For a high school senior, one of the most agonizing experiences is waiting to hear back after submitting your college applications. Whether you applied early decision or regular decision, Tom Petty said it best: the waiting is the hardest part.
One of the toughest things about that wait is not knowing what’s going on. What happens to your essays, your transcripts, your recommendations? Is it all fed into a giant machine that spits out a spreadsheet listing the entering class? Is the material reviewed in a giant, solemn room by people wearing long robes and reading by candlelight at oaken tables? There’s a lot of mystery surrounding the admissions process, and the Tufts Office of Undergraduate Admissions is working to reverse that.
During their committee sessions last week, when they reviewed early decision applications, members of the admissions staff embarked on a social media experiment and live-blogged and live-tweeted the committe’s goings-on to the world. Obviously, they can’t divulge too many specifics about applicants or their materials, but they can give a good sense of the thoughtfulness and the process with which they approach their job.
And yes, those specifics may involve massive amounts of sweets, “Little Mermaid” singalongs, how members of the committee sound and look when reading aloud or silently and Long Island geography lessons. But it also involves real, intimate glimpses at how excited these folks get by the process of creating the class of 2014, and how seriously they take the decisions they are making.
From the sounds of the comments, people appreciated the openness. “I love how open you guys are about your approach and reading about some of the admissions officers makes me realize that you are real people who like to laugh,” said one commenter. And that’s what Tufts is all about, of course: real people who like to laugh. And do amazing things, to boot.
Tufts isn’t the first to be creative during the admissions process. The University of Delaware created a video called “Reading Season: The Musical” that provides a fun behind-the-scenes look at the admissions process — in song. Last spring, Brad J. Ward blogged about how Davidson College was plotting tweet-sized excerpts from applications on a Google Map to create a map of the prospective class. All of these features use technology to make a critical university function more accessible and understandable to those who are affected by it, which should always be the goal of technology in higher education.
It’s great to see how Tufts and other schools are taking some of the annual rituals of the college experience and exploring how to make them new again or simply more open. With more rounds of decisions to come at Tufts and colleges around the country, I can’t wait to see what comes up next (and if they’ll ever share those cookie recipes…).