In a time when ambiguity is at the forefront of college admissions, ASU's increasingly transparent expectations for incoming freshmen are revolutionary. If the nation's higher education institutions want to rebuild trust in their admissions processes, ASU's recent initiative should be its blueprint.
ASU sent early acceptance letters to over 1,450 Phoenix Union High School District students last year – before they even opened the ASU application portal. The cohort had received letters since ninth grade, informing them they either met ASU's admissibility requirements or were close to meeting them.
ASU also notified sophomores and juniors of how many required courses they had already completed and how many more they needed to be admissible.
Receiving that letter as a high school student gave Samantha Muñoz, a freshman studying nursing, a sense of validation after years of hard work.
"It was super nice to feel recognized, being a low-income student," she said. "It was cool to see that everybody (at school) was getting the same opportunity."
Muñoz said ASU's campaign "plays a big role" in helping Phoenix Union High School District students consider college as a viable option.
"In the community where I come from, not many of our parents have attended college, so it's very shocking to receive this recognition," Muñoz said. "But it is definitely helpful to understand that you are being recognized and it is possible to go to college no matter your income."
This year, the University has expanded its partnership to include 11 more districts, with the ultimate goal of reaching all Arizona schools.
"Being able to reach every qualified student in Arizona would be phenomenal," said Matthew López, executive director of Admission Services at ASU. "The whole hope is to get more students excited about going to college."
The multiyear campaign can potentially expand to younger students, setting them up for postsecondary success earlier on.
"The hope is that we can start with eighth graders and give them insight into what it takes to be admissible, give them the tools and resources to understand what financial aid assistance would be available to them," López said. "So then when it comes to their senior year, all of their effort manifests into saying 'you know what? I'm going to university.'"
ASU's partnership with school districts allows the University to actually encourage high school students to apply, even if college wasn't previously on their radar.
This is in stark contrast to the far from straightforward practices of most universities. Even colleges that accept a majority of its applicants, such as UA, do not engage with prospective students to such an extent.
By clarifying the admissions process for students, ASU breaks away from this closed-off mold of American higher education, revealing a new, more inclusive role universities can take on in its communities.
Sending out personalized letters to students explaining its progress pulls back the curtain from a needlessly shrouded admissions process, giving aspiring ASU students a clear and pragmatic way to meet enrollment requirements.
ASU's campaign stands out by showing how universities can make admissions work for students instead of against them, demonstrating a commitment to inclusive and student-centric practices. It's time for universities across the country to do the same.
Clarification: The headline of this column was updated on Jan. 31, 2023, at 7:40 p.m. to better reflect its contents about ASU's recruitment and support for high school students in Arizona.
Edited by Kate Duffy, Reagan Priest, Luke Chatham and Piper Hansen.
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