First contact and admissions
The first contact and admission stage into higher education is a critical part of a student’s learning journey. Decisions made during this transition stage can impact on their university success and career. It is important for institutions and practitioners to make sense of the first contact and admissions experience in order to develop effective processes to enhance all students’ experiences at a challenging time in their learning careers. Supporting applicants who are our potential students through the first contact and admissions stage can take many forms, and encompass wider strategies at institutional or regional levels, as well as specific institution-based initiatives. These can be relevant for all applicants or for particular programmes or applicant groups. This chapter considers what the first contact might be and how practitioners can plan to support them, as well as exploring strategies for supporting applicants through a positive first contact and admissions experience. Much of the research on first contact and admissions has focused on exploring aspiration raising activities with 14-19 year olds and working on access issues more generally (Thomas and Cooper, 2000). This book does not deal with the 14-19 agenda as this is ably explored in other texts, some of which are listed in the suggested reading list. It is easier to get the first contact and admissions process right if we know more about our applicants. Diversity within the HE student body has increased this challenge. When looking at the first contact and admissions transition into university, it is important for institutions and practitioners to understand:
• aspiration raising activities and the context; • where new applicants are coming from; • what they need to succeed when they join us.