L.A. apps to be judged on merits

by Beacon Staff • April 22, 2009

No more midnight madness for applicants to Emerson's Los Angeles program: Hollywood hopefuls will now be judged on the merits of their applications, the Office of International Study and External Programs announced on April 14.

Applications will be judged by an impartial reader on their thoughtfulness and expression rather than trying to get online in order to qualify on a first-come-first-served basis, which had been the process for 19 years, according to a recent iBeacon/i article.

In addition to the reader's evaluation, professors will nominate applicants they think have shown superior qualities, such as innovation and aptitude. Their recommendations will be added to the reader's conclusions, the student's class standing, and th student's GPA to determine whether he is accepted, waitlisted or rejected for the program.

Students must have a GPA of 2.7 in order to be accepted or put on the waitlist for the program, and, under the new system, they will also need thoughtful responses to the application questions.

The change was planned because of technical problems in the application process during the last two cycles and complaints from students and parents.

"It would be better if it was more merit-based," said Andrew Nicholson, a current Los Angeles student and television major. "They should have been doing that in the first place. I'm sure there are plenty of people who haven't had time to build up a resume that would get them into the L.A. program, but it's not that hard. Emerson's pretty small."

Nicholson has also experienced frustration with the difficulties during past years.

"It's happened every year, that they've somehow screwed up the admissions process," said the senior. "You would think for a private school you're paying $40,000 to go to, you would think you could rely on them not to screw that up."

Director of International Study and External Programs David Griffin hopes the number of applicants to the Los Angeles program will remain the same, but said it remains to be seen whether the new process will have an effect on the response.

"As the Los Angeles Program has become more successful and the numbers of applications has grown, the current process has become less user-friendly," he said in an e-mail. "Those students who've worked the hardest and prepared themselves well for the opportunity will be given first priority for admittance.

Griffin said he hopes student reaction to the change will be positive.

"We hope that students will come to realize that admission to the program is not a right, but a privilege that must be worked for to achieve," he said.

The Los Angeles application process will take place between somewhere in the late summer and early fall of this year to Oct. 1. The target date for the beginning of the process is Sept 1, but the application system is still being created. Information for the program is still being loaded onto Banner in a process that will take much of the summer.

The identity of the impartial reader is still to be determined, but the goal of the international study and external programs department is that he or she will not be biased toward any particular majors or students.

Senior film major and current Los Angeles student Allen Glover said he approves of the change wholeheartedly because of problems he had in applying.

"I applied for the spring and didn't get it. I submitted [my application] 15 minutes in and I was sixth on the waiting list," he said. "I told David Griffin, 'Everything I've worked for, I've worked for the L.A. program. I asked him what put me on the waiting list, and he said it was just time. It seemed like it was based on who can press "enter" the quickest."

Griffin said there will also be consideration for applicants who are enrolled under majors that are less represented in the Los Angeles program. However, the amount of students accepted from each department will remain roughly the same.

Senior Kyle Morrison had hoped to be a part of the Los Angeles program, but was waitlisted after the application server crashed during the process last year and he was unable to apply in time.

"I had been so active at Emerson and worked on professional shoots, and then I was waitlisted," said the visual and media arts major. "I thought it was ridiculous after I worked so hard. What's the point of even having an application if it'll just be the first 30 people?"

Students who hope to enroll in the Los Angeles program must apply a year ahead of time in order to be considered.

Griffin said there will also be changes to the Kasteel Well application process starting next year.

Each application submitted by the deadline will be given a number, then the numbers will be run through a computer randomizer. In addition, a fall-only Honors Symposium as well as voice and dance classes only available during the first semester will result in the department giving preference for honors students and musical theater students applying for the fall term.

"We are simply receiving too many applications now for the first-come, first-served model to work," Griffin said.