At ultra-competitive colleges, admissions is a lottery, writes Chad Aldeman on The Quick and the Ed.
I have a friend who’s worked for two college admissions departments. One was a traditional liberal arts college in the Northeast, and the other a highly competitive college in the greater DC area. At the former, she says it was a mostly sane process where they more or less knew the high schools of students, had time to read the student’s personal statements, and truly thought about whether the student would be a good fit for this particular institution. Here in DC, at the competitive school, it was totally different. Mainly because of the sheer size of the applicant pool, they had to rely much more heavily on the all-important numbers — high school GPA and SAT score — rather than thinking holistically about the student. The admissions office, even after setting a relatively high standard, had thousands of applicants to choose from, and very little time to do so. During admissions season, each officer was given 500 applications per week. At 40 hours a week, not counting breaks and meetings, the admissions officer had 10 minutes to make a decision about an applicant. Ten minutes (unless, as my friend points out, they’re athletes or legacies).
Instead of torturing students to come up with extracurriculars and essays, admit it’s random, throw the grades and scores in a hopper and run it like the med school matching system, Aldeman suggests.
April is the cruelest month for high school seniors, writes Jay Mathews in the Washington Post. He has tips for coping with the college crunch.