Admissions

What Colleges Want in an Applicant (Everything) by The New York Times: A Response

“The admissions process is a maddening
mishmash of competing objectives, and an
attempt to measure the unmeasurable:
you. No, it isn’t fair, and likely never will be.”

-Eric Hoover, New York Times

At Campus Bound, we make it a priority to read articles, attend conferences, and learn from our peers in order to stay up to date on the latest admission trends and policies (which change daily, by the way).  In our search, we recently came across this article by the New York Times, written by Eric Hoover. It seems to be making its way across the Internet world and into the homes of future or current college applicants, so we decided to put in our two cents on the topic.

Relatedly, the other day I was meeting with a student and found on the University of Maryland’s Admission Website the 26 factors they consider as they are reviewing a candidate for admission. Here is the list:

University of Maryland's 26 Review Factors

With a list like that, how can an applicant and their parents not feel pressured to check off each box?  It’s great that a college doesn’t only take one factor into consideration when making their admission decisions, but when applicants see a list of 26 factors, they read it as “qualities” and no wonder they feel frazzled.

 

The admission process isn’t fair. Tell us about it. 

We know that the admission process is generally unfair.  Colleges are trying to determine from one application the likeliness of future success of an individual.  This is practically an impossible task.  Yet, colleges have found some data that indicates which factors are more likely to indicate future success, such as leadership, commitment and persistence.  They are expected to read an application and essay so thoroughly to pick out examples of these kinds of traits.  The New York Times article above goes into much more detail about the general unfairness of the college admission process, how it came to be and how (if) colleges are addressing it, so I won’t repeat all of that information here.

 

Show more or show less?

This is a question that even I struggle with. I believe that in order to ensure more “fairness” in the admission process, more needs to be considered than just grades and test scores (ACT or SAT scores). However, in an effort to allow more factors into consideration, some applications are getting longer and more difficult. It’s not uncommon for students to have to write 5 or 6 additional essays for one application. Multiply that by the 8 colleges we typically advise students to apply to, and it’s easy for the number of individual essays a student has to write to exceed 20. And, each essay has to be articulate, interesting, answer the question (which is often open to interpretation, or asking something entirely different than what it implies), and sometimes funny. That’s a tall order, especially on top of school, sports and the 20 hours a week of community service they are doing (okay, slight exaggeration, sometimes). Eating, sleeping, spending time with family and friends… those go by the wayside these days. So, should colleges be asking for more or for less? Clearly, there isn’t a simple answer.

 

A new application… new stress

Last year, a new application called The Coalition Application was revealed, and this year more colleges are requiring it. Many of the students I’ve worked with this year have had to use it. And, I’ve had students with one college on their list require it, to which the student responded by quickly crossing that college off their list (not worth all that work). Additionally, many colleges have their own applications. That means a typical student may have many different applications to fill out with many, many different essays to write, each with different deadlines and requirements. It’s getting more complicated than filing taxes.

 

It’s really no wonder that students, parents, teachers, school counselors, principals, and even admission officers are stressed. There’s no question that the system is broken, but as the article states, if you ask 5 people how they would fix it, you would get 5 different responses.

 

Trying to do our part. 

At Campus Bound, we are former admission counselors, teachers, school counselors, school administrators, etc who now get to specialize in one area: college admissions. And, we get to help a limited number of students at a time so we can focus our efforts around what is best for each applicant. We can take the stress away from parents, knowing that an expert will be helping their student every step of the way. We can take the stress away from students, who know that they can call on us any time and we are always there to help. During these uncertain and complicated times, we are proud to be doing our part to minimize stress for the students and families we have the pleasure of working with. We are stress-minimizers, and we love it.