Here's What Parents and Students Need to Know about Gimmicks, Diversity, and Admission Decisions
Many families have a lot of misconceptions about how the college admissions process works and what goes on behind the closed doors of admissions offices. At IvyWise we’re here to help clear up the confusion with our three-part College Admissions Secrets series. In this last installment we address what families need to know about applications and how admission decisions are made.
Each week the IvyWise team of ex-deans and directors of admission from some of the country’s top colleges get together for our Roundtable review to evaluate applications and provide feedback to students. It acts as a mock admissions committee, provides first-hand knowledge of how this complex process works at a number of prestigious universities, and also gives insight into what parents and students need to understand about the highly selective admissions process.
What colleges are looking for when building a well-rounded class and reviewing applications is a source of stress for many applicants. Students often try to make themselves into the perfect “X University applicant,” when in reality what colleges are actually looking for is very different than what students may think colleges want. Here are some college admissions secrets about college applications and what colleges are looking for when making admission decisions.
Admissions offices don’t like gimmicks.
Writing weird essays, sending in strange materials unprompted, and any other gimmicky effort to “stand out” is not the way to grab admissions officers’ attention. In fact, it can hurt your chances of admission. Admissions officers are busy, often reading thousands of applications each – any extra work to sift through a students’ strange application will only set admissions officers back in their timeline – something they can’t afford. It’s also hard to get a holistic view of a student when trying to decipher whatever strange material they send in. It doesn’t come across as genuine. Leave the gimmicks at the door, write compelling, thoughtful essays, and don’t send in materials the college didn’t ask for. Following the application directions and requirements will help you in the end.
Diversity applies to much more than just race and ethnicity.
When building a diverse class, many people assume race is the only benchmark used to gauge diversity. However, while considering race and ethnic diversity is important, there’s much more to it than that. Gender is a big diversity element, as more girls are applying to college than boys. However, in certain male-dominated majors, colleges will seek gender diversity by trying to admit more females in those fields. The same applies to geography – where you’re from can impact how your application is read. This also applies to domestic versus international diversity, as international students can bring a new perspective to a campus, and from a financial standpoint are attractive because they often pay more to attend than domestic students. Diversity can also apply to simply what makes a student stand out. What experiences do you have that influence your passions and how you see the world? What can you bring to a campus to contribute and improve it?
Admissions officers just as disappointed when a student they love doesn’t get in.
This is a very human process. When reading applications, admissions officers get to know students on a pretty personal level through communications with them, their essays, recommendations from instructors, and more. It’s not the cutthroat, cold process that many make it out to be. Often, admissions officers spend time advocating for students they think are a great fit and pleading a case to other admissions officials about why that student should be admitted. Unfortunately, the decision to admit isn’t always left up to that reader, and if a student they advocated for doesn’t get in, it can be very disappointing.
While it’s beneficial to understand the nuances of the college admissions process and how decisions are made, it’s more important for students to focus on fit and putting together the most genuine applications that reflect who they are as students and citizens. That will gain students the best chance of admission to their top-choice schools, rather than trying to trick the system.