Find a school, apply, wait to hear back. That’s college admissions in a nutshell. But there’s a new type of admissions process gaining momentum, and it looks a lot different from what we’re used to. It’s called direct admissions, and over 150 schools started using it last year.
To learn more about this process and the upside for students, we spoke with Christine Bowman, dean for enrollment services at Southwestern University in Texas. Last fall, Southwestern launched direct admissions in several pilot cities including Chicago and Houston.
Listen to the full conversation here:
Direct admissions vs. the “traditional way”
In direct admissions, students add their official transcript and test scores to an online platform, then schools search for qualified candidates there. Students add their information once but could get multiple offers from colleges. In contrast, by applying the traditional way, students do all the looking, and the whole process can take longer.
Convenience aside, Christine sees a clear advantage: “A student may be exposed to a college they never heard of before that might actually be a game changer […] and would open their eyes to something that maybe isn’t in their backyard.”
The biggest challenge
While direct admissions might save time, it limits what information schools use in their decision-making. “I’m not seeing an essay. I’m not having a chance to interview the student,” says Christine. “I’m really going on my 30 years of professional experience in getting to evaluate the student and what they’re presenting to me — pretty much just based on grades. Sometimes there’s a story the transcript alone doesn’t tell me.”
Christine further explains that three things help her in the process: intuition, experience, and faith “that the student might be the right fit for us.”
Looking to the future
For most colleges using direct admissions, this is only their first year. Such is the case for Southwestern. According to Christine, direct admissions is “a little experimental.” And there’s a lot to learn over time, especially for colleges.
“These students didn’t choose to engage with us from the forefront,” says Christine. “In preparing for year two, I need to reflect on how I engage these students differently because they’re not coming to us. We’re going to them first.”
It’s not for everyone
Christine admits this type of admissions process is not for everyone. Students who have decided where they want to go and how far away from home are better served through traditional admissions. But for students open to new possibilities, “direct admissions can be an amazing journey,” says Christine.
She stresses, “Much like the whole college search process, every individual has a journey that will work best for them.”
Whether your student applies to college through direct admissions or the more traditional route, it’s important to remain open to what’s out there. With nearly 4,000 colleges and universities in the country, Christine recommends that students, “Look broadly, be willing to grow, [and] be willing to experiment.”