I work in a college admissions office. AMA
I read applications, submit decisions, interview students, and visit your high schools for a top-100 national, private research university. Ask me anything!
Updated proof: http://imgur.com/Ba6Ss
EDIT: I'm still trying to answer some posts, if you have something that hasn't been answered yet, I'll do my best to see and answer it. (as of 12/17 @ 8:50 AM EST)
1) Boy scouts look good. Eagle scout looks better. I don't like the boy scouts personally, but I like what you've likely gained as a result of your experiences with them.
2) For home schooled applicants, we typically look more at standardized test grades such as the SAT, ACT, SAT II, AP, etc.
3) I'm not going to tell you which school I work for, sorry!
4) If your school doesn't offer X amounts of APs, we'll know that when your school sends us a secondary school report, so dont worry. If your school offers 2, for example, and you took both, we'll see that as "Oh, he/she did all the rigorous work he/she could"
5) Your 5,000 hours of community service look good, don't worry
no, never. i really just dont care.
Do you know of other Officers who do? Or have you heard stories?
the only time we've "facebook stalked" was when this girl came in for an interview that she thought was for a job at the university. we needed to figure out more about wtf just happened
Did you figure out wtf happened?
nope. no clue
Do applicants who don't deserve to get in get in anyway? If so, why?
yes. early decision students or students who the university wants to admit into the university (relatives of VIPs, son/daughter of esteemed faculty, etc.)
a big difference-- acceptance rates are very high for EA or ED (essentially REA)
what's the most ridiculous answer you've gotten to an interview question you asked
probably, literally, nothing. i'll ask a question and i'll get a chuckle, then a laugh, then a smile from a student. and then i'll wait for an answer, and i wont get one, and i'll move on...and make note of that in their application file.
What the hell? Any idea why they wouldn't answer?
some kids are incredibly awkward or just cant answer a question, maybe they're scared, i have no idea.
lol to all the responses to this question
Do you take awkwardness and clear nervousness into account?
Like some kids have really good answers and some kids don't, but the kids that don't clearly look like they're nervous or are just awkward people in general?
i can usually discern awkwardness and nervousness, but i try not take them into account. awkward kids can still be very smart, as can nervous kids. my final rating of the interview reflects answer quality
Does emailing or mailing the admissions office hand-written letters to express interest in the school actually influence the decision?
an e-mail would more than suffice. and yes, they do, absolutely. here's why: your email displays interest --> we know that if you're interested, you have a good chance of accepting admission --> our yield % goes up at the end of the year --> contributes to rankings possibly going up
just one that expresses your interest, has any questions if you have one, maybe you visited campus already and you want to express excitement, etc. just make it PROFESSIONAL and not "hey! visited campus lst week, soo cool. im gonna apply soon! thx!!"
As a teacher of first-year students:
WHY U LET IN SO MANY DUMMIES!?
it's so hard to judge lol
Is the name of the email a real factor to you? i.e. should one avoid having an email such as super(name)@domain.com?
yes, please have a professional one or just make one for all your college correspondance.
Is [email protected] acceptable? Because this one guy I know looked over my resume and said that numbers in an email address bug him and I figured it wouldn't matter too much but now I'm worried.
yeah, that sounds just fine.
What are the top tangible things that you look for in an applicant? (grades, test scores, etc.)
grades, rigor, test scores in that order.
rigor in what?
the classes you chose to take in high school
How much do you consider if a student is taking AP class Honor Class or Regular classes? For example, C in AP Bio or B in Honors Bio or A in Regular
Someone would ask this question at every college I visited. The admissions officer would always say "get an A in the AP level".
haha, that's our textbook answer, and basically what we want. a C anywhere looks bad. a B is okay but everyone is in "honors" these days. so, get an A in the AP i guess.
What do you think about the IB program, especially the higher level programs, vs AP?
we generally hold them to similar regards, both appear as rigor. remember, we dont look at scores at all. just the fact that you took the test.
Do you take into account improvement, or do you prefer consistency when reviewing applicants?
an upward trend looks really good
What do most people have as extracurriculars?
sports, clubs, the usual. to really stand out, you have to have extracurriculars that take place out of your high school.
What about fairly unusual sports with a club outside of school? (Rowing)
that'd be pretty cool!
What do you consider to be the most important part of the admissions application?
your academic stats, usually. while our review is holistic, your stats are very important. this isn't just us judging if you're "smart enough to get into the club", but also trying our hardest to see how you'll be handling work at our university.
Thanks for the response. Would you consider GPA to be more important, or SAT/ACT scores?
Also, how much do AP scores factor into the situation?
GPA but also your rigor. if you have a 4.0 in all "regular courses" and someone else has a 3.4 in almost all APs, i'm admitting the other guy.
AP scores are not looked at, at all.
how long do you spend on each application including the essay? Why do colleges wait until March to notify students of their decision?
anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. some colleges wait, some colleges do rolling decisions. i don't have a reasonable answer as to why some colleges wait until very late, i think it just adds unnecessary stress to you guys.
What is the worst part of your job?
traveling. national universities have their counselors travel all over the united states, meeting with students all day long. we're away for home for weeks and weeks and it's not exactly so fun.
Have you ever seen Up in the Air?
How do extracurriculars such as sports, clubs, and honors societies rank in importance against academics? Also, how important are leadership positions to a college?
they're important, but academics are obviously more important. leadership positions are good but everyone has one, so it really only catches my eye if you did something great with it. for example, maybe you started a club freshman year and as a leader of it, it's one of the biggest in your school now
In your experience are their viable alternate pathways into admission when someone does not have the academic background required... or do bad marks tend to sit with someone throughout their education?
bad marks will sit with you, unfortunately. that being said, i've admitted plenty kids with something like a 3.4 weighted GPA that also had incredible extracurriculars and a lot of displayed interest. here's a tip that--despite how cliche this sounds-- schools literally don't want you knowing. apply early to a school if you can-- your chances of admission go up anywhere from 10-40%.
your chances of admission go up anywhere from 10-40%.
yep, i don't like it personally, but that's how the game works.
What is the worst GPA / SAT score you've ever received in an application?
i've seen it all...0.50 GPAs and ~1000 SAT scores. i don't know why they bother with the application fee unless they're being forced to apply..
What kind if questions get asked in the interview after the basics are asked about the student? How much of an impact would you say it has on the acceptance?
why do you want to attend our school? the key to answering this question is not to say the city we're in, as there's about 5 other schools in our city. i want to hear something about our schools, classes, student life, etc., that stands out to you.
usually i'll look at your resume and ask you questions about various things. i'm looking to hear you talk well and actually be interested in our school.
How do you view splitters?
Low GPA/High SAT/ACT
and vice versa?
So how would someone with above median test scores and below median GPA compare with an average candidate?
it depends on your rigor. if your courses weren't rigorous, you'd look worse than an average, although there are SO many other factors also. if your course load was rigorous, vice versa.
What is the weirdest reason you had to deny someone?
weirdest? usually when someone submits their application then tells me they got arrested.
How long do you think someone should take to think of an answer to a short answer question? Example: "If you could witness one moment in history, what would it be and why?" I am wondering if they care that it's of recent past (last forty years) and relates to the studies I am interested in- or if they want something generally well known and easily relatable. Also, has anyone ever written an essay that captivated your interest in them as a person?
Edit: fourty to forty
it really doesn't matter, if we don't know what you're talking about, we'll look it up if we care. those questions are more to judge your character and writing abilities. and to your second question, nope. i guess that sounds kind of cold but there's just so many applicants i don't have time!
Is there any one word/sentence/piece of information in an application that immediately makes you disregard the candidate?
nope...other than an expletive, sexual language, or horrible grammar. it's happened before.
Would you choose a student who is passionate in a field, but with average stats over a student who is well-rounded (good grades, ECs, etc), but doesn't come off as passionate?
maybe, it really depends on stuff like that on a case by case basis.
you're not screwed, but you'd definitely need to get your grades up next year. if you're still worried, you could always do CC for 2 years then transfer and get the same degree
What makes a good essay? Are you looking for kids to show off and brag about their accomplishments or are you looking for a touching story? What have been the best essays you have read? Specifically for the common app essay regarding a piece of literature or music that has had an impact? Also, Will an extremely rigorous course load with a 3.75 get into your university? Thanks so much!
the point of the essay--the main point-- is to show us something that we dont know by looking at your application.
What is your academic background? and did you get good grades when you were younger?
i have a bachelors and i'm working towards a masters now in higher ed. i was a decent student.
Do you do graduate school admissions too? What are the differences between the undergraduate vs. graduate decisions making process?
no, i do not do graduate school, sorry!
Do you guys look at things like volunteer work when looking at applications?
yeah, we really do look at all parts of your app.
If a student gets deferred from ED does he have less or more chance of getting in during regular decision?
at my school, i either accept or deny an ED applicant. if they're denied, they are not deferred, and they cannot reapply. judging solely based on my knowledge of how other systems work, they would have less of a chance as the regular decision applicant pool usually has more students with better statistics than the ED pool did.
Has there ever been an extracurricular that a student put down that just made your jaw drop; for better or worse?
usually when a student is a leader of an organization that's not concerned with their high school, my jaw drops a bit.
What sort of college do you work for?
it's a national, research university located in a big city. we're ranked in the top-100 and princeton review has us as "very selective" or something to that effect. i cant really give too many other details
i dont work for an ivy, but a lot of our students who attend our school do so after getting denied from one and then having ours as a back up.
i do some. extracurriculars factor in a lot less than freshman admission, we look much more at how you've done at your current institution. jobs and academic awards still count, but not to the same effect as they do in undergrad admiss.
Do you accept people based on what they look like, sometimes?
no, and i have no idea what you look like when you apply. as far as interviews, i really just dont care what you look like, unless you're dressed inappropriately.
Some colleges give you the option of sending a photograph with your application, which seems odd to me.
How much do you get paid?
just enough to live in the city i work in
Does anyone ever get accepted based on having outstanding essays?
I primarily ask because I am fairly certain I was accepted to a major university primarily based on my essays.
Now I make a living writing/editing other people's for them. Some of my clients have gotten into big universities ( most recently UC Berkeley, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins), with pretty subpar academics.
But I've always wondered if essays really can change decisions that much?
yes, they really can. i've had some great essays, usually ones that will tell me something else about the applicant that i don't know on the essay. one that comes to mind was an excellently written essay abut one student struggling with their sexuality; it showed me something else about the student and it was very, very well written. i was on the fence before as their GPA was low, but i admitted them.
every single piece of correspondance is recorded in a computer file we have.
If I attend a community college before, do I generally have a much better chance at getting into a good college than if I didn't go to a community college?
im not sure i'm understanding this but if you go to a community college before a 4 year college, your chances are higher as long as you did fine in CC.
How many people in the office will read my application? Is it just one person deciding or a group decision?
just 1 unless i don't know how to decide. in that case, it's brought to a committee and everyone else reads it.
1) Do perfect SAT scores, etc. matter much at all at the higher levels anymore?
2) How much are interviews considered?
3) Would you say that admissions in top-100 schools are similar? Or do standards change anywhere along the top-50 or top20?
4) What are some good ways to inject "interesting" into an application?
1- a perfect SAT score? that would look very good. 2- we do ours on a point scale; i give a number (0-6) rating you on your interview performance and that goes into our system. 3- very similar, things don't change TOO much until you get to the ivys/wanna be ivys 4- talk about something we dont see in your application
Do you ever look at the applicant's facebook?
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