College Admission Essay and The Admission Office

College Admission Essay and The Admission Office :

What happens to College Admission Essay after it arrives in the admission office?

Meet The Admission Officers

Water is always fresher the closer you are to the source. In this page we head right to the source and ask admission officers - point blank - what they are looking for in your essays. After having seen thousands and even tens of thousands of essays, these admission officers offer invaluable insight into the admission process. We asked them what works, what mistakes they hope you will avoid and what advice they have for writing the essay.


Can you give students an idea of what happens to their applications and essays after they are received by your college?


Peter Osgood - Director of Admission - Harvey Mudd College and Former Associate Dean of Admission - Pomona College

First, we collect all the different parts of the application. Once everything is assembled we start to read them one by one. Unlike many colleges, we don’t sort the applications into regional categories. They are placed into completely random groups.

Once you’ve read one application folder you pass it on to someone else who will also review it. We read and then read some more. After reading all the applications we’ll start meeting and discussing the merits of each applicant one by one.

We don’t only look at the applicants at the top end of some academic or extracurricular scale. Every single application is reviewed through this process. There’s a lot of yapping among admission officers. I have a placard in my office that says a lot about the process, “When all is said and done, more will be said than done.”

Gail Sweezey - Director of Admissions - Gettysburg College

All applications are reviewed once and then put into a file. Then we review them a second, third and even fourth time. We look at a student’s academic record and actually examine the student’s senior year first. While we like to see A’s and B’s, we also look at the level of competition and difficulty of the high school. We are keenly aware that schools have different grading scales. We review SAT or ACT scores within the context of the academic record. We also look carefully at recommendations, extracurricular activities both in school and outside of school and of course the essay.

William T. Conley - Dean of Undergraduate Admission - Case Western Reserve University

We have nine professional admission counselors who are assigned specific geographic areas. We break the country down so that each counselor can travel to the schools in their region and understand the nature of the community. This system reassures students that their application is being read by a person who can appreciate that application within the correct context.

Each admission counselor reviews their region’s applications and makes initial recommendations. Then everything is forwarded to me. I am the second reader for all applications. I ultimately sign off on every student that we admit. If I don’t agree with the counselor’s initial recommendation then the application goes back to the counselor and we may bring in a third reader. If we still cannot agree, then the application goes to a committee which includes members of the faculty. About 15 percent of all our applications will need to be decided upon by the committee.

Lloyd Peterson - Former Senior Associate Director of Admissions - Yale University and Director of Education - College Coach

At Yale everyone in the office is assigned a geographic region. The application is really a dense document. Every application will get a minimum of two readings. If you applied for early decision and were deferred you would get three readings. International students also usually get an extra read.

Sometimes after two readings one reader says, “This applicant is a clear admit.” But a second reader says, “Are you crazy?” That’s when we bring in a third reader. If you’re surprised by this, you should remember that we are all individuals. We are all human. Many times two admissions officers will see the same candidate differently.

Michael Thorp - Director of Admissions - Lawrence University

An application is first read by a counselor responsible for a geographical territory. We do this so that the counselor knows something about the schools and cities in their area. Once the counselor has read the application and made his or her decision, all applications are given to me. I do the final reading and approve the counselor’s recommendations. We spend a lot of time reading each piece of the application. Many people assume that this level of attention given to each application can only happen at smaller colleges like ours. Students often don’t believe that we will read every piece of paper that they submit. We do. We spend many long days reading applications.

Elizabeth Mosier - Acting Director of Admissions - Bryn Mawr College

Compared to many colleges, our process is more labor-intensive. We have a committee made up of current students, admission officers and faculty members. We divide this group into subcommittees that are responsible for specific geographic areas. Therefore, every file is read multiple times and is then discussed in the committee.

Each member of the committee is extremely important. The students know the college well. They’ve experienced not only what it’s like to make the transition from high school to college but they also have a perspective on the workload and what each applicant may be able to contribute to the Bryn Mawr community. The faculty knows most about the classes and what it takes for a student to thrive academically. We try to have the faculty represent a broad range of interests. The admission officers are often the applicant’s advocate in terms of knowing about their specific high school and region. We’re the experts on how high schools compare to one another.

Basically, from mid-November to mid-March we’re wearing sweat pants, drinking lots of coffee and reading folders. It’s very intense but also a lot of fun.

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