The GW Office of Undergraduate Admissions was criticized in October over new information that the University had placed hundreds of undergraduate applicants on the waitlist each year due to personal financial constraints, which clashed with the University’s self-description that it was “need blind.”
The controversy has spread beyond the borders of Foggy Bottom. A On the message-board, College Confidential, a NationalPublic Radio article regarding the university’s admissions practices has generated significant attention from prospective students and parents. WRGW reached out to some prospective students and parents to gauge their reaction through the college message board College Confidential. The NPR article generated mixed reactions ranging from outrage to jaded indifference.
“I saw that article,” wrote one responder. “[It is] So wrong to claim to be need blind and then not be. [This] Sets students up who otherwise may not have even applied.”
Another person noted that such practices are not uncommon at other universities. “The admissions officers at some other schools have done the same and I’ve jumped on a few of them for this.”
However, some interpreted the situation differently.
“There’s not a school in the country that is ‘need-blind’,” said one responder. “The only question is how they make use of the information.”
Karen Felton, the Director of Undergraduate Admissions, through a University spokesman, said Admissions is working to improve communication with prospective students and their families about how financial circumstances impact admissions decisions.
“It is our goal to make sure that all of our admissions practices and policies, including how we factor need into the final admissions decisions, are communicated clearly to prospective students and parents,” Felton said.
To many parents, the article came as no surprise in today’s college market. One responder noted that, “Even the need blind colleges manage to accept the same (small) number of needy kids year after year after year… Most schools will accept some needy students and there’s no way to predict if you will be one of them. They just have to like you enough.”
When asked about the impact the story had on a family’s decision to apply to GW, a parent bluntly said, “Lying about being need-blind is just stupid, but did not impact much our opinion of the college.”
One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, provided WRGW with a detailed account of her son’s confusing admissions experience with GW.
“He applied RD to GW for the 2008 year. On that fateful day when decisions were posted online, he found that he was accepted. Five days later, a skinny envelope came from GW…The letter said he was waitlisted. I emailed him at school, suggesting he see his counselor about this. Before he met with his counselor, he checked his online status which still said he was accepted. It took his counselor days to get a firm answer on what his admissions status was since his GW [admissions representative] was not in the office. His counselor was eventually able to get the [admissions representative’s] cell number to find out that he was in fact accepted. It still took weeks after that, and many frustrating phone calls by both me and his counselor, to actually get his admissions packet.”
In light of GW’s revelation, the woman suspects that her son was originally waitlisted but then later was admitted to take the spot of someone who wasn’t admitted due to their financial need. The woman says her son did not apply for financial aid.
“When I heard last month about GW being need-aware, my son’s experience made more sense than just getting caught up in an administrative snafu,” she said.
Felton, through a University Spokesman, explained what has not changed about the Admissions process following the University’s revelation.
“The admissions practices at GW have not changed with regard to how financial aid requests are factored in,” Felton said.
Numerous attempts to contact Laurie Koehler, Senior Associate Provost of Enrollment Management, who is in charge of Admissions and originally clarified Admissions’ policy, went unanswered.
Jackson Richman contributed to this report.