Understanding the admission process
What happens now that you have submitted your application, what happens?
Firstly it is read. Often times twice. Cover to cover.
Often its is debated.
Ultimately it is decided, not just on its own merits, but also in the context of all the other students they are reviewing for admission. They can only take a limited number. Some thoughts from Fred Haradagon, former dean of admission (Princeton, Stanford and Swarthmore):
As the house lights dimmed, even this group of alums were slightly intimidated. On a large screen at the front of the room, a graphic appeared, showing that 1,534 high school valedictorians had applied for admission to Princeton the previous year. “Now,” the dean said, “of that 1,534, how many do you think we offered admission to?”
“We try to distinguish between who wants to come here for the learning,” he told me, “and who wants to come here to get another set of credentials on top of the ones they have in order to do the next step.”
“Many candidates are driven to make themselves look like they know as much and have accomplished as much as possible,” Hargadon said one day after wading through yet another pile of applications. “I think it’s the rare student in our schools who isn’t worried about impressing and who has a very good perspective on life and is comfortable admitting what it is they don’t know.”
A myth has grown up that every candidate has a one-in-six or one-in-seven chance of being offered admissions, as calculated by taking the total number of acceptances offered and dividing the total number of students who apply. “There’s no candiate I meet that I can tell them the odds are one out of six, because the odds aren’t one out of six for everybody. Some candidates have a one-out-of-two chance, some a one out of forty.” Hargadon says.
“Do you know how many times I read, ‘Best student I’ve had in ten years,’ ‘Best math student in twenty years’? How many times?!” Hargadon asks plaintively. “I”d be shocked if I was some of the kids that I turn down.”
“spot the students who will give the best questions, not those who can give the best answers.”
For every student that a school like Princeton offers to admit, it has no choice but to turn down five or six other applicants, some of whom are deserving of a spot in the next freshman class. Sadly, sometimes Princeton rejects deserving students for whom Princeton is the first choice, in favor of candidates who have no intention of going to Princeton if they are also accepted by, say, Harvard of Standford.
“What really wears me down,” the dean says, “is trying to distinguish between candidates all of whom are really excellent.”
Source: Getting In by Bill Paul
(Originally posted in College Confidential)
Some folks at CC have crowdsourced some of their favorites for understanding the process:
My personal favorites include:
Inside Claremont McKinna
I especially like the inside look at their rating scale. I wish it was more indepth…
Amhearst Put together by PBS:
What does it take to get into a top liberal arts college? Education correspondent John Merrow takes a behind-the-scenes look at the admissions process at Amherst College.
Georgetown-glosed over by ABC, but gives some insight.
Williams and Mary, by folks who are there.
Probably outdated now, but University of Chicago offers some fascinating insights.
NPR has a great series investigating college admissions.
Check out the Choice blog:
on general process & financial aid: Guidance Office: Answers From Harvard’s Dean, Part 1 – The Choice Blog – NYTimes.com
on SATs & helicopter parents: Guidance Office: Answers From Harvard’s Dean, Part 2 – The Choice Blog – NYTimes.com
on ECs and Recommendations: Guidance Office: Answers From Harvard’s Dean, Part 3 – The Choice Blog – NYTimes.com
on essays: Guidance Office: Answers From Harvard’s Dean, Part 4 – The Choice Blog – NYTimes.com
on secondary school origin: Guidance Office: Answers From Harvard’s Dean, Last of 5 Parts – The Choice Blog – NYTimes.com
Some not covered in their collection:
Unigo and the Wall Stret Journal did a wonderful video series.
Video from Vanderbilt on how they do admissions.
The Search for Authenticity from Pomona
Duke did a great three part series:
Oxford has stellar series of podcasts at their website.
University of British Columbia’s system of evaluation was outed by the student newspaper recently. UBC has become increasing competitive, requiring students to have between 85 and 93% for entry in most programs. With over 25,000 applications the university looked for a more refined way to make offers of the 13, 688 students they deemed strong enough. Insiders say the essays basically count for 20% of the grade.
Books worth reading