Admissions facing numbers game

It’s looking to be a busy semester for Rick Clark, Tech’s new director of Admissions. Even though he just stepped into the position three months ago, Clark is no stranger to the admissions process. He has been here for five years now, first as assistant and then associate director of Admissions under former director of Admissions Ingrid Hayes.

When Hayes left last April to become associate vice president at Spelman College, Clark became the interim director. For months, the Office of Admissions conducted a nationwide search for a new director, culminating in the invitation of three finalists to campus during the fall semester for extensive rounds of interviews. A wide array of campus interests, including the academic departments, the Athletic Association, the Alumni Association and student representatives, made up the interview panels.

“The candidates were all very strong,” said Adam Weiss, a fourth-year AE major and one of the student representatives. “They came from diverse backgrounds, and we felt that each could bring something different perspective-wise to Tech.”

However, the search was then suspended because the panels were unable to find a candidate that fit their expectations. In November, Clark was announced as the new full-time director of Admissions. In this role, he faces an unprecedented number of applicants, deep budget cuts and the uncertainty of actual enrollment numbers. The deadline for freshman admission has just passed, and this year over 11,800 applications, a considerable increase from last year, were received.

While beginning to evaluate this year’s applications, Clark said that some aspects of Tech’s admissions process will be changed to attract a more talented students base.

“We’re trying to enhance the geographic diversity within our freshman class,” Clark said. “To maximize this, we’re looking at applicants holistically, not just test scores and GPA but the whole package.”

On the other hand, he acknowledges that the current economic recession might cause some admitted out-of-state students to forgo their acceptances to Tech because they cannot afford the tuition. But the situation could work both ways, with Georgia students admitted to schools in other states choosing to come to Tech instead because tuition is cheaper.

This could be the reason behind this year’s early admission statistics. About 700 more students were accepted early compared to last year. Also, while around 60 deposits were made by this time last year, this year the number of deposits has increased fivefold to 300.

“Of course, some students may be making deposits at multiple schools to hold their places until they get all of their options laid out, which is unethical,” Clark said. “But as of now, we’re still expecting our usual summer freshman class of 250 and fall freshman class of 2400.”

Clark is also looking to change some of the ways that Tech markets itself to high school students. Traditionally, Tech has used an expensive process in which thousands of brochures are printed and sent to schools and individual students. With the budget cuts, however, the Office of Admissions is looking to focus more on online marketing, especially through such popular social networking sites as Facebook.

From this year on, all admissions decisions will be posted to a web portal, eliminating the hassle for some students who receive their decisions late in the mail. In addition, Clark said that he is looking to get academic departments actively involved in the admissions process by adding an admissions counselor for each of the six colleges.

“After a student is admitted, their college of interest can step in and help them become more familiar with it and tell them why it’s a great place to be, why they should come,” Clark said. “For right now, we’re looking forward to reading these applications and looking forward to a great incoming class.”