What process does an application go through? How many people see it?

As part our College Q & A guide, we decided to ask your questions to the experts. Here are their answers.

Bill Pruden, Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

The application review process varies from school to school. The less selective the school, the less extensive the review. In contrast, at truly selective schools there is a multi-faceted review process usually beginning with the regional rep conducting the first full scale review with the file later being looked at by others. In these reviews essays and recommendations, as well as the overall file may be reviewed by numerous members of the staff and may ultimately be brought to committee where they are discussed. Obviously the decisions on some applicants will be more obvious—either for acceptance or denial—than other and they may not need as many people to review their files, but the larger middle group will receive considerable attention, all in the effort to determine what the candidate can bring to the college community that the admissions office is trying to create.

Krahnke President/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

Short Answer: Sometimes no one sees it. Detailed Answer: One of the ways admissions directors are judged in their performance evaluation is by the increase in applications every year. If there is not an increase in applications, it is a black mark against them. In an economic crisis where budgets and staffing in every department are being slashed, colleges must do more with fewer people.

erichards@ellened.com Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

Listen as an NPR reporter gains access to the secret room where the Amherst College admissions committee decides the fate of thousands of applicants. NPR reports that the college will accept 1,000 of the 8,000 applicants who applied. This glimpse into the process reveals that decisions truly come down to the smallest little differences that students never in a million years would think were going to make the difference. This recording underscores the importance of the personal statement. The college essay will be the first opportunity most students encounter to present themselves on paper. The essay truly can be the difference between acceptance and rejection. Unfortunately, often students are told to “be honest” or “write about something that “means a lot to you” or “show them how passionate you are” and then students sit down to do that and they have no idea what to do. At that point they generally write something that is forced and boring. Since the high school English teachers are so swamped and they don’t have experience reading applications often they simply make minor corrections on the essays or point out grammatical mistakes. There is no way they can possibly put the time necessary into reading every student’s essay. In the end, the sad truth is that the people who can afford outside consultants who know the system really well are the ones who experience the most success.

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