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Caltech admissions study gives 27 improvements in policy

Second of two parts.

PASADENA, Calif. -- The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) faculty Ad Hoc Committee on Admissions Policies and Procedures made 27 recommendations to improve the school's ability to attract new students.

The committee's report identified five areas for improvement: Caltech's visibility for student recruitment; the school's image; applicant selection; the yield of admitted students choosing Caltech; and organization of the admissions process.


Recruitment visibility


The committee recommended that Caltech make itself more visible to high school students. This would include:

O+ Development of a vigorous program of staff visits in the fall to college nights, science fairs, guidance counselors and advanced placement science teachers.

O+ Creating a fall "road show" for a night in a hotel banquet hall in major cities to meet parents, students and teachers in the area.

O+ Targeting of major science high schools around the country.

O+ Giving the director of admissions administrative responsibility for recruitment, and the secondary schools committee oversight jurisdiction in that area.

O+ Extension and improvement of interactions with local high schools, perhaps expanding the Summer School Program to aid recruitment.

O+ Targeting of students with specific scientific interests and mailing them special brochures, especially in Caltech's strong but underpopulated majors, such as biology, chemistry and geology.

O+ Considering offering prospective freshmen prize fellowships and advertising them in major science magazines.

Image improvement

The committee recommended that Caltech improve its image and tap into "cultural and humanistic" resources at other area schools. Steps include:

O+ Creation of an Ad Hoc Curriculum Committee to explore ways to reduce student pressure and the curriculum's inflexibility.

O+ Preparation of a brochure on humanities and social sciences offerings and its distinguished faculty to offset Caltech's "weak" image in that area.

O+ Emphasis in the literature of Caltech's small size, intimacy, fellowship, flexibility and honor system.

O+ Consideration of a shuttle bus service "to schools with cultural and humanistic offerings that Caltech cannot provide itself."

O+ Expansion of the 3/2 engineering/humanities double degree program with other schools, and exploration of the possibility of extending the program to scientific areas.

Selection improvement

The committee recommended revisions in the admissions process, including:

O+ Development of Faculty Admissions Committee (FAC) criteria for admissions which it would revise annually.

O+ More than one reader per application.

O+ Institution of a personal rating for non-academic interests, and the introduction of greater diversity among the entering freshmen, without sacrificing academic excellence.

O+ Making a special effort to recruit in underpopulated majors, and among women and minorities.

O+ Establishment of a committee on undergraduate performance responsible for assessing student performance and writing a report to aid the FAC in the formation of its guidelines.

O+ Provision in the Student Affairs Office for a statistician charged with collecting data on students and issuing statistical reports.

Yield enhancement

To increase the number of accepted students who choose to enter Caltech, the committee advised:

O+ Consideration of a large fund-raising campaign for non-need fellowships, reduced tuition or reduced self-help levels.

O+ Increased sensitivity to the effects of large tuition increases on prospective students.

O+ Development of a systematic program for recruiting applicants after Caltech accepts them.


The committee also suggested some changes to the admissions organization:

O+ Creation of a dean of admissions and financial aid to oversee the whole process.

O+ Creation of a dean's advisory committee comprised of the chairmen of the relevant faculty committees and anyone else appropriate.

O+ Admissions staff autonomy in recruitment, free of faculty interference, and holding the staff responsible for its success or failure.

O+ One term teaching credit for faculty on the admissions committee, with at least one member from each division.

O+ Confidential FAC recommendations to the Caltech administration.

O+ Continuation of the ad hoc admissions procedures committee through the transition period to review the progress.