The Growing Role of Artificial Intelligence in College Admissions

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College professors aren’t the only ones exploring ways AI can help them serve students more efficiently. According to a recent survey by Intelligent, 50% of admissions offices are using AI to streamline some of their screening processes, a number that is only expected to grow as the technology for algorithms and machine learning improves.

One common use for AI is automating an applicant’s preliminary screening using the data from documents like transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. This gives AI the information to create a base academic profile for each applicant that admissions officers have previously done by processing individual application materials and manually entering data. Other applications include reviewing personal essays and recommendation letters and even conducting interviews.

For schools that use a formula or rubric to initially determine which applicants might be successful candidates, AI can reduce significant strain on resources by sifting through large data sets. Particularly for those with smaller admissions offices, this frees up admissions officers to focus on the other, necessarily nuanced aspects of the application process, like awarding scholarships and financial aid packages.

“If you can have an AI model run through and then a human just sort of spot checks it, and it can go ahead and make those decisions, that’s just going to let your team focus on what’s viable or important,” Rick Clark, assistant vice provost and executive director of undergraduate admission at Georgia Institute of Technology, told USA Today.

While AI tools can effectively increase the efficiency of admissions officers for routine tasks like reviewing materials and communicating with applicants, for example, AI isn’t making the call on who is accepted to most institutions.

Highly selective schools with more intricate evaluation processes are even more likely to maintain the human element in admissions decision-making, even as AI becomes more prevalent. Kenyon College, a small private school with a 29% acceptance rate, uses a holistic application review process. Ryan Motevalli-Oliner, associate dean for enrollment operations at Kenyon, doesn’t see that changing. “Synthesizing information with AI, I can see that happening, but I don’t think you’ll ever take away from the human element,” he said.