Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Are we admitting applicants or applications?

Earlier this week our staff had a lively discussion with President Kim. He brought up this question about admissions in general and I thought I'd pose it to you.

Have you asked yourself this question before? How valid is the premise that an application is actually representative of an applicant? How can black-and-white forms capture a person's potential?

This question is not just for college admissions, but also for job hiring and other selection processes.

Grades, rank, and curriculum are solid measures of academic performance and potential. However, a liberal arts education is so much more than this. Accordingly, our decisions are based on far more information about the range of qualities you bring to our community. We're looking for intellectual inquiry, passion, leadership, talents, sense of humor, compassion, creativity, and much more. How can the entirety of the application accurately reflect all these more difficult-to-measure qualities?

Recommendations can be tremendously helpful. The Peer Evaluation similarly reveals intangible qualities. The Personal Statement shows us your life beyond grades and scores. But are we not still simply admitting the collection of words that have been ascribed to you?

What do you think? Are we admitting the applicant or the application? Is there a better process? What would the alternative look like?


  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  2. You pose a very difficult question I often find myself wondering about...usually during sleepless nights courtesy of college application stress. I think it would be ideal if the admissions committee could meet with every applicant individually, but that is simply unrealistic. I would have to say that the best and most practical process is currently being implemented. The teacher and counselor recs, peer letter and personal statement should give an admissions counselor a pretty accurate account of an applicant; however, I don't think those components of the application can fully represent any candidate. I guess it is the job of the applicant to make their profile seem more "real" and relatable to an admissions officer so they can get a true feeling for the candidate.