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Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Monday, January 25, 2016
The Art and Science of College Admission
Hint: I don't have the answer.

A recent NPR broadcast discussed the shroud of mystery that cloaks the college admissions deliberation process. The college consulting industry promises to answer a million different questions. But that isn't one of them, because, no one really knows. Few colleges actually give anyone insight into their bare-bones methods for choosing students.

For a start, it would open a can of worms that could never again be closed. Every rejected candidate would feel unjustly overlooked. Every admissions committee member would be unfairly criticized. The reality, of course, is that most colleges have to turn away the majority of their applicants. That may mean that good students don't get in. It may even mean that they occasionally chose wrong.

On the radio show, NPR looks at a small, Catholic college in Massachusetts, with an entering class of 700. Those applications are vetted by a total of 13 different people, prompting the school's Director of Admissions to call the vetting process "both an art and a science". In other words, objective metrics like grades and test scores are crucial-the science half. But the rest of it-the art part-is more subjective. It comes down to the gut instincts and personal opinions of thirteen different people.

This is just a tiny window into the heart of one institution. For added context, schools like UCLA and the University of Texas have freshman classes in the tens of thousands. UCLA boasted 16,000 admits out of almost 100,000 applications. Framed that way, it's easy to see why the admissions process alone is practically its own institution.

Perhaps the process is just bigger at larger universities. It's easy to see how universities can't promise to spend more than a couple minutes per application-at least on the first read. Which must make prospective students feel rather unsettled. At the same time, the lack of predictability in the process also means it's anybody’s game. Which should give everyone a little hope.

Though it may not help lift the veil.


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