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    Lesson Three – Graduate Admissions
    Lesson Three – Graduate Admissions

    While some faculty members are actively engaged in student recruitment and admissions, many faculty are neither knowledgeable about nor particularly interested in technical aspects of the recruiting process. Nor are they informed about the latest strategies of graduate admissions. Such faculty may feel that they are “academics,” after all, and that their primary role at the university is to serve as subject-matter experts in their particular disciplines. Yet faculty can be the most effective recruiters of doctoral students, and their admissions decisions are basic to enrollment management and high degree completion rates. When they are provided the skills and resources to recruit and admit, they are often quite willing and highly successful.


    Faculty may need to be reminded that extrapolating a few negative experiences to a general admissions “policy” is inappropriate and unfair. If a previous student from a particular ethnic or racial group, gender, country of origin, social class, or type of undergraduate college did not succeed in a doctoral program, this experience must not color future decisions to admit students with that characteristic or background. The admissions process must assure an objective review of applicants’ qualifications and interests without prejudice.


    The graduate school staff should put in place a process for sharing with faculty best practices for recruitment and admissions.


    In periodic meetings of graduate program directors, the graduate school staff can present materials and ideas for improving program recruitment processes. Departments and programs that have effective practices in place can showcase their activities. Staff from other campus offices (student advisement, admissions, etc.) can be invited to make presentations.


    Graduate faculty, staff, and current graduate students can be included in events held in conjunction with campus visits of underrepresented minority undergraduates. Departmental visits can be included in the campus visit, and can include tours of labs, meetings with faculty and current graduate students, and presentations geared to attracting such students to their programs.


    Through regular e-mail communications with graduate program directors, the graduate school staff can share announcements, best practices, and faculty resources to assist in effective management of the graduate programs.


    The graduate program admissions committees should be made aware of the appropriate use of GRE scores in their selection process. The selection criteria for graduate students should adhere to the Educational Testing Service’s (ETS) Guidelines for the Use of GRE Scores. “The GRE Board Statement Regarding the Fair and Appropriate Use of GRE Scores” was adopted by the GRE Board in 2004 and was endorsed by the Council of Graduate Schools’ Advisory Committee on Minorities <>. The Guide to the Use of Scores (ETS, 2005-2006) advocated for the use of multiple criteria to ensure fairness and to balance the limitations of any single measure of knowledge, skills, or abilities. Multiple criteria can include undergraduate grade point average, personal statements, letters of recommendations, samples of academic work, and life and professional experience potentially related to graduate study. GRE scores should not be considered the only predictor of the student’s potential for academic success. Moreover, the guidelines note the importance of supplementing the scores with other criteria, especially when it comes to assessing the abilities of historically educationally disadvantaged students, students for whom English is a second language, and returning students.

    Whenever possible graduate faculty should attend professional and student conferences and graduate fairs, especially those targeting minorities and women, to assist in the recruitment process. If these are not conferences normally attended by faculty, the department and graduate school may help fund the trips. Faculty may find these conferences to be educational—particularly in demonstrating for them the presence of large numbers of underrepresented students in their disciplines who are potential recruits—such as African American engineering students, women mathematicians, and Hispanic physicists. Participating in recruitment events can also help provide faculty with skills at selling their program and marketing their scientific labs to potential applicants.


    Assist faculty in following up with prospective students and in undertaking the ongoing process of “wooing” newly admitted applicants. The establishment of instant messaging functionality and chat rooms on the web can facilitate faculty communications with prospective students. The graduate school can encourage faculty to reply to applicant inquiries and establish an internet and telephone relationship with applicants as a way of cementing their relationship with their graduate program. These methods of communication prior to enrollment help ensure that the students who are admitted are, indeed, appropriate for the faculty and research at that institution and are more likely to accept an offer to enroll.


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