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How do we actually view students?

Updated: Mar 27, 2022

There have been two tectonic shifts impacting how postsecondary admissions officers qualify and find new students. The elimination of the SAT exam as a gate for seniors, and the advent of Diversity & Inclusion initiatives. To be clear and not to be confused with Affirmative Action, which is complementary in function to Diversity & Inclusion, but is different in origins and goals. While affirmative action focuses on taking positive steps to get individuals into an organization, diversity in the society works to change the culture as a social movement. We have generally ignored the cultural aspects of family, culture and education, synthesized down into a crucible of test scores and check boxes. Our society has materially changed from the last century in this regard.

Underneath these meta-trends is a desire for students to achieve "goals" as opposed to achieving "standards." Perhaps if we asked the student "what do you want to achieve in your life?" might create opportunities to evaluate where we are deficient and to close gaps to goal achievement, which is not necessarily exclusive of meeting a high standard. Let's say a student in the 7th grade wants to become a musician. How do we know this? How can we counsel the student to this objective? We don't ask the question, but rather we "assume" the question will be answered as the student matriculates through the existing system.

An alternative approach is to find out what fires the student, her imagination and passion. We know that setting goals are linked with higher motivation, self-esteem, self-confidence, and autonomy (Locke & Latham, 2006), and research has established a strong connection between goal setting and success (Matthews, 2015). Perhaps if we begin there, then we might be in a better position to "connect the student" into the pathway to their goal. And this is where we might be able to connect certain types of colleges, specific programs with students who have a particular passion. We have designed certain algorithms that can early identify students with passions in science, music, art and history, for example. As the student self-reports that they would like to pursue a certain academic and career track, we should be able to assist them as they matriculate through high school. We can help them with their internal dialogue, affirming them as individuals and providing the necessary support structures.

This approach does not correspond with the current workflow, how we "counsel" students to a standard (like here in California the University of California standard). We enroll students in their freshman year in high school and then react to how well they do within this standards-based construct. Our studies indicate only about 23% of our deployments of students actually track successfully to this standard. What do we do with all of the other 77% of students who need alternative pathways to achieve their goals? The requests for alternative "use cases" coming from our university partners has grown over the last three years and might shed some light on the topic. Universities are wanting to know more about student interests much earlier in their career as opposed to strictly a test score or a specific GPA in their senior year. One year recruiting cycles are beginning to give way to longer lead times and relational systems of support.

Working with Stanford's Diversity & Inclusion Office, we're just at the beginning of transitioning to a more effective college admissions interface. To new paradigms and applying the psychology of goal setting. goal achievement while developing solutions for this next generation.

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