex and cause the most significant levels of confusion and anxiety for students. The intent is also to determine if outcomes vary across subgroups of the college-bound population. For 18 months, the Task Force on Admissions in the 21st Century examined many factors and influences that make up the secondary-school-to-college transition. The outcome of the task force was an overarching framework for the profession to approach solutions as a profession "at its best." It held that the school-to-college transition should be seen as a learning opportunity, "At its best, admission is about "fit" between student and institution." Anything that interfered with that process, including unnecessary complexity, was undesirable and a barrier to access. The task force also set forth seven action commitments, including the need to create professional development materials that addressed 10 core areas of concern, among them "complexity in the admission and financial aid process." A research design was developed to explore the basic elements of the actual college application process (as distinct from financial aid, which was being explored by a separate and simultaneous quantitative research effort). The focus of the research, described in detail herein, was to measure student and parent perceptions of the complexity of the process and to segment the research group by geography, level of family experience with postsecondary education, race/ethnicity and income. This report contains the finding of this first phase of the research. The results of the research will be used to inform the profession--principally admission officers and school counselors--and help shape the responses to the needs of students and their parents with a clearer understanding of their experience with the school-to-college transition process. The findings provide a better understanding of which student and parent subgroups find the process the most complex and why, and how it can be made less complex to remove potential barriers to access to higher education for all students. (Contains 18 tables and 26 figures.) [This report was commissioned by the Task Force on Admissions in the 21st Century.]
College Board Advocacy & Policy Center. 45 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10023. Tel: 212-713-8165; Fax: 212-713-8143; e-mail:; email:; email:; Web site:
Publication Type: Numerical/Quantitative Data; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: Support Staff; Counselors
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: College Board Advocacy & Policy Center