The Education Abroad and Domestic Programs office changed the Emerson Los Angeles application and selection processes for students with financial challenges, according to college officials.
Director David Griffin wrote in an email sent to students on Oct. 21 that the college increased the amount of essay prompts in the application and introduced a selection committee to consider applicants. This caused a two-month delay in the application release.
Griffin’s email said the software company Simplicity encountered unforeseen technical problems with their software, Horizons, when they made the application changes in August.
In previous years, the ELA application was open from Sept. 1 to Nov. 1, but due to the delay, students can apply from Oct. 21 to Dec. 9. This cut the application window from 62 days to 50.
Griffin said the applications would take longer to process because the new selection committee must evaluate them. Despite this, he said he hopes to tell students the results before the spring 2019 semester.
Previously, one person from the office sifted through the ELA applications and accepted students on a first-come, first-serve basis, meaning a student who sent their application earlier had a better chance of acceptance.
ELA Academic Director Mikhail Gershovich said they haven’t decided the eight members for the new selection committee, but it will consist of officials from both Boston and LA campuses.
Gershovich said the college wanted to make the application process more fair to students who may need more time to consider their financial situations.
“Our goal is to create a reasonable, fair, and ultimately transparent process, and one that’s pedagogically sound,” he said.
Emerson requires ELA students to live on campus unless their family lives in the area. Tuition for classes on the LA campus mirrors the price of the Boston campus. However, students must secure an internship off-campus and attain transportation, in addition to the expense of moving themselves and their belongings to LA.
According to the application page, students pay a $300 program fee upon acceptance.
If a student comes from a lower socioeconomic status, Griffin said, they may need more time to assess these expenses. A first-come, first-serve selection process may lead to more accepted students from upper-class backgrounds, he said.
Junior visual and media arts major Brian Sweeney said he is applying to ELA for the fall 2019 semester. He said he approves of the adjustments to the application.
“The changes to the application only sound to me like a good thing,” he said. “Acceptance should be based on merit, even if that means I don’t go. It just makes sense.”
Griffin said the sheer volume of applicants also inspired the changes. In 2017, he said over 500 students applied for both the fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters. The LA campus capacity sits at 200 students per semester.
“Now that we have a larger number of students applying, it was clear that we needed to have a more robust application process that wasn’t dependent on just one person,” Griffin said.
The application now includes one 1,000-word and one 250-word essay instead of last year’s four short essays. The committee will grade the applications based on a rubric created by Gershovich. The rubric grades students on a scale of 1 to 5 in the following criteria: GPA, professor recommendations, essay clarity and style, and essay content.
According to Griffin’s email, the longer essay prompt asks students to explain why they are applying, what experiences prepared them for the program, what the student’s plans to do in LA, how the program will help them, and what the applicant can bring to the ELA community. The shorter essay is about the school’s goal of diversity and inclusion and what this means to the student.
Gershovich said he wanted to make the application process more fair for students and
for the selection committee. He said the rubric eliminates subjectivity from the process and helps the committee make decisions about each candidate by detailing what each application’s criteria should look like.
Sweeney said he heard about the application delay through friends and not through communication with the college. He said there was some initial frustration among students because they weren’t told when the application would open or if the deadline would be pushed.
“Even though it was a bit stressful, this ended up being a very big blessing in disguise. If the ELA application was on top of [midterms, the BFA application, and course selections for next semester], this month would’ve been completely overwhelming for a lot of people,” Sweeney said. “So honestly, I’m pretty happy it worked out this way.”