The former senior associate director of admissions at Yale University discusses the art of college admission.
It would be great if college admission were a science with a simple formula to determine whether you were accepted or denied. Grades of X plus test scores of Y equal guaranteed admission to colleges A, B and C. It would certainly reduce your stress level to know where you stood in the process. But the reality is that no single score or grade is a complete reflection of who you are. And college admission is more complicated than a simple formula of X + Y = Z. It is more accurate to think of college admission not as a science but as an art.
Colleges want to know you both as a person and as a student. They want to accept those who will add to the campus both inside and outside of the classroom. While scores and grades can tell colleges about your academic performance, the essay and other parts of the application reveal more about you as an individual.
We asked Lloyd Peterson, former senior associate director of admissions at Yale University, former dean of admissions at Vassar College and current director of education at College Coach, to answer the question.
Is college admission an art or a science?
“I think college admission is much more of an art today than it was 20 years ago. There are fewer decisions made today based on matrices or indices. More decisions are made on qualitative factors and on a stronger balance between preparation and potential," he says.
Peterson says admission officers are aware that this system is not good for your blood pressure. He recalls, “Many moons ago it was more methodical and formulaic. Now it’s more like a chess match which drives the public crazy. The public wants a blueprint. They do not want to wallow around in the gray area. But it’s that gray area that makes our job an art."
Considering the selectivity of colleges and the fact that American institutions are the highest rated in the world, it appears that this system, while not perfect, works in matching the right students to the right school. So, accordingly the students have to prepare their admission essays…the result should be ADMISSION. We have prepared the complete list of Do’s and Don’ts in the process of writing college admission essays. All you have to do is…simply follow them in letter and spirit.