The University of Nevada, Reno is entering a new era. With a 10-year master plan that calls for increases and renovations of laboratory, classroom and academic space, along with the Pennington Student Achievement Center set to open in the next year and a half, it is clear that administrators are pushing toward becoming a more academically prestigious institution. There are many different aspects that this will encompass, including becoming a Carnegie recognized ‘high-research’ university and hiring of more tenure-track faculty. As the University becomes more prestigious, its admissions process should do the same.
Currently, some of the university’s statistics reflect its need for improvement. According to the US News and World Report (which has given the university its tier-one status), the university’s four-year graduation rate is a lofty 17 percent, with a 22:1 faculty to student ratio. Both of these issues are being addressed. The tuition increase that will take place in the next few years will lead to an increase in faculty members, and the Nevada System of Higher Education has adopted the somewhat controversial 15 to Finish policy, which, regardless of the concerns raised by many, will surely lead to an increase in four-year graduation.
Another statistics that should be looked at, however, is the university’s percentage of applicants admitted. A lower percentage can add to any university’s desirability and prestige. Currently, Nevada’s admittance rate hangs around 84.3 percent. San Diego State University, a Mountain West conference cohort, has 37 percent of its applicants admitted, although this can at least partially be attributed to the large amount of students who have the desire to live in the San Diego area. However, flagship universities such as Colorado State and Oregon State have lower percentages, which land in the mid to high-70s range.
With the E.L. Wiegand Fitness Center set to be constructed soon, along with the aforementioned Pennington Student Achievement Center and Gateway District in the making, more and more high school and transfer students will consider the University of Nevada for their degree. It is clear that the city of Reno, and the University of Nevada, are taking strides to become more of a college town. These improvements to campus and the community will lead to a larger cohort of students applying to the university. Selectivity of students will need to be considered as the university moves forward.
What’s particularly interesting, however, is that there is a contrast between wanting to grow the university student body and, at the same time, become more selective of the students it decides to admit (it is proposed that the University will reach 22,000 students by the year 2020). One of the simplest ways that the university can maintain selectivity as the student body grows is to establish a more stringent application process.
Currently, the university requires a minimum 3.0 high school GPA for admittance. This requirement makes sense in comparison with Nevada’s benchmark universities, as the minimum requirement is usually around a 3.0. One simple addition that could be made to the application process right off the bat is the requirement of an essay in the prospective student’s application.
Such an addition to the university application process could have a few different positive impacts. Essays or personal statements provide a window into who the prospective student is. This isn’t to say that admissions committees should judge admittance based on morality, but rather on what the student could add to the campus community.
The essay would serve the purpose to confirm what should already be shown through the candidate’s other qualifications (GPA, test scores, etc.). It would also add the candidate’s desire to attend the institution and outline past involvement in other activities, which could make the candidate an even more beneficial addition to the University of Nevada and even promote more on-campus diversity.
You would have to look few and far in between to find current Nevada students who would not have applied due to the requirement of having to write an essay for admittance. Most students have such pride in the university that an essay would not have made a difference, and as the university and Reno become more and more attractive to prospective students, they will be able to articulate specific reasons as to why they want to attend the university. Based upon the essays that are received, admittance committees will also have an easier time choosing between students that have similar qualifications. There don’t seem to be many detrimental effects from this potential addition.
Students and administrators are pushing for a higher standard across the board. As a result, we need to also ask that our prospective students hold themselves to a higher standard and take our application process more seriously–which they only will if the minimum requirements are increased. If this happens, students will be even more proud to receive their admittance letter and become even more excited to attend our beloved university.
Caden Fabbi studies political science. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.