School Districts Can Help Students Adopt New Attitudes About Admission Process

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Editor’s note: A version of this post was originally published on Admitted in December 2016. It’s being republished as part of NACAC’s Best of the Blog series.

School districts may be able to boost college-going rates by changing the way they introduce students to the application process, according to a recent piece published by the Harvard Business Review.

Too often, the conversation is focused on ensuring students submit an application to at least one college, writes researcher Lindsay Page. But when teens apply to a range of institutions “they are more likely to get accepted to an institution that is a good fit,” she notes.

“The evidence suggests that students do not take full advantage of the power of a large application set, potentially due to a lack of information, overconfidence, or simply procrastination,” wrote Page, a research scientist at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center. “Districts have a powerful ability to change the default here, and evidence indicates that doing so can have important downstream impacts for low-income students.”

When students apply to multiple colleges, they increase the chances they will be accepted at a school that fits their academic interests, as well as their budget.

“Through a series of low-cost interventions inspired by the principles of behavioral economics — changing defaults regarding the number of schools to which students should apply, reducing the hassle factors associated with obtaining fee waivers, proactively nudging students to complete critical steps in the process like the FAFSA — school districts and postsecondary institutions can increase rates of success with college search, application, and transition among this year’s high school seniors,” Page noted. “For districts, now is the time to proactively encourage your students in the college and financial aid process so that they have an excellent set of choices to celebrate come spring.”

Read the full article.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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