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Breaking Tradition: College Admissions Gets Personal

by | Sep 9, 2023 | college admissions | 0 comments

In a landscape where AI-generated essays are casting shadows and affirmative action has reached its terminus, the act of selecting the next generation of college students has never been more labyrinthine. But what if we told you that a college is saying goodbye to the traditional, impersonal application process and welcoming something unthinkably intimate—face-to-face interactions. Yes, you heard that right.

The Audacity of Personal Interaction

Nestled in Annapolis, Maryland, St. John’s College is steering college admissions into uncharted waters. Its new “Discussion-Based” application is exactly what it sounds like—an invitation for potential students to be judged not by the sterility of standardized tests or the eloquence of their essays, but by authentic interpersonal communication. Applicants are now allowed to bypass the traditional metrics, diving straight into in-depth interviews and seminars with college personnel.

The Philosophy Behind the Shift

It’s not completely out of left field that St. John’s would be the one to spearhead this concept. Renowned for its idiosyncratic education model, the college’s curriculum isn’t limited to run-of-the-mill majors. Instead, it immerses students in an interdisciplinary voyage through 200 seminal texts—from the dialogues of Plato to James Baldwin’s prose. No wonder St. John’s has been dubbed “The Most Contrarian College in America,” a title they not only accept but also wear as a badge of honor.

Why Now is the Perfect Time

The current era has seen several paradigm-shifting developments: from the repercussions of the Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action to the rise of machine-generated personal essays. The question remains: is this novelty in admissions a mere quirk or a harbinger of what’s to come? St. John’s College believes its approach, though expensive and elaborate, could set a precedent. They’ve already started admitting students for their Class of 2028 under this new schema.

Personalization: The Hidden Ace?

Recent surveys show that nearly two-thirds of college applicants feel like mere data points in the admissions universe. What the traditional process often lacks is a mechanism for applicants to display their true selves. St. John’s new system aims to bridge that gap, opening up new dimensions for assessment—especially for students from marginalized backgrounds who might not excel in standardized tests or essay writing.

Looking Beyond the Norms

But it’s not just St. John’s that’s rethinking admissions. Olin College in Massachusetts has also infused an interpersonal element into its process. Candidates are flown to campus to engage with the academic and social aspects of college life, participating in specialized classes and two-tiered evaluations.

Equitability in the Spotlight

The unspoken dimension here is the impact of these high-contact methods on the creation of a more equitable admissions environment. Though high-contact practices are often seen as skewing away from equal access, there’s an argument to be made for its potential in leveling the playing field.

The Jury’s Still Out

A significant majority of colleges currently assign little to no importance to face-to-face interactions in their admissions criteria. However, St. John’s and similar experimental models could serve as a catalyst for a sector-wide reevaluation of what constitutes a meaningful application.

The Bottom Line

St. John’s audacious gambit may or may not be the future of college admissions. Nonetheless, it raises essential questions and prods at the possibility that our traditional notions of evaluation may be due for a revamp. After all, isn’t the whole point of education to see and cultivate the whole student? And what better way to do that than face-to-face?

In light of your penchant for groundbreaking technologies and ideas, a closer look into AI implications in education and applications might offer another layer of understanding in this evolving narrative. Also, given your interest in meticulously designed systems, observing how St. John’s fine-tunes this approach could offer key insights into quality-driven educational innovations. Finally, while there’s no definitive metric for what constitutes “the best,” the high-contact approach could become a benchmark for quality in admissions, and its implications for the broader educational sector are noteworthy.