In recent years, there’s been a steady increase in the number of high school seniors who want to attend mechina, investing an extra year in study and growth before joining the IDF. However, because of strong demand among for spaces at the mechinot and obstacles to opening new mechinot, many applicants don’t get the opportunity.
The problem is especially acute at the traditional and secular mechinot. Unlike applicants to Orthodox mechinot, who can choose from other programs that give participants a meaningful way to grow during the year before military service, secular and traditional Israelis have few options. The result is that there are five to ten applicants competing for every place at those mechinot, as Joint Council CEO Dani Zamir explained in a recent interview on Army Radio.
This situation created many problems and difficulties for mechina applicants and the mechinot
The difficulties were most acute for the young people who wanted to apply to mechinot. Although the traditional and secular mechinot already had a collaborative recruitment process (the Joint Recruitment Process, a department of the Joint Council), each institution had a separate admissions process, and applicants had to personally contact each mechinot of interest and go through a separate admissions process for every one . Each of these mechinot had to contact all candidates to say whether they had been admitted, instead of coordinating with other mechinot.
Many applicants had the disappointment of being rejected multiple times, and some never got an answer. Others were accepted by multiple mechinot and had to choose one, leaving many mechinot with empty spaces that it was too late to give to other applicants. In short, the state of affairs was unpleasant and inefficient for both applicants and the mechinot.
To solve these problems and make the process as fair, transparent, and considerate as possible—and to help applicants gain admission to their preferred mechinot, and mechinot gain the most appropriate candidates—the Joint Council and a team of IT experts from the Hebrew University collaborated to develop a unified system that would make the process far better and smoother.
New admissions system for the secular and traditional mechino
“My daughter is at mechina this year,” says Noam Nisan, a scholar at the Hebrew University School of Computer Science and Engineering. “I saw the admissions process she went through last year, and as an expert on matching algorithms , I saw the system wasn’t working well, so I offered to help. ”
Dr. Assaf Romm of the Department of Economics; Yannai A. Gonczarowski, a doctoral candidate studying mathematics and computer science; and additional partners developed a placement system that accounts for the interests of both applicants and the mechinot.
The new system is based on an algorithm developed by winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics. It not only identifies the best matches, but also prevents bad matches and makes it unnecessary for students to strategize about how they list their preferences.
Applicants enter their preferred mechinot in order of interest after visiting and forming an impression.
Simultaneously, mechina staff use the system to rate the suitability of all applicants who visit during the recruitment period.
Finally, the systems algorithmically identifies matches based on the mutual ratings, with the goal of admitting candidates to the mechinot they ranked first (and if not, then second) and letting the mechinot admit the candidates they find most appropriate.
Another advantage of the new approach is that candidates need to make a decision only at the end of the process, after visiting all mechinot that appeal to them. “From the perspective of the applicants,” explains Nisan, “they go and actually visit all of the mechinot they wanted to visit during the designated time, and there’s a single point in time when both the candidates and mechinot enter their preferences, and then the result is obtained. The fact that my daughter had to immediately give an answer to the mechina to which she was accepted and didn’t have time to quietly consider the decision wasn’t good.”
Success: 80% of applicants admitted to first choice
We’re proud that the new placement system proved its value in its first year of use. No fewer than 80% of successful applicants were accepted to their top-ranked mechinot, the highest match rate we’ve seen in years.
The system also reduced the stress experienced by applicants, who received just one admission or rejection notice, instead of several as in the past.
They were also able to a pay registration fee to the one mechina to which they were admitted by the system, instead of paying several mechinot to keep their options open.
We’re thrilled with the success of this project and its benefits for our applicants and the mechinot.
We’ll keep improving the system and the rest of the admissions process this year as part of our continuing work to help as many high school graduates as possible spend a year of growth at the mechina of their choosing.