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Letters to Community

Task Force on Improving Graduate Admissions Processes
January 26, 2011

The Dean for Graduate Education has assembled a Task Force on Improving Graduate Admissions Processes with the motivation, charge, timeline and membership detailed below.

Motivation
The graduate admissions process is central to maintaining the vitality and quality of our education and research enterprise. During the last admissions cycle, MIT had the highest number of graduate applicants (22,139) and the most competitive admission rate (15%) in its history. The graduate admissions process at MIT is decentralized, implemented by individual graduate programs and highly heterogeneous across MIT with electronic, paper-based, and hybrid systems currently in use.

Discussions with graduate administrators, graduate officers and Department Heads during the Fall 2010 semester have raised systems-based issues in numerous departments with graduate admissions that affect students, faculty and staff. These include:

  • A significant administrative burden due to manual data entry, reporting, double-checking, formatting, scanning, file conversion and consolidation, maintaining shadow systems and reporting
  • Unintuitive, awkward and slow interfaces
  • Poor applicant experience with various software platforms
  • No capability for real-time data reporting
  • Inconsistent data capture and reporting between programs
  • Ineffecient use of time and financial resources due to the use of paper-based and hybrid paper-electronic systems (for example, during faculty evaluation of applications)
  • Difficulty in maintaining resources for training and documentation to support admissions processes.

Graduate administrators, admissions staff and faculty do an outstanding job with the systems available to them, but it has become clear that there is an urgent need and broad support for an improved infrastructure to support their work.

The 2007 Student Systems Vision Project: Graduate Admissions Workshop Report and the 2009 Institute-wide Planning Task Force both recommended that the Dean for Graduate Education pursue a centralized online paperless graduate admissions system for MIT. When considering the transition to a centralized admissions system, it is essential to consider the graduate admissions process as a whole , including our current procedures as well as potential future needs and innovations.

Charge

The charge of the Task Force on Improving Graduate Admissions Processes will be:

  • To comprehensively analyze the capabilities and limitations of current graduate admissions systems utilized across the Institute and by our peers; to assess baseline functionalities required by all graduate programs; and to propose a plan (including organization and implementation) for the development of a centralized online paperless admissions system. To this end, the Task Force will consider the appropriate amount of graduate program customization needs; security; installation; training; maintenance; enhancements for future innovations in the evaluation process (see below); interfacing with other student information and financial aid systems; cost; value-added; long-term sustainability; and implications.
  • To catalog current graduate admissions processes and develop recommendations for innovation in the graduate admissions evaluation process. Examples may include: linking admissions evaluations to graduate student academic performance metrics (both in-class and research) and job placement data; new proactive recruitment practices, in particular with respect to enhancing diversity; the use and potential benefits of new admissions tools for assessing transferable skills (e.g. communication, resilience, ethics and integrity); video content; portfolio digitization; and interviewing formats.
  • To explore synergies with the centralized undergraduate admissions system, and processes from recruiting, to selection, to yield.


Reporting timeline

The Task Force will conduct its work during the Spring 2011 semester is expected to report periodically to the Dean for Graduate Education with a final written report and recommendation anticipated by May 1, 2011, so that the implementation phase can begin immediately after reporting is complete. We encourage graduate programs who are considering developing new graduate admissions systems to wait until the Task Force completes its work.

Membership

Faculty

JoAnn Carmin (Urban Studies and Planning)
Julie Greenberg (Graduate Chair/Admissions Officer, Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology)
Nicolas Hadjiconstantinou (Former Graduate Admissions Officer, Mechanical Engineering, Chair)
Terry Orlando (Former Graduate Chair/Admissions Officer, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)
David Pesetsky (Linguistics)
Bjorn Poonen (Graduate co-Chair, Mathematics)
Ray Reagans (Sloan School of Management)

Graduate Administrators

Denise Heintze (Brain and Cognitive Sciences)
Angelita Mireles (Materials Science and Engineering)

Graduate Student Representative

Graham Willis (Urban Studies and Planning)

Admissions

Stu Schmill (MIT Dean of Admissions, Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education)

Information Services & Technology (IS&T)

Eamon Kearns (Associate Director, Education Systems, IS&T)