With few exceptions, the college-admission review process varies little from institution to institution — grades, course selection, essays, recommendations, co-curricular activities and test scores are used to determine who gets in and the amount and type of financial aid offered, are major factors in determining which students enroll at a given institution.
At Davidson College, in North Carolina, a supportive academic community, we take a collaborative approach to recruiting and admission, and meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need through a need-blind admission process. We work thoughtfully to foster new partnerships in this process to assemble classes of students who will enrich our campus community.
With our newest partner, the Posse Foundation, we have accomplished in one admission cycle what many colleges strive to do over decades — attract inquisitive, high-achieving students with diverse life experiences and wide-ranging backgrounds who have the tenacity and potential to become campus and civic leaders.
Since 1989, the Posse Foundation has worked with some of the nation’s most selective institutions to identify, recruit and place more than 5,000 students, all of whom possess extraordinary academic and leadership talent but might have historically been overlooked by traditional college selection processes, in these schools.
Together, Posse Scholarship applicants selected by a particular college or university connect themselves, under the foundation’s guidance, into a group of mutually supportive peers — a posse. Individually, Posse Scholars receive four-year, full-tuition scholarships from the foundation’s partner institutions.
This month, we joined leaders from the Posse Foundation in Miami to select and welcome Davidson’s first cohort of Posse Scholars. Through a collaborative and dynamic assessment process, we selected 10 students out of 1,300 applicants from the greater Miami-Dade area to take part in the organization’s STEM Program, which recruits, trains and supports Posse Scholars interested in majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The entire experience was exhilarating, even to two well seasoned in admission work.
As a driver of our economy and increased area of investment within higher education, the lack of diversity within STEM disciplines and that workforce should give us pause.
Currently, the STEM fields are not reflective of the American populace. Even as the overall college-bound student population becomes increasingly diverse, women, African Americans and Latinos are vastly underrepresented in undergraduate STEM majors.
Davidson is honored to be a part of the Posse Foundation’s effort to bring bright, passionate students to these fields. If our visit were judged on this criterion alone, we have already succeeded.
Many of Davidson’s first class of Posse Scholars have sought demanding academic course work and engaged in research opportunities. We are excited to see what they will accomplish in the next four years. While a more traditional admission process may have proved too rigid for many Posse Foundation Scholars, who graduate from college at a rate of more than 90 percent, we are humbled by these students’ hunger for learning, ambition and desire to grow. This insight is perhaps the most thrilling to come out of our partnership thus far.
Already, the thoughtful, intentional Posse approach has inspired us to think more creatively about our own admission process, and about how we might use innovative methods to identify, recruit and enroll students who will thrive at Davidson. Fit matters, and Posse — and this cohort of amazing Miami students — are a great fit for Davidson.
Just as Posse Scholars draw on the communal strength of their cohort to see them through the challenges of their demanding college careers, the Davidson College community is built on trust and mutual support. Our partnership with Posse underscores Davidson’s mission — to assist students in developing humane instincts and disciplined and creative minds for lives of leadership and service. And we are confident that Davidson will be a better place because of these academically excellent, insightful and spirited young students from Miami who truly exemplify the school’s enduring commitment to educational excellence and access.
Christopher J. Gruber is Davidson College’s vice president and dean of admission and financial aid. Magdalena Maiz-Pena is the college’s William H. Williamson Professor of Hispanic Studies.