I suspect these numerate admissions deans know many things that can't be discussed in public ;-)
For how SAT scores predict college performance, see here and here.
For a description of Harvard's "holistic admissions" policies (adopted in the 1950s), which have become a model for other elite schools, see here. Then dean of admissions Wilbur Bender may not have been very quantitative, but he had excellent intuition about How the World Works. (See also here.)
'Numerical and Verbal'
A profession that once relied on anecdotes and descriptive data now runs on complex statistical analyses and market research. Knowing how to decipher enrollment outcomes is a given; knowing how to forecast the future is a must. Which students are most likely to apply, submit deposits, and matriculate? At what cost to the college? How likely will they be to graduate? Such questions echo in the modern enrollment office, which is often supported by one or more institutional researchers, as well as consulting firms that sell recruitment strategies in various flavors.
Search the job listings for top-level admissions and enrollment openings, and you will find that many colleges seek a "data-driven" leader, someone who will develop "data-informed" strategies. This past winter, for instance, Pomona College, in California, began a national search to replace Bruce J. Poch, who had stepped down after 23 years as vice president and dean of admissions. Among the qualifications listed in the job advertisement: "an ability to analyze and use data to guide decision-making and measure results."
David W. Oxtoby, Pomona's president, led the college's search committee. The modern admissions dean, he says, must have a "technical, quantitative facility," the ability to delve into the relationship between a student's SAT score and her subsequent performance in college, or why some kinds of students are more likely to enroll than others. Moreover, Pomona had decided to merge its admissions and financial-aid offices (a change many colleges have made already). So the new dean would need to speak the language of costs.
That's not to say anyone wanted to hire an accountant. Numbers, Mr. Oxtoby says, have not diminished the importance of communication skills. Pomona's search committee sought someone who could articulate the value of a liberal-arts education, and relate to faculty members. The "ideal" candidate, the job listing said, would also know how to talk to the news media; today's admissions leaders are also public-relations specialists with loud microphones.
"The job is numerical and verbal," Mr. Oxtoby says. "It's still all about relationships. You still need a sense of that person on the other end of the admissions process. If you lose that, you just become another technocrat, and you've lost the reason why you're doing this job."
Pomona interviewed a dozen candidates before hiring Seth Allen, dean of admission and financial aid at Grinnell College, in Iowa. Soon to occupy one of the premier jobs in admissions, Mr. Allen, 43, represents the next generation of enrollment chiefs. They've ascended during an era of high competition, learning how to market their colleges and massage the metrics that define success in admissions.
Although idealism may inform their work, they are clear-eyed realists. They are not introverts, for they must collaborate constantly with faculty members and other campus offices. They are diplomats who must manage competing desires: those of administrators who want to enroll more first-generation and low-income applicants, professors who want more students with high SAT scores, trustees who want to lower the tuition-discount rate. "Twenty years ago," Mr. Allen says, "there were not as many wants."
Drawn to statistics at an early age, Mr. Allen earned a bachelor's degree in economics at the Johns Hopkins University in 1990. He first worked as an admissions counselor for his alma mater, a cutting-edge laboratory in the then-burgeoning science of enrollment management. Mr. Allen learned how predictive modeling could project net tuition revenue, how many biology majors would enroll, and a hundred other outcomes.