Admissions turnover unlikely to affect applications

by Joyce Lee | 10/21/15 8:07pm

As the admissions office prepares for a swell of applications in the run-up to the Nov. 1 early decision application deadline, college counselors and prospective members of the Class of 2020 said that they do not anticipate that the transition from former dean of admissions and financial aid Maria Laskaris’s leadership to the new interim dean Paul Sunde will affect this year’s admissions process.

Former dean Maria Laskaris left her position to become the special assistant to the provost for arts and innovation, Provost Carolyn Dever announced on Aug. 27. Laskaris started her new position on Sept. 1.

Sunde wrote in an email that the admissions office would not have a strong understanding of early admissions number until after the Nov. 1 deadline. He also wrote that the applications would be handled in the same way they have been in prior years — with a “holistic and individualized” reading of the applications.

Sunde wrote that he did not have time to comment in person or by phone.

Five members of the admissions office — Katie Madden, Kevin Mathes, Jamie Mercado ’15, Rebecca Sabky and Jim Washington and — did not return request for comment. Associate director of admissions Belinda Chiu declined to comment, citing a busy schedule.

The transition would not make much of a difference to prospective applicants, founder, director and lead educational consultant at IvySelect College Consulting Michael Goran said.

“It would matter very little at the end of the day. The students who are applying to Dartmouth through IvySelect this year aren’t aware of what’s going on or of changes in administration,” Goran said.

Prospective students might be more aware if the change had happened in terms of policy, such as the addition of supplemental essays, Goran said. Students would focus primarily on the merits of the school, rather than technical matters of who is in charge and whether that would affect their application.

“I think the answer really is not about the changes of administration,” Goran said. “I was aware that there was a transition, but it’s not entirely relevant to the process, so it’s not something I would bring up in a conversation with them either.”

Geraldine Markel, an educational psychologist and academic coach at College Admissions Advisors, said that if there were any specific concerns about the transition from the perspective of prospective students beyond the Class of 2020, it would be how new leadership in the office would also deal with standardized testing as a part of college applications.

In May 2014, The College Board announced an overhaul to the SAT, and prospective applicants for the class of 2021 and later may be affected by the switch. This year’s applicants, however, will have completed their standardized testing before March 2016, when the new SAT rolls out.

Markel also stated that the overall reaction of the leadership transition would be more dependent on the school counselor, rather than the student.

John B. Boshoven, a college counselor at College Admissions Advisors, said that most colleges would not market its staff or personnel, and therefore a transition in leadership would have little effect despite the closeness to early decision deadline.

Boshoven stressed the importance of admissions departments for prospective students, but he also said that students would not care about internal staff changes.

“The admissions office is vital for students — that’s where we get information, that’s who helps us visit and see classrooms and answers questions about the school. I couldn’t do my job without the admissions department,” Boshoven said. “However, I don’t think such a transition would be at the top of my students’ concerns.”

The students’ concerns echoed the counselors’ sentiments.

Jacob Miller, an early decision applicant and prospective member of the class of 2020 from Merrick, New York, said that he had not been informed of any change in the office but had been aware of the transition due to the admissions website.

“[Despite the change], there was no effect on the application process in any way. They make it so easy,” Miller said. “I don’t have many concerns, and I believe the office will handle my application as well as they can.”

Kate Norton, also an early decision applicant from Syracuse, New York, said she had no idea of the change in the office. Once aware of the change, however, she said she also said she was not concerned.

“I know that it’s going to be handled well, and I expect that the office will try their best to read and understand each application to the best of their abilities,” Norton said. “With Dartmouth’s reputation, I think that with or without the transition, my application is in safe hands.”