College Application Process
Complexity Enhances Quality
After trudging through the application process for schools across the country, the high school student with collegiate aspirations who turns to the UB application breathes a sigh of relief. The four-page application runs through the litany of basic information: name, address, Social Security number, name of high school, test scores, etc. The questions posed to those hoping to spend the next four years rooting for the Bulls do little to give insight into the person applying. They merely asked for cold, impersonal numbers.
UB could take a lesson from our neighbor to the west. On Wednesday, the University of California regents approved an overhaul to the undergraduate admissions standards for their eight undergraduate campuses. Under the new guidelines, the intangible qualities of every student are eligible for consideration when applying to a UC school. Any number of factors will be considered: athletic talent, artistic ability, dedicated community service, disadvantaged background. Under the soon-to-be scrapped rules, any "nonacademic" factor would be taken into account for no more than half the incoming class of students. The remaining students would be judged on their grades alone.
Given the socio-economic diversity of large states like California and New York, plus their propensity for attracting students from all across the country and internationally, accommodation needs to be made for diversity. And given a perfect system, grades are the best objective standard by which to judge applicants. That same diversity, however, makes applying grades across the board impossible because of the wide disparity between school systems intra-state, inter-state and internationally.
By allowing non-academic achievements to be a factor in considering all students, the disparity between school systems is reduced. Community involvement in Los Angeles is equal to involvement in San Francisco or Albany or Buffalo. The diligence required to succeed as a student athlete or musician translates well when applying organizational skills to class work.
UC's new policy is not expected to change the criteria for admission. Rather, it would merely change which students will attend the more-selective of California's public university system. UB should seriously consider following the Golden State's new model of structuring their universities' admission policies.
UB's plug-in model of application - name, rank, serial number - offers no opportunity for exploring the a candidate's character. Grades alone are not an adequate assessment of an applicant. The university experience is fruitful when one's fellow students are balanced and well-rounded. A student isolated within his or her field of study, inadequately versed in other non-academic matters or lacking social skills does not add anything significant to UB except a number and tuition dollars. Even students with extremely high test scores and grade point averages should be subject to a critical review.
As is far too apparent, UB students are a disaffected, cynical lot. If the university chose students who come from a background of participation and involvement, then perhaps student apathy would evaporate. Increased student participation increases the quality of student life. It is not a magic formula, but logic holds involved students feel more efficacy toward their institutions.
Selectivity costs money. The current application fee is $30. If that fee needs to be raised in order to pay for in-depth examination of applicants, then it should be raised. Any increased cost would be nominal compared to the benefit of a higher caliber of student at UB. A high quality of student life at UB is one of the best investments the university can make.