SWOT Analysis: University Comparison

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Student’s high school grades and test scores remain to be the major component to determine their admittance to a higher-ed institution, researchers have indicated that focusing only on the grades and/or test scores is not enough when evaluating the capability of the students’ who apply for admission to a four year degree granting institutions. According to Loftus (2018), most higher-ed institutions in the United States use various admission strategies to ensure that the students admitted into these institutions not only have the mandated academic credentials for their choice of major but also are competent enough for the rigor of course work.

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Some of the major enrollment strategies used by the institutions are evaluating standardized tests and writing sample, offer interviews, consider recommendation letters, along with their high school activities and academic performance. California State University is one of the institutions that offer admission to new students who apply based on an index, based on high school grade point average and standardized test scores (Cal State LA, 2018). California State University is an inclusive Master’s granting university according the Carnegie Classification (2019). Duke University, on the other hand, there is no set minimum criteria or qualifications to offer admission to a student. They consider six primary factors – academic rigor, grade point average, letter of recommendation from two teachers and a counselor, extracurricular activities, essay and standardized test score (Duke University, 2018). Duke University is a highly selective, rigorous research doctoral university as per Carnegie Classification (2019). This paper will focus on the requirements of the institution and the expectations of applicant using SWOT analysis.

Discussion and analysis

California State University

California State University is a public institution located in California, shortly called as Cal State. Cal State was established in 1857 as Minn’s Evening Normal School and now has expanded to 23 campuses, enrolling more than 484,300 students according to the institution’s 2018 fact book. Additionally, Cal State is the biggest and the most recognized four-year degree awarding public institution in the United States. Cal State Chancellor oversees the entire Cal State campuses and their office is location in Long Beach, California. Each campus is governed by a president of their own. Moreover, Cal State produces a high number of graduate every year hence serves as the country’s largest supplier of four-year degree holders. Notably, the institution has an estimated annual expenditure of $17 billion and gives more than 150,000 job opportunities to the citizens of the United States (The Journal of Blacks Higher Education, 2019).

According to Gary A. Dymski from Viewpoint of America, Cal State has the best enrollment division which ensures that the students admitted to the institution meet all the requirements as per set admission guidelines (Tate & Bagguley, 2016). The admission department uses a combination of high school grade point average and standardized tests to select the suited students among the applicants. The admission department of the institution offers only two chances for every student in case the student needs to redo their test. The admission department of Cal State has its strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats that affect the entire institution as a result of using the selection criteria for offering admission to the applicants.


Use of standardized tests and grade point average is a fair way of determining and hence selecting students who would be a good fit for the university. Their selection process is straight-forward and transparent. Therefore the admission department has a positive reputation both within the university and among its external members. The individuals who have interacted with the department always have a positive experience since the selection strategy that the department uses is favorable to everyone who interacts with the members of the department.

The department has a proactive partnership with other departments within its system and hence the other departments rely and believe that the admission department will provide them the best students. Additionally, the strategies used are fair enough, and thus it has been trusted by the institution for the past good performance amongst all other departments. The strategy used aligns with the mission statement of the institution that is to work towards providing qualified students who can attain good grades. The strategy also supports students to gain confidence in them. After undergoing through the set admission standards, students develop courage and confidence in pursuing the course work they have applied for since the tests assure them they are indeed qualified for their choice of major. The admission strategy improves the student’s awareness of what is expected from them once they join the university (California State University, Stanislaus, 2004).


Although the admission department has its strengths as a result of using pre-set applicant selection criteria, however, some weaknesses are associated with their strategy. Admission department has its weakness in distinguishing identity and/or talents of the students. Admission considers the grade point average and test scores of the student, but this selection criteria does not help to discover the talents that these students could be having or what their strengths are and how it can help in enhancing the reputation or quality of the university. Moreover, admission was reputed for their sluggish response to the students’ needs and those of the community at large, mostly due to its work load. Another significant weakness of the department is that it does not provide enough student preparedness during the admission time (California State University, Stanislaus, 2004).


Using a more advanced method of student selection such as considering extracurricular or requiring letter of recommendations to offer admission would enable Cal State admission department to improve the quality of the student body. It also helps to increase academic and personality diversity within the campus. Additionally, the department has the opportunity of increase the standard of student intake which will eventually help with the retention and graduation rates (California State University, Stanislaus, 2004).


The major threat that the admission department of Cal State is facing is the budget constraints that the department has to operate on and yet, meet set enrollment goals and exhibit an upward trajectory. Sometimes the department does not have enough resources to conduct the process, and hence it might affect the credibility of the whole process. Although the admission department has been doing well, there has been a negative perception about its credibility by the external community (California State University, Stanislaus, 2004).

Duke University

Duke University is a public higher learning institution that offers four-year degree programs in the United States. The university is located in Durham, North Carolina. Duke University enrolls approximately 20,000 students every year from all over the world. While the institution aims to admit students, who have impressive academic results just like any other top universities, test scores and grades are not the only factors they consider when selecting the students to offer admission to the university. The admission department, therefore, evaluates students based on six primary factors – academic rigor, grade point average, letter of recommendation from two teachers and a counselor, extracurricular activities, essay and standardized test score. Occasionally they also conduct interviews with the alumni who apply for admittance to the university (Peluso & Lund, 2013).


According to Avery, Glickman, Hoxby, & Metrick (2004), the admission department for Duke University has the best strategy of assessing students through focusing on the applicant circumstances. The admission department uses school profiles to identify the differences in quality of high school programs which enables the department to evaluate the capabilities of students appropriately. Additionally, the strategy is fair to each applicant since the department conducts interviews concerning how a student expresses themselves in the interview and through the application forms that the students fill before attending the interview.


Even though the admission strategy for Duke University is best, it has few weaknesses such as the investment of their time to conduct interviews. Secondly, the system fails to provide correct information concerning the student’s excellence, especially those students who are timid during their interview. It is therefore difficult to identify the area in which a student is best in or the talents that the student possess. Moreover, the admission strategy demands for a big operational budget since a large number of interviewers are required to serve more than twenty thousand students who apply for the admission to the university (Avery, Glickman, Hoxby, & Metrick, 2004).


The admission department has the opportunity to enhance their selection criteria through online opportunities. The interviews can be conducted through the online platforms which are faster and more convenient compared to conducting the interview in person (California State University, Stanislaus, 2004). Furthermore, the admission department has the opportunity to become the leading department in the institution through enhancing their strategies to make sure that the students admitted in the university are highly qualified for the course work they chose. Also sharing information to the other departments within the institution will help departments understand their student body and nourish the various talents the students bring to the classroom (Avery, Glickman, Hoxby, & Metrick, 2004).


The admission department is facing a growing competitive threat from the other institutions that use a similar methods to offer admission to the prospective (California State University, Stanislaus, 2004).


All higher-ed institutions in the United States focus on admitting qualified students based on their high school performance. Nevertheless, the high school grades are not enough factors for the successful admission of the students who apply for different majors across many universities in the United States. The University of California and the Duke University are among the major public Institutions that offers best degree programs in the United States. According to Loftus (2018), the University of California uses and index that considers standardized tests and grade point average to identify the students who are best fit and admit them into the institution. Although the admission strategy in the University of California has been effective, the admission department of the institution faces challenges with the strategy since it does not assess the talents that the students have.

On the other hand, Duke University uses six factor criteria to select the best students among the candidates who apply to the institution. The strategy is among the best tools for identifying the best students since it compares different high schools to determine the rigor of different high school institutions to be able to assess the potential of the students, and it also assists the department to identify the various talents the students may possess. Although the admission department has been effective by using this selection strategy, the department is facing challenges with finances and the time consumed to conduct the interviews and check all boxes that are required by the published timeline for notifications.


In conclusion, it is clear from that the grades students earn in high school are not the only factor to determine the suitability of a candidate to pursue the course work they apply for in these two universities. Therefore the institutions use standardized tests, interviews and other criteria to identify more competent students who are qualified for the different majors in the institution. Additionally, these strategies can be improved to enhance their efficiency by being current in utilizing the technology to conduct the admission processes and hence reduce the time consumed during the process of selecting the best fit students for the institution.


  1. Avery, C., Glickman, M., Hoxby, C., & Metrick, A. (2004). A Revealed Preference Ranking of U.S. Colleges and Universities. The Quarterly Journal of Economics,128(1), 425-467. doi:10.3386/w10803
  2. California State University, San Bernardino – Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management. (2019, January 28). Retrieved from https://www.jbhe.com/2019/01/csusb-avp-enrollment-management/
  3. California State University, Stanislaus. (2004, January). Strategic Planning SWOT Analysis. Retrieved from http://www.csustan.edu/sites/default/files/StrategicPlanning/documents/SWOT-Analysis.pdf
  4. Duke Undergraduate Admissions. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://admissions.duke.edu/application/checklist
  5. Freshman Application and Admission. (2018, November 28). Retrieved from http://www.calstatela.edu/admissions/freshman-application-and-admission
  6. Loftus, M. (2018, September 12). 6 Tips From College Admissions Pros on Standing Out. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2018-09-12/6-tips-from-college-admissions-pros-on-standing-out
  7. Peluso, N. L., & Lund, C. (2013). Introduction. In New Frontiers of Land Control(1st ed., pp. 7-22). London: Routledge.
  8. Tate, S. A., & Bagguley, P. (2016). Building the anti-racist university: Next steps. Race Ethnicity and Education,20(3), 289-299. doi:10.1080/13613324.2016.1260227
  9. New Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education Website. (2019). Retrieved from http://classifications.carnegiefoundation.org/
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SWOT Analysis: University Comparison. (2021, Nov 20). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/swot-analysis-university-comparison/