Encouraging Resilience During the Admissions Process

We have all had our resilience tested during the past couple of years, but this quality is essential for incoming college students. As admissions professionals, we can model resilience and encourage prospects while recruiting and enrolling students who could be terrific additions to our college communities.

Evidence of resilience in applications can help us better predict student success in college. But we can also give prospective students extra support to get their applications in during this challenging time. In addition, focusing on resilience during the application process reinforces the ability to bounce back from difficulties during schooling.

Grit, Pluck, Perseverance, Tenacity

What is resilience? Simply put, it is the ability to recover from an adverse event or circumstance. It is bouncing back from a loss, the grit that gets one through a trying time and out the other side. Resilience can be recovering from tragedy or consistently working towards a goal even when conditions are less than ideal.

Resilience for College Students

For students, resilience can be:

  • working hard on a subject that is difficult for them
  • recovering from an illness and catching up on schoolwork
  • facing a failing grade but striving harder on the next try
  • using the time stuck in remote schooling to take up a cause or useful hobby

High school and college students have been living with the uncertainty of the pandemic, remote and less effective classes, canceled events and activities, possible illnesses in their families, and financial hardships. Across the country, students are receiving failing grades at much higher rates than before, even though school districts and teachers relaxed their grading rules during the health emergency. Not only did fewer students successfully graduate, but even those who did will have less academic preparation for the rigors of college coursework.

Helping Prospective Students Cultivate Resilience

Every college student will have hurdles, whether small or large, to jump over. Because of pandemic-related shortcomings in the education system, colleges must support students with education deficits. For students from low-income families, there may have been additional burdens like poor internet for remote schools, the need to work or care for younger siblings rather than study, and the disparate impacts that Covid-19 had on low-income communities.

Colleges can encourage clear-eyed self-assessment, with students acknowledging their weaknesses and finding ways to fill those gaps. Admissions departments can encourage students who are having trouble getting their applications in with support of many types. For example, if an applicant has a low score or sub-par grades, offer alternative ways to demonstrate that they have skills that will help them succeed in college.

First-generation college applicants may have no one in their family who can tell them, “You can do this.” Admission departments should consider innovations like student application coaches or mentors to provide positive feedback that can give applicants the courage to follow through. Admissions staff can do more reach-outs to applicants to identify hurdles and help problem-solve to get students through tough spots. Locating roadblocks and helping to clear the path will teach and model tools that a student can later apply in college.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The perspective we take on life’s challenges can be a powerful tool in overcoming them. Resilience can lie in the stories that people tell about challenging events, changing the focus from disaster to how one survived or what one learned. It is the triumph over adversity, the ability to live another day after something difficult. This is a practice of encouraging oneself, giving a pat on the back for making it through something tough. Learning from failures or challenges is a powerful predictor of success; seeing what went wrong allows people to consider how to do it differently or better the next time. Resilience can mean coming out stronger on the other side.

Considering Resilience in Admissions

There is no exact measure of resilience in the application process, but there are places where admissions staff can pick up clues to a student’s capacity for resilience. College essays often have prompts that will encourage students to share something they have overcome in their lives. Recommendation letters can point to grit and determination. An interview process can be an opportunity to ask about how a student has persisted in the face of adversity or recovered from a bad experience. While test scores are a static measure of knowledge, giving applicants a chance to reflect on what they learned from this assessment can provide insight into a student’s aptitude for honest self-reflection.

It’s All About Communication

As everyone in marketing knows, it’s all about communicating with prospects, which in this case are your prospective students. With more emphasis on bringing underserved students into the college experience, we will all need to ask the right questions to find out what students need to help them succeed. And with many pandemic challenges hindering educational progress, strengthening resilience skills throughout the admissions process can only give students a stronger footing to face the challenges of college and life.

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