February is Black History Month and I always like to take this time to reflect on the contributions of and challenges faced by Black students in higher education.
The admissions process has evolved so much since I began as an entry level admissions officer back in the late 1990s. Yet Black students still comprise one of the smallest demographic groups in a college's applicant pool and student body. It is something that I have always taken seriously at every stage of my career. In fact, most of the research I did in graduate school related to underrepresented minorities in the admissions process. But no matter what was done to recruit, admit, and enroll Black students in the past, it simply didn't move the dial forward as much as I hoped.
There are two major factors colleges are facing between previous years and this year which could be impacting students of color. First, traditional "recruiting" came to a halt during the pandemic. That meant that admissions officers could not travel, visit high schools, and meet face-to-face with students this year. One might think this would actually inhibit students from applying. The opposite happened because of the second factor this year: most colleges adopted a test-optional policy. And it was like a meteor shower of encouragement for students to apply to colleges they never thought they could.