Among the many responsibilities enrollment managers and admission professionals have, job one is to ensure a great fit between the prospective student and the school’s mission and culture.
Not surprisingly, that job has become more complex over the years. Back then, cognitive expertise demonstrated by grades and test scores typically tipped the scales in an admission decision. Today, we increasingly look at social/emotional IQ (EQ), and characteristics like empathy, creativity, a willingness to discover and develop innate talents, and even someone who can bring out the best in others! EQ, which some refer to as "soft skills," has become as important as IQ.
Who you are is just as important as what you know.
But in our desire to understand the whole person, we may have opened a Pandora’s Box.
It’s no secret that entry into top-tier independent schools and colleges requires a marketing-savvy applicant these days. I hear enrollment managers talking about the avalanche of data they are getting from prospective students: PowerPoints, audio files, videos, .pdf, .doc, and Excel files. Students are giving admission directors links to their personal website, links to their Dropbox, even links to their own “essence” video, a “montage” done by a professional videographer! No -- I am not kidding.
But before you judge these new applicants too harshly for shameless self-promotion, consider that admission professionals and educators are the ones who are upending what is seen as too narrow a system of evaluation and assessment. GPAs may become yesterday's news; mastery transcripts are the hot topic today. Likewise, character evaluations are becoming more widely used.
Unlike easily quantifiable test scores and GPAs, assessment of these “soft skills” is becoming more important. CEOs of top companies tell us the soft skills will be the desirable ones they will be looking for now and in the foreseeable future.
So how does the admission professional thread the needle between wanting a full picture of the applicant but not wanting to be overwhelmed by an avalanche of personal data impossible to manage? How does the prospective student make it easier to bring his or her “soft, non-cognitive skills” forward?
My friend Anne Sullivan, above, may be on to a solution.
Anne was former Vice President of (Global) Member Services at the Educational Records Bureau (ERB), known for its achievement assessments among independent schools. But her background also includes considerable marketing and technology chops. Just as important, she’s a mom with school age boys.
“As a parent helping my son apply to both day and boarding schools, we researched tools that we could use to create a well-rounded view of him, helping to show his experience, interests, and life skills. What we found was not easy to use, expensive, or did not produce the desired outcome. Lots of applicants look the same on paper, but if you get to know them, they are all unique with different strengths and talents."
As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, so this mother went to work. She envisioned enrollment managers having a tool to manage all this supplemental data from the student, and a tool that prospective students could use to organize and paint a rich and colorful picture of who they really are and what they hope to be.
Anne is now founder and CEO of a new company that debuted in April 2017, Life Stream Digital Innovations, LLC, a digital asset management company that enables individuals, families, schools, and companies to bring information to life and make it actionable. LifeStream Portfolios are an organized way for admission professionals to view writing samples, science projects and other academic work, athletic achievements and ability, community service work, talent in art, music or drama, life experiences, and much more as a supplement to an application.
Randall Bass, the vice provost for education at Georgetown University, says, “In many ways the admissions process now is a game of trying to read in between the lines of transcripts to look for certain qualities that are not actually represented by high scores and good grades.” It could strengthen the process if they are successful in finding ways to represent, in a more explicit way, the qualities we’re continually trying to infer.”
LifeStream Porfolios are free for schools to view. The applicant can simply copy/paste their Portfolio link in their online application or other electronic method preferred by the school. The easy-to-view format makes it faster and more efficient for admission professionals to locate and view the skills they are looking for, enabling a more streamlined process.
Full disclosure alert: I receive no "payola" for promoting this idea!
Make no mistake—both businesses and schools are combing Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, Instagram, You Tube accounts and other media to get an accurate picture of the person behind the application. Prospective students are media driven, some in full documentary mode! So why not give yourself a break and let your applicants help you by organizing this information for you, and letting them show who they are and what they can do?
Anne will be attending one of the biggest conferences for K-12 admission professionals, the AISAP Annual Institute in San Juan Capistrano, CA, July 9-12, 2017. If you're attending, ask her for a demo there, or visit the Lifestream Digital Innovations website and schedule one.