The Pomona College Student-Faculty Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid solicited anonymous student input on desirable qualities in incoming students through an online survey March 22 to April 6.
“This was the first time we had the opportunity to solicit student feedback on a large scale,” said Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Seth Allen, a committee member.
Approximately 150 students responded to the anonymous survey, and about 60 faculty members responded to a separate survey on the same topic, Allen said.
In November, there was a faculty forum at which departments and individual faculty members discussed qualities they liked in students and what they wanted to see increased.
“It will be fascinating to see the degree to which the image of an ideal student and an ideal class from the point of view of the faculty and the point of view of the students map onto each other,” said English professor Arden Reed, the committee chair.
The survey asked students to identify qualities they found appealing in the current student body and what qualities they felt were lacking.
“I think there’s too little outside-the-box thinking,” said Ben Bleiberg PO ’15, who responded to the survey. “There’s a lot of people who think they are thinking outside the box, but they’re actually getting locked into a seriously rigid ideological position.“
“We’re good at doing our own individual thing and what is important to ourselves,” said Joseph Reynolds PO ’15, the incoming ASPC Vice President of Campus Activities. “But we also need students who are more willing to come together as a community.”
“I liked that the class had such a high level of general intelligence, but we’re not too pretentious,” Bleiberg said.
Allen said that personal characteristics are just part of what determines an applicant’s eligibility.
“First and foremost, we want to make sure that we feel comfortable that any student we admit to Pomona can be academically successful here,” Allen said.
The college’s selectivity may already assure that applicants are academically qualified, Allen said.
“The candidates already have the most sterling qualifications of any liberal arts college or, I daresay, any institution in the U.S.,” he said.
Reed said that much of the discussion on the committee revolved around assessing “intangible” traits, as opposed to concrete information such as test scores.
“How do you revise the application form to ask questions that will elicit from the applicant an image of his or her character that will be legible to the admissions staff?” Reed said.
Both Allen and Reed said such intangible information is important for distinguishing students from other applicants who may be just as academically qualified.
“[Intangibles] tend to be the factors that propel one student into the admit status and others into a waitlist,” Allen said.
“One of the discussions we’ve been having is whether we want a class of well-rounded students or a well-rounded class of students with rough edges,” Reed said. “For instance, we’ve talked about people who have overcome particular adversities and still done well in school. That seems, to me, a good predictor of someone who will have a strong passion for learning.”
Though the people who responded to the survey will remain anonymous, the results may be relayed in some form to the community in the fall, Allen said.
Allen said he does not predict a “laser sharp pattern” in student input, but predicts that general trends will be helpful.
“We’re really eliciting feedback to figure out ways that we might tweak our admission process to really help us discover students who are going to be a best fit for Pomona but also students who otherwise might not show up on our radar screen,” he said.
The committee continues to invite input.
“It’s not too late for students to still fill out the questionnaire or simply send an e-mail to Seth Allen,” Reed said.