Sarah Lawrence, a small liberal-arts college, picks admits without considering SAT scores. With grades varying so much from school to school, the admissions committee uses “a sample essay graded by a high-school teacher to determine the curriculum’s rigor,” New York Magazine explains.
But the samples also tell something about the readers. “I had one essay that said how awful Twilight was”—the essay was about damaging themes of female submissiveness in the series—“and I was like, ‘Admit her!’?” says Melissa Faulner, a 2006 grad on the committee. Whereas what the readers wryly call TCML essays—“theater changed my life”—are looked at more skeptically.
A girl from Texas scored a three (out of five) in academics while getting top marks in the other two categories. “Her grades really are bad,” Will Floyd allowed. She hadn’t gotten one A in high school. “But her writing was gorgeous,” he noted. The girl explained in her application that she has test anxiety and problems with rote memorization. But she had good recommendation letters. Besides, Sarah Lawrence’s curriculum emphasizes writing over test-taking. She got in.
More than half of applicants are offered a place at Sarah Lawrence. Tuition and room and board cost more than $55,000 a year: 61 percent of undergrads receive financial aid.