Repost from Medium

The trends in college education, application and admissions are constantly changing. Every fall, the same question is asked: How did the admissions fare compared to last years? According to NACAC, the number of applicants to higher education grow almost each year; matching the population increase and the need for college graduates in today’s economy. However, colleges can accept only about two thirds of the applicants every year.

With the data transparency policies in place, more and more schools publish their admission data on the web. The school board refers to this data to determine a course of action for the following years.

Most students do extensive research on the web before deciding to apply to a school; this is their most reliable source of information. Making the best use of it can aid schools in advertising themselves and attract a larger student base.

On a schools website, we often see rows and rows of data slapped together on primitive tables. These tables are not only dull, but also don’t actually provide too much of an insight unless you actually spend considerable time looking at it. Considering that the major target of this kind of data is the millennials, the importance of flashy stories gain a lot more importance. After all, this is a generation that is exposed to substantial amount of advertisement. They respond well to visual stimuli, in forms of infographics, charts or presentations. Modern data visualization tools offer a more effective way to combine tables, save space and time, while giving the numbers a “catchy” face.

A visualization of Admissions Breakdown by Gender and Department using Multiples Diagram with Donut Charts

Visualizing and being on top of the admission data can help managing “rolling admissions” tremendously. As the admissions committee can track the current student base at a glance, the countless new application forms laid in front of them will make more sense.

Where tables fail show changes and trends, a good visualization is revelation; it’s worth pages of data. Underlying patterns and relationships become clear as daylight, allowing more freedom for decision making. Besides, with advanced visualization methods, it is extremely easy to adjust the focus of the story to your liking.

Admission data of a school typically consists of certain fields such as; gender, ethnicity, high school average, test scores, application count and acceptance rate for each student. When combined, these figures reveal two important facts about a school; the competitiveness level and how fair the admission process is. If you were to use conventional charts to see the distribution of some student demographics, you would get an old school, dismal look like this:

Visualizing Student Demographics with Pie Charts

After all, this does a lot better job than tables, but it could be better. In this case; a modern approach (like Sankey diagram), can work wonders. It is extremely easy to interpret the contribution of each item to the whole and a lot more is displayed in a smaller space. The visualization has a fancy look and is sure to catch the eye.


Same Visualization Done With Sankey Diagram

This diagram grants different perspectives and reveals several other relationships in the data. The first stage of presenting data (tables), would only give us the raw, incomprehensible numbers. The second visualization with pie charts provided insight about the internal distribution of these four criteria. Here, Sankey diagram however, digs up even deeper. For example, we can say that more female students prefer off-campus housing, just by looking at it. We would not have gathered this valuable information from individual pie-charts because they fail to capture correlations between those categories like gender and site. Plus, the whole data fits into a single window and analyzing the breakdown in depth only takes a mouse movement.

The Distribution of Student Home States on a Map

Admission data also contains geographic information like student’s home state and country. Displaying this data in maps makes it a lot easier to consume it. International students have started to form a considerable portion of the college student base in the US. They would most probably want to know how open a school is to internationals and this would be a decisive criteria. The best way to show the roots of the student base would certainly be using a map again.

International Student Base by Home Country

Our young generation makes this most important decisions of their life every year; one that will shape their future and be their lifeboat. It is important for schools to present information in a language their prospective students can relate to like visualization instead of boring data tables. Data visualizations will let them explore and will also speak for the school; the values and the quality it stands for.