Admissions Focusing on Increased AHANA Enrollment

The AHANA+ population at Boston College has increased for the third consecutive year, this year by 122 students, according to the 2019-2020 BC Fact Book.  Director of Undergraduate Admission Grant Gosselin attributed the rise in AHANA+ applications, and the resulting enrollments, to a combination of national trends and BC’s focused efforts to attract applications from AHANA+ students.

“We have seen both here at BC and across the country growth in diverse populations, so I think that’s not something that’s unique to Boston College, but is a national trend as the country is becoming more and more diverse,” said Gosselin.

Gosselin said that due to the relative lack of diversity in Boston and its surrounding areas, however, BC cannot rely solely on national trends to increase the amount of applications from AHANA+ students it receives.

“We’re located in a part of the country that is less diverse than others, so our work is more difficult,” said Gosselin. “If we simply allowed national trends to play out, it wouldn’t necessarily play out the same in our applicant pool because most students don’t travel more than 500 miles to go to college.” 

As a result, BC Admissions has been monitoring national trends in AHANA+ demographic growth, targeting areas in the south and west of the country with more diverse populations. But the challenges of attracting AHANA+ students do not stop at location, Gosselin said.

“One of the challenges, unfortunately, is that race and income are tied, and so in some of the most diverse schools, the resources are weakest,” said Gosselin. “If you look at a state like California, which is one of the most diverse states in the country, the student-to-guidance counselor ratio is about 900 to one.”

To combat its inability to reach all potential AHANA+ students, BC has taken measures to pursue alternate methods of communication, Gosselin said.

“A lot of colleges and universities will have a multicultural recruiter whose job is to work on diversifying the student body,” Gosselin said. “Boston College has always had a very different perspective and approach. We believe it’s everyone’s responsibility and that it’s up to all the counselors on our staff as we’re going out and recruiting students to find ways to engage with diverse populations.”

BC has partnerships with community-based organizations—nonprofit organizations set up to support underrepresented students applying to college whose schools may not have sufficient resources. Partnering with these organizations, Gosselin said, is one of BC’s efforts to reach specific underrepresented student demographics. 

BC has run programs through 700 community-based organization contacts, Gosselin said, which has caused growth in AHANA+ applications. BC’s recent partnership with QuestBridge, for example, is part of this effort to attract low-income AHANA+ students. 

“An organization like QuestBridge allows students to enter that pipeline, without us having to travel to rural areas, so we can all of a sudden identify AHANA+ applicants from regions where we’re not able to visit,” said Gosselin. “So we’re very, very excited about that and really feel it will help us to continue to attract the highest quality students that also bring diverse perspectives with them.”

Gosselin also listed various efforts made by the Office of Undergraduate Admission to help AHANA+ students feel comfortable at BC, including the Keith A. Francis AHANA Weekend—an overnight program designed to give admitted AHANA+ students an introduction to academic and extracurricular life at BC—the Options Through Education program, and the Montserrat Office.

As for the future of AHANA+ students at BC, Gosselin pointed out the the now-36 percent of AHANA+ students in the Class of 2023, compared to the 41 percent high school graduates in the United States who are AHANA+, as sign of progress. 

“We are, right now, almost at the national average, and I think that’s a healthy place to be, but certainly our approach has always been to admit the most qualified students we have, and if that means that we’re able to push that number further because the quality is there, we would certainly do that,” said Gosselin.

Though the admissions office is making a significant effort to reach underrepresented students, Gosselin said that enrolling, rather than attracting, AHANA+ students is the biggest challenge. BC admitted 3,600 AHANA+ students last year. 

In order to increase AHANA+ enrollment, Gosselin said that one of his goals is to diversify the Student Admissions Program.

“If prospective students come here and see diversity in our student panels and tour guides, it will foster a community that appreciates and welcomes diversity,” Gosselin said.

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor